This week, we’re talking with NU Grocery owner and founder Valérie Leloup, to learn all about zero-waste shopping.
When you step inside Wellington West’s NU Grocery for the first time, it can be a bit startling. In any other grocery store, you’re bombarded with images and logos. At NU Grocery, all you see is the product. That’s part of the idea behind the store, which opened in mid-2017. NU Grocery is Ontario’s first zero-waste grocery store and among the first in Canada.
“The name is a bit of a play on words,” Leloup says. “I grew up in France, French is my first language. ‘Nu’ means naked, and it’s the idea that, well, I like my food naked! You get rid of all this superfluous packaging, and you concentrate on the product, and it’s a naked product. We also like the word, because it’s similar to the word ‘new,’ and this is a new concept.”
The store stocks everything from fruits and veggies, to baked goods, dry goods, and cleaning supplies, all without creating any of the packaging waste you’d find at any other store.
You get rid of all this superfluous packaging, and you concentrate on the product, and it’s a naked product.
“If you do your groceries [at a regular grocery store], you will probably notice that when you come back home, you have just as much packaging waste as product. What we do is we focus on the product, and get rid of the packaging.”
“In practical terms, what it means is, I’d say 80% of the products you see here are sold in bulk. You come with your own containers, your own packaging, if you will. You weigh them at the entrance, we have a taring station, you weigh your empty container, you fill it up with whatever you need, then you go to checkout and we deduct the tare.”
The store favours working with local vendors as well, like Almonte’s Equator Coffee, to eliminate waste on the supply side. Many vendors have made adjustments to the way they ship product especially for NU.
So how is zero-waste shopping different from shopping at a regular store?
“It’s a sensory experience. Here, you’re actually in contact with the product. You fill your containers, I think it’s fun! It’s almost, as a kid, like playing in a sandbox.”
NU Grocery is located at 1130 Wellington St. W, open 7 days a week, 8am to 8pm.
This interview originally aired on CHUO 89.1fm on Tuesday, February 13, 2018.