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Zero Waste During COVID? | Shopping Local and Low Waste in Waterloo Region

On October 1st I started Reep Green Solution’s 30 day Zero Waste Challenge. Throughout the pandemic my zero waste lifestyle has been challenged, so the Zero Waste Challenge posed a great opportunity for me to focus again and see how I could navigate reducing waste in this new environment.  

Asking businesses to put items into your own container can be intimidating. For me the pandemic made this more difficult. Many of my favourite smaller retailers closed in the early part of the pandemicand with increased concerns about health precautions a lot of retailers I used before were no longer running their ‘bring your own container programs. I was feeling anxious and discouraged from continually asking for products to be package free. As a result, my shopping habits changed and the amount of waste that I accumulated on a day to day basis increased. I wanted to use the Zero Waste Challenge as a motivator to explore some new options to reduce my waste and find ways to incorporate low waste habits back into my daily life. 

Kitchener Market | Zero Waste Produce

I started with the Kitchener Market where I knew that I would be able to purchase unpackaged local produce without difficulty. I decided to take it a step further and ask some vendors who had previously allowed me to use my own containers if that was still possible. I had not asked since the pandemic started and was pleasantly surprised to find that they continued to support shoppers who brought their own containers. The feeling of supporting local and coming home with very minimal packaging was great. That was a good start and I was motivated to keep going! 

Four All Ice Cream | Zero Waste Treats

Next up was Four All Ice Cream. They recently changed their packaging to glass jars that you can return to the store for a $1 store credit. I tried the seasonal Pumpkin Pie flavour and, as usual, I was not disappointedGreat ice cream and a great local business that is very supportive of zero waste. 

Aroma Café + Eco Café | Zero Waste Coffee + Baked Goods

Another local find is Aroma Cafe in Uptown Waterloo. They actively encourage their customers to bring their own containers for purchases. You can get package free coffee beans, hot beverages, baked goods and even kimchi! I stocked up on coffee beans and grabbed a few croissants. I’m definitely going back to give the kimchi a try. On the subject of coffee, Eco Cafe in St Jacobs will support bringing your own mug as well and is a great spot to visit. 

Zero Waste Bulk + Full Circle Food | Zero Waste Groceries

For bulk goods, Zero Waste Bulk in Uptown Waterloo continues to be a great package free option. I was recently at Full Circle Foods in downtown Kitchener and they have a bulk section that you can bring your own container for as well as options in their returnable glass jars. Both Zero Waste Bulk and Full Circle Foods have a frozen section of pre made foods. I got some frozen pierogis from Full Circle Foods that I am excited to try out. 

So, Can You Live Low Waste During a Pandemic?

All of these experiences have restored my confidence in asking about getting a product package free. I like my money to go to support local businesses that share my values and am excited to keep on exploring as I am sure that there are more great businesses that support zero waste in the community. This experience has helped me to get the courage back to ask for no packaging. It’s trueyou don’t know if you don’t ask. 

By Natascha Stutz, creator of Zero Waste Balance. 

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