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Local low-packaging groceries are just a click away starting Monday

In this edition of Urban Cowboy, Owen Roberts finds Zerocery, a new online grocery service in Guelph dedicated to sustainability
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2019-07-16 Zerocery - Facebook
Zerocery. Source: Facebook

My plastic waste-conscious wife Angi recently found a low-packaging alternative to those one-use giant laundry detergent jugs… but it took a lot of searching. And while the product she found (dissolvable detergent strips) works great, it comes from a one-product source. And delivery-wise, that’s not as efficient as a full-service supplier.

But starting Monday, she and the thousands of other Guelphites who aspire to a circular economy – those who are kicking back against our runaway plastic culture – can access 1,000 grocery and bath items through a new, local service called Zerocery.  

This online zero-waste grocery delivery service, which maintains a packing facility on York Road, specializes in waste reduction with, as much as possible, locally-sourced products.

Its credo is no plastic wrap, no plastic bottles and no packaging that isn’t compostable, recyclable or reusable. It will offer multiple size selections for many products, to help reduce food waste.

“If you only need a sprig of cilantro or a small cup of wild rice, that’s all you should have to buy,” says co-owner Evan Hall, who started Zerocery with business partner Andrew Nixon. “Many of our products will also be sourced on an as need basis, cutting down greatly on food waste and delivering the freshest possible. We hope to make meaningful change to the grocery landscape, to take the burden of zero waste off consumers who are trying to do the right thing, but are frustrated by packaging.”

Locally, the duo feature products from sustainably-minded food providers such as Thatcher Farms meat (Wellington County), Polestar Hearth wood fire-baked bread (Guelph), Caudle’s Catch sustainable seafood (Kitchener) and Pfenning’s local organic produce (New Hamburg), among others.

“By prioritizing local suppliers, we can receive many items with zero waste on the supplier end,” says Hall. Like all zero waste stores, there is some packaging that comes along with certain products the company buys in bulk, he says, “but as our purchasing power grows, we’ll push suppliers to reduce and eliminate this altogether.”  

Zerocery’s service area includes homes in Guelph, Kitchener-Waterloo, Cambridge and Hamilton, a market of about one million consumers. Guelph orders will be delivered to homes weekly on Thursdays.

Orders need a minimum of 48 hours to be filled. Food items such as fruit and vegetables will be delivered fresh when in season. Meat and fish will be frozen, wrapped in unwaxed compostable butcher paper. Dairy and non-food items, such as detergent and shampoo, will be in reusable glass containers meant to be returned when the next order is delivered. Everything will come in an insulated bag and delivered after 3 p.m.

The business partners have been working towards Monday’s launch since January, connecting with suppliers and honing their entrepreneurial skills through the business incubator service at the University of Guelph’s John F. Wood Centre for Business and Student Enterprise.

As members of the last cohort, they won the centre’s Warren and Deborah Jestin Impact Award, that recognizes businesses with a strong commitment to environmental stewardship and community impact while balancing a profitable business model.

“After the $10-million Smart Cities win for Guelph-Wellington to drive towards a circular economy, in which recycling reigns supreme and waste is kept to an absolute minimum, Zerocery is a natural fit,” says centre manager Tyler Zemlak. “I believe a lot of people in this community will be interested in what Zerocery has to offer.”



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