Almost three weeks ago my husband and I (we are from Germany) had invaded the Dutch Zero Waste bloggers meeting in Zutphen (Holland) 😆. Because we don't speak Dutch 🙈, they had to switch to English just for us... A big THANK YOU to all the really inspiring Dutch Zero Waste bloggers at the meeting (click here for a full list with links to their blogs and social media)!
This is the fourth zero waste bulk store I have been to, and it is the prettiest so far 💚! I couldn't help but adore the rustic and homy interior! Looking at the store, you would think that owner Marjolijn must have poured in so much money, but in fact almost everything in her store is pre-owned or made from reclaimed wood! "When you talk a lot, things will find you and you don't need to use new resources," Marjolijn explained. She cooperated with a project that helps teenagers – mostly drop outs – to learn skills that will help them find a job. These teenagers renovated the entire space and built some furniture for the shop including the shelves. "The floor boards are a bit uneven here and there, but what does it matter? The teenagers visit the store, they look around, and then they go: 'Yes, I built that!' It's really great!"
Marjolijn