Last Updated on April 14, 2022
If you’ve been dreaming of opening a zero waste store, chances are you might be experiencing a bit of fear and doubt. But the truth is, we need more zero waste shops if we’re going to make zero waste more accessible – and that starts with you!
My name is Stephanie and I’m the founder of a zero waste grocery store called Scoop Marketplace. That’s why I’m on a mission to normalize zero waste shopping by teaching people how they can improve the quality of their lives while learning to walk more gently on the planet.
One of the ways that I do that is by helping people open zero waste stores so they can serve their communities and expand their capacity to be a beneficial presence in the world.
Maybe you’re wondering whether this is really the right next step for you. I used to tell myself that I was “overwhelmed and under qualified” and that I just didn’t have the right knowledge and experience to start my own business. I now have proof that is absolutely not true!
Here is a list of things that will help to separate the dreamers from the doers. Building a business and serving the community is incredibly challenging but also wildly rewarding.
Thinking of opening a zero waste store? Here’s everything you need to know about zero waste stores and five signs you should open your own.
what do zero waste shops do?
Zero waste stores function as low waste grocery and product shops. The goal is to eliminate all packaging and food waste from store operations.
Some zero waste stores do this by selling package free produce in partner with local farmers. Sometimes they offer bulk bin sections where customers can fill up their own containers or jars with dry goods like beans, lentils, nuts and grains.
Other zero waste stores don’t sell food at all and just focus on low waste products, like beeswax wraps, glassware, wooden dish scrubbers, and package free/ bulk body and cleaning products (like lotion, soap bars, shampoo, detergent, etc). It all depends on the shop owner and what they’d like to see offered to the community.
Learn everything you need to start your own zero waste store!
what is a zero waste bulk store?
At a zero waste bulk store, everything is sold in bulk and there’s no plastic packaging allowed. Shoppers bring their own containers, usually reusable cloth or glass jars, to carry the food. Or, the store sells reusable containers that can be rented and returned.
what is a zero waste company?
For a zero waste company to exist, they must consider implementing strategies to reduce waste and create products or services that help with this. A zero waste company will source their ingredients and materials as ethically and sustainably as possible. They will use recyclable, compostable or reusable materials.
Zero waste companies are beneficial to the environment but also the communities they service and the local economy. They think about more than just their bottom line and often have a triple bottom line that includes people, planet and profit (instead of simply just profit).
is buying zero waste cheaper?
Buying zero waste can be more expensive, but it depends on the situation. However, it’s important to remember a lot of zero waste products are built to last and will only have to be purchased a few times a year, versus many. This greatly helps reduce costs in the long run, so zero waste products should be viewed as investments.
5 signs you should open your own zero waste store
Have you been thinking about opening a zero waste shop all your own? Here are some good signs you might be ready to take the leap.
1. you have been dreaming about opening a zero waste store for a long time
You already have Pinterest boards filled with inspirational posts for everything from the design and layout of your future shop, to the products you will carry.
You are in the creative zone and trying to figure out what comes next.
This doesn’t seem like a phase and you haven’t moved on to the next fun idea – you are committed!
You have a clear vision of the business you want to open and have an entrepreneurial mindset.
Even though you can’t quite see all the steps needed to get there, you’re determined to figure it out. That’s a great place to start!
2. you want to turn your eco-anxiety into positive action
Providing your community with a zero waste store would allow you to feel fulfilled and add meaning and purpose to your day-to-day life.
if you’re willing to take imperfect action in the face of fear, then we know you will be resilient and are already well-equipped to face the challenges of business ownership.
Your biggest challenge will actually be remaining true to yourself. Don’t just be a martyr for the cause – make sure you are building a business that you are excited to be a part of!
3. you love learning new things and leading by example
You have a growth mindset and believe you are capable of learning new things. You’re eager to expand your skill set. This quality alone will take you pretty much anywhere you want to go!
You also love leading and teaching by example and people in your community look to you for advice on sustainable living. You’ve already established yourself as an authority when it comes to low waste living
And yes, it’s okay if you’re only influencing your mom and three other friends right now – that still counts!
The exchange of knowledge and the ability to connect over shared values is what’s going to do the heavy lifting when it comes to helping people change their daily habits and normalizing zero waste shopping.
I can see you engaging in conversations with your zero waste store customers already!
4. you can’t stop thinking about zero waste stores
You love visiting zero waste stores but you’re your brain is always thinking of how you could improve the experience for customers in your own shop.
Your brain is working away thinking “I would have organized this completely differently. They aren’t using this space well at all, and there’s a huge opportunity for some visual education on that big open wall.”
I do the same thing when I visit other people’s zero waste stores! Hold tight to your vision and don’t compare yourself or try to conform to anyone else’s.
Your vision is different so that you can reach different people and serve in your own, beautiful way.
5. you’re a natural at building relationships and collaborating
This is the fun part! You’ve already started networking within your local zero waste community and building relationships.
These connections bring meaning and value to the ecopreneur journey and can create so many exciting opportunities.
Even when you get busy with business planning, you should always make time to nurture these relationships.
Your store will provide people with a place to connect with others who have similar interests and values, while also providing access to low waste products. We need more of this in the world and it’s what will bring lasting change.
If you found yourself nodding along to the items on this list and internally screaming, “Yes! That is so me!” then your next step is to start building out the foundation for your business to get this show on the road.
It’s important to visualize your business, identify your core values, and get the mindset shifts that you need to become a successful zero waste store owner. Even if opening a zero waste store isn’t for you, you can still find some new ways to bring sustainability to your workplace.
Just always remember – you’re a trailblazer and I’m so excited to see what you build.
Guest post: Stephanie is the founder, owner & creative visionary of a zero waste grocery store in Kirkland, WA called Scoop Marketplace. She’s also the host of the Green Stuff Podcast, and the lead educator at Scoop Intelligence where she teaches digital courses on topics such as how to thrive as a values-driven business owner, low waste plant based cooking & baking, and how to open a zero waste store.