Andrew Monro is Apt613’s correspondent at Impact Hub Ottawa, writing about the many innovators that call Hub home. Hub is a co-working space at 71 Bank Street for projects with a positive local and global impact.
A rethinking of grocery shopping is taking root in Ottawa.
Even though the store isn’t even open, Valerie Leloup and her business, NU Grocery, are already capturing the public’s attention.
NU Grocery is billed as Canada’s first “zero-waste” grocery. The model is built on the premise that most food packaging is unnecessary and harmful to the environment. NU eliminates packaging waste by selling either in bulk or using returnable glass containers. This has the additional benefit of allowing consumers to only buy the quantities of food they need.
“We must move away from mass consumption we grew up with and become more mindful and responsible consumers,” she says.
Consumer waste came up for Valerie when her mother gave her a book called Zero Waste Home, by Bea Johnson. The book struck a chord with her, advocating a lifestyle of mindful simplicity. Implementing the book principles, she began refusing to buy groceries in single-use packaging. She soon found buying all the things one can get at a conventional grocery unpackaged was a struggle, as no one store had everything she needed.
“We must move away from mass consumption we grew up with and become more mindful and responsible consumers.”
She soon learned the concept of zero-waste had already germinated in Europe. Other people had read Johnson’s book and started zero-waste businesses. Valerie was inspired to bring the same model to Ottawa.
The challenges for NU Grocery are significant: Valerie is aiming for it to be a store where you can find most, if not all, of the things you find at other groceries. This is difficult, especially with rules in Canada requiring food to be stored in specific ways. At the moment, NU is prepared to sell fruits, vegetables, dry foods and grains, dairy, and cleaning and cosmetic products.
As Valerie started out, wanting to find a community of like-minded individuals to engage with, she became a member of Impact Hub Ottawa. She continues to spend time there building her business.
At this time, she continues to explore the most sustainable solutions to the challenges NU Grocery faces. She is interested in finding more suppliers of unpackaged goods and reusable food containers. She hopes NU will open its doors this summer in downtown Ottawa.
Correction: A previous version of this post stated NU Grocery will be Canada’s first zero-waste grocery store. Green opened on Salt Spring Island, B.C. in September 2016.