Zero-waste grocery shopping: What it is & why you want it

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At Maison Jar – a new grocery store located in Greenpoint, Brooklyn in New York City – silos of dry goods line one wall. Dried beans, grains, pasta, nuts, and coffee are beside bins of cooking staples like flour, baking soda, baking powder, and sugar. A refrigerator on the wall opposite holds industrial-sized jars of olives, racks of eggs, and metal trays of fresh produce, and a freezer is stocked with plastic bins of frozen fruit and vegetables. Prepared snacks like dried mangos, wasabi peas, gummy bears, and chocolate-covered nuts fill glass jugs on the center tables.


The back of the store has shelves of metal dispensers filled with oil and liquid condiments – like soy sauce and vinegar – glass jars of loose spices, and a table of multi-gallon pump bottles of laundry detergent, shampoo and conditioner, body lotion, and other personal care products. Each of these large containers indicates the price per pound of the product inside, as well as its ingredients and origins – and, mostly notably, there is no packaging in sight. Customers come to the store toting their own containers – empty pasta sauce jars, coffee canisters, kombucha bottles, plastic yogurt jugs, and cloth produce bags – to fill with groceries.


Maison Jar is one of many zero-waste “refilleries” popping up across the country, where customers can use their own vessels to fill with goods, rather than using single-use plastic containers provided by the store or selecting from pre-weighed, pre-packaged bulk products. Before opening the store this March, founder and owner Larasati Vitoux had worked for a natural ingredient manufacturer, and earned a certificate in sustainability and food systems.

After returning home to France for a visit, Larasati Vitoux – who has lived in New York City for ten years – noticed a change in how the French were doing their grocery shopping. “I saw there were more and more package-free grocery stores,” she told EcoWatch in an interview. While a relatively new concept in the U.S., refilleries like Maison Jar are far more common in Europe: Glaskiste in Freiburg, Germany opened in 2017, and Negozio Leggero – which began in Turin, Italy in 2009 – now has more than a dozen locations across the country. This trend in waste-free shopping has arisen in response to our plastic pollution crisis, with plastic now found in the depths of the ocean, on remote islands, atop the highest mountains, and even within our own blood.


Packaging accounts for a quarter of all landfill waste, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, much of which is food packaging. While there are no national bans on single-use plastics in the U.S., individual states and municipalities have been cracking down on this waste. California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, New York, Oregon, and Vermont all have some form of plastic bag ban, as do several larger cities like Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle. New Jersey is instating a sweeping plastic ban to begin in May, which will include both plastic bags and carryout containers. Individual franchises are also making changes; supermarket giant Wegmans has committed to banning plastic bags from all of its stores nationwide by the end of the year.


Refilleries take the commitment to waste-free shopping one step further, eliminating all plastic packaging, from olive oil jugs to produce bags. At Maison Jar, customers must bring their own containers (and bags, of course), or purchase one of the reusable jars sold at the store. A box by the counter also holds donated and sanitized containers if you leave your own at home. Small scales are stationed on tables around the store, where customers weigh their container – a process that’s sometimes called “tareing” at bulk food retailers – and write the number on a piece of masking tape affixed to the outside. They then fill the container with whatever product they wish, using the provided scoops and funnels, and note the name of the product on a sticker. At the checkout counter, the weight of the empty container is deducted, and the customer is charged for the product by the pound.


Maison Jar follows in the footsteps of other refilleries in the tristate area, like The Refill Room in Hastings-On-Hudson, New York, and the Good Bottle Refill Shop in Montclair, New Jersey (which also buys back bottles from goods sold online to be refilled and reused in future orders). Many zero-waste shops are finding ways to innovate and make their products more widely available, including Refillery LA in Western California, which has a mobile van that sells personal care products and household cleaning supplies along its route.


