Beyond the Plastic Bag Ban: Where to Shop Zero-Waste in Brooklyn
This weekend, the plastic bag ban went into effect for New York, with the mission to reduce plastic waste and pollution by banning plastic carryout bags and placing fees on paper bags, encouraging city dwellers to bring reusable ones.
Paper bags for a five-cent fee are available at retailers, with two cents of the fee going to the city to fund the purchase of reusable bags for low-income residents and seniors, and the rest going to the state’s Environmental Protection Fund. Local retailers were scrambling to get paper bags stocked a few weeks before the ban.
In New York City, residents use more than 10 billion single-use carryout bags every year and it costs the City more than $12 million annually to dispose of these bags, the Department of Sanitation states. They are also offering free reusable bags across the city, made of 90% recycled material, if you take the Zero Waste Pledge, promising to compost, properly recycle, and more.
But why stop at the plastic bag ban? Take the Zero Waste Pledge and check out these sustainable, Brooklyn businesses offering zero-waste and package-free services and shopping, for a greener future.
Let’s be honest, New Yorkers love their take-out. We love it so much we throw away almost a billion takeout containers every year, according to Lauren Sweeney, the Co-founder & CMO of DeliverZero, a new Brooklyn-based company offering a sustainable take-out delivery service.
“What we’re doing is making a sustainable option an easy choice to the customer,” she told Bklyner. “You can order with a side of garbage, or without.”
The company launched in November 2019, first going live in Park Slope. DeliverZero containers are reusable over 1,000 times and 100% BPA free, eliminating emissions and waste from many manufacturing processes traditional single-use take-out packaging go through.
Once your food is delivered, you can return the reusable packaging to a delivery person the next time you order or drop them off at any participating restaurant within six weeks. If you keep the containers they’ll charge $3.25 plus tax for each one you keep! DeliverZero takes a commission from the order total, like other popular food deliveries, making it free for restaurants to participate.
Find participating restaurants here and order away, guilt-free and waste-free.
As the name states, this shop is package free. Lauren Singer, the person behind the zero-waste lifestyle blog Trash is for Tossers, founded Package Free offering everything you need for an environmentally-friendly existence. From safe house cleaners to reusable water bottles, the shop carefully curates products from brands they believe in, who focus on having a positive environmental impact.
Since opening in May of 2017, their website states they’ve kept 4 million plastic straws, 3 million plastic bags, and over 1.5 million non-recyclable bottles and cups out of the landfill.
“I created Package Free Shop because I believe that as consumers we all should have convenient access to products that help us reduce our environmental impact,” Singer stated on her blog, when the business came together. “I also started Package Free Shop to empower amazing mission-driven entrepreneurs who are dedicating their lives to tackling plastic pollution and waste and help their businesses to grow in a way that was sustainable.
Visit them in Williamsburg at 137 Grand Street, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.
Brooklyn’s first package-free grocery store opened in Bushwick in late 2018, offering bulk produce, home goods, and beauty products. Their motto is “just food — no packaging.”
You can buy beans, pasta, and all sorts of grains in bulk, as well as spices, honey, and even balsamic vinegar. If you don’t have your own reusable packaging, no worries, you can pick up jars and pouches at the store.
Katerina Bogatireva, the founder, is no stranger to zero-waste. Growing up in Riga, Latvia during the Soviet Union, she saw first-hand the empty store shelves and the absence of “tara,” packaging. This instilled the values of not wasting food and getting resourceful. As a young child she remembers bringing her jar to the market to fill it with sour cream, plastic bags were rare and admired, she says on their website.
“But we are just one piece of the puzzle and we know there is so much more work to be done,” Precycle stated on their Instagram with the new bag ban in effect. “This law is an important step in the right direction to fight unnecessary waste.”
You can visit Precycle in Bushwick at 321 Starr Street, on the corner of Cypress Avenue, weekdays 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and weekends 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
The O.G. zero-waste shopping experience is your local farmers market. When you shop directly from the growers and producers, you help eliminate many in-between processes of shipping and packaging. Plus, you get the freshest seasonal produce available, while supporting local businesses and farmers. Don’t forget your reusable tote bag!
Find a year-round greenmarket near you.
The Wally Shop
The Wally Shop was the US’s first zero-waste grocery delivery service launching in the fall of 2018. Their delivery service offers reusable packaging without sacrificing any value and not breaking the bank, promising Trader Joe’s price-competitive bulk foods, all sent out from a Bushwick-based warehouse.
When you’re done shopping local goods, at checkout, you’re charged a deposit for your reusable packaging, like jars and totes, and it’s sent to your door. When you’re done, you can return all your packaging to a FedEx/UPS delivery courier on a future delivery or schedule a free pick-up. That’s when the deposit is returned and all the packaging is cleaned to be put back into circulation.
Tamara Lim, the founder of the company, used to work for Amazon, where a staggering amount of packing materials still get sent to landfill. Managing the packaging and shipping retail category, she noticed a growing demand from consumers for recycled and sustainable packaging.
“Here I was working at this big tech company that’s reaching billions of people and we have this technology and ability to build such amazing technology and solutions,” she told the Bushwick Daily, “yet we are struggling to clean up after ourselves.”
Join the waitlist here, and discover all the environmentally-friendly tips on their Instagram in the meantime.
Planted Community Cafe and Market
Planted is a vegan cafe and zero-waste market in prioritizing health and sustainability, that opened in 2018. Their market and cafe offer locally sourced ingredients with minimal processing, celebrating the goodness of ingredients while supporting small businesses.
At their market you can find bulk herbs and teas, gluten-free flours, pantry staples, like beans and grains, as well as soaps, essential oils, adaptogens, like beetroot and reishi mushroom powders (for your next power smoothie.)
Among other perks, they have kombucha on tap, a plant shop, and CBD Dispensary. Stop by and treat yourself to lunch, some shopping, all in a sustainable and environmentally-friendly fashion. Forgot your jars? That’s okay! you can get reusable containers at the market.
Visit their cafe and market at 331 Smith Street in Caroll Gardens, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.
We’ve reached out to Lauren Singer, Katerina Bogatireva, Tamara Lim, and Planted for comment, but did not hear back in time for publishing.
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