While eliminating plastic packaging is a major aspect of Maison Jar’s environmental ethic, Vitoux emphasizes that their efforts go far beyond this. Every morning, she rides her bike to a local bakery to pick up bread (which they also sell by the pound), and the store sources almost entirely from local vendors, like the nearby Brooklyn-based Variety Coffee Roasters, and Café Grumpy, which supply freshly roasted coffee beans. “We have some closed-loops systems,” says Vitoux. “For instance, for our coffees: they come with their buckets, we put them in the silos, we give them back the empty ones.” Much of the store’s dry goods come in 25-pound packages, wrapped in an air-tight plastic liner to keep the product fresh, which is then recycled with Terracycle.


“One of the most important things is the selection of our products,” she says. “We really focus on having organic – produce especially. I really think it’s a better way of harvesting and cultivating today.”

Vitoux does, however, consider cost when choosing her products. “I really try and be careful with price,” she says. “I want to be as accessible as possible.” She says that, if the organic alternative to a product is prohibitively expensive, she will often choose the conventional variety in order to make the product more accessible, which allows customers to view the store as a one-stop-shop for all of their grocery needs. The refillery model also promotes less waste and, in turn, less spending, says Vitoux.. “It really makes a difference that you don’t need to buy some almonds to have three-quarters of it sit for a month and half.”


While Maison Jar only opened its doors a month ago, Vitoux is already considering the future of the store, which could include delivery options and workshops with sustainability professionals.


Maison Jar is located at 566 Leonard St. in Brooklyn, NY, and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.


This article originally appeared on and was syndicated by

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12 green brands that plant a tree for every purchase


Around 80,000 acres of forests disappear every day, according to One Tree Planted, a nonprofit organization dedicated to global reforestation. But fortunately, we all have the power to make our money a vehicle to influence positive change. That’s why we compiled a list of businesses that plant trees with every purchase — so you can give back to the planet without ever picking up a shovel.


These three banks and fintech companies are fueling a positive change by planting trees based on your spending habits and membership.


Aspiration, an online-only fintech company with a debit card that plants trees when you swipe, is on track to plant over 3 million trees this year. Backed by celebrity environmental activists Leonardo DiCaprio and Orlando Bloom, Aspiration has raised $200 million in funding to put its customers — and the planet — first.

Its “Plant Your Change” program launched in April 2020, giving users the option to round up their debit purchases to the nearest dollar. In turn, Aspiration commits to planting one carbon-soaking tree for each purchase you roundup. Plus, you’ll earn cash rewards as you hit tree-planting milestones.

Aspiration also offers sustainable investments and no-fee individual retirement accounts.

But what sets this brand apart is its fees — or lack of. You decide how much you want to pay for its basic plan. And for unavoidable third-party fees, Aspiration will only charge you what it costs them and not a penny more.


Flagship Bank plants a tree for every member that signs up for electronic statements. This initiative reduces paper by eliminating mailing statements and partners with Tree Trust, an environmental and social outreach organization that plants trees locally in Minnesota.

You’ll need to sign up for a personal or business bank account and switch to e-statements to participate in its tree-planting program.


TreeCard is a free debit card that helps reforest the planet with every payment you make. It takes 80% of the interchange fee that merchants pay TreeCard to accept card payments and puts it toward tree-planting projects. Every $60 you spend plants a tree.

You can track your spending with the TreeCard app and get a rad wooden debit card made from sustainably-sourced cherry wood and recycled plastic bottles.


See the world, but minimize your carbon footprint with these three travel initiatives.


App in the Air is your personal travel assistant that helps you plan, book and manage your trips in one centralized app. You’ll get real-time notifications, automatic check-in and even a cool built-in augmented-reality baggage scanner to check your luggage size.

And it’ll plant a tree for every flight you book through the app to help offset your flight’s carbon emissions.


Treebanks is an organization dedicated to fighting pollution and CO2 emissions. For every booking you make through its affiliate partner links with, and Agoda, Treebanks will plant a tree for free.

It’ll also plant a tree for each newsletter subscription or Treebanks T-shirt you purchase.


AndrewKPepper / WikiMedia Commons


Hopper is a travel-booking app that helps you get the best prices for flights and hotels. It predicts if prices will go up or down and boasts a 95% accuracy. You can book your trip right away or watch and wait to jump on a better price.

You can save money and help offset carbon dioxide emissions when you shop through the Hopper app. It’s Hopper Trees program will donate funds to plant four trees for each flight and two trees for each hotel room sold.




Here are three places where you can shop and help the planet.



metamorworks / istockphoto


Woodchuck USA sells a variety of wood products that you can also customize with text and graphics. You’ll find wood stationery, smartphone cases and even wood pocket squares on its website.

This socially conscious brand is also dedicated to global reforestation. So it’ll plant one tree for every product that it sells. So far, it has planted millions of trees on six different continents.


WeWood creates eco-friendly wooden analog watches and sunglasses. Born in Italy, this brand continues to produce fashionable and unique watches from reclaimed and recycled wood materials. And it’ll plant a tree for every wood watch you purchase.





Baronfig celebrates the tactile experience of writing with good ol’ pen and paper. This brand is the defender of ideas by giving you the tools to jot, scribble and doodle whatever is on your mind.

Its notebooks are called Confidants because they house your innermost creative thoughts. For every Confidant notebook you buy, Baronfig donates the cost to its partners to plant a tree.




These three insurance companies will plant trees for every new client who joins their firm or for those who switch to paperless statements.


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Powers Insurance offers many lines of insurance coverage, from personal insurance, including life and auto, to green energy coverage. It’s one of the largest family-owned agencies in St. Louis and promises to plant a tree for every new client that joins its company.



SolisImages / istockphoto


Prosper Insurance wants you to feel good about your insurance. You tell them what kind of policy you want, and its highly trained team will pitch your profile to its network of insurance companies, including Safeco Insurance and Progressive. Its network of providers bid on the policy, which gives you a competitive rate.

If you find the right fit and take out a policy, Prosper Insurance will plant a tree on your behalf.




Philadelphia Insurance Companies (PHLY) is a national insurance carrier that caters to commercial insurance products, including commercial auto and professional liability. PHLY partners with the Arbor Day Foundation to plant trees for every independent agent, broker and policyholder that switches to paperless statements.

PHLY takes the cost savings from going paperless and funds the planting of 80,000 trees each year. For some context of the impact you can have, PHLY will plant 15 trees for each new customer who enrolls in electronic billing.


Having more trees helps people and the Earth as a whole. Here are a few key benefits of reforestation you’ll be contributing to:

  • Fights climate change: Trees absorb harmful carbon dioxide and release oxygen back into the air.
  • Cleans the air and water: Trees also absorb pollutants to help you breathe easier and forested watersheds create clean drinking water to more than 180 million Americans, according to a 2013 report from the U.S. Forest Service.
  • Supports wildlife: Trees provide shelter, food and nesting sites for birds and other little critters.
  • Prevents soil erosion: Trees help manage rainwater runoff by absorbing rain and holding soil in place.
  • Improves your mental and physical health: Seeing trees in cities has been proven to boost your mood, reduce stress and even speed up healing in hospital patients. In fact trees save an average of eight lives per year in New York City, according to the Arbor Day Foundation.
  • Reduces crime: There’s been a report of less vandalism and littering in areas with more trees, according to a report by the University of Washington.
  • Increases property values: In Oregon and Georgia, properties with trees sold at higher prices than those without, according to a 2008 study by the U.S. Forest Service.


Михаил Руденко/ istockphoto


<div class=”rich-text”><p class=”wordpressEditorContent”></p><p>You can support positive environmental change and plant trees worldwide just by being selective about where you spend your money. And you don’t need to compromise on service or quality when you shop. <a href=”” target=”_blank”>Compare more environmentally-friendly banks</a> and branch out today.</p><p class=”block-paragraph”></p><p class=”rich-text”></p><p><i>This article originally appeared on <a href=”” target=”_blank”></a> and was syndicated by <a href=”” target=”_blank”></a>.</i></p><p><i><br/></i></p><p></p><p></p><p></p><p class=”wufoo-feedback”></p><p class=”msg-box-icon” id=”wufoo-feedback-box”></p><p class=”wufoo-feedback-start”></p><p></p><p></p></div>
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Featured Image Credit: Linnea Harris/Ecowatch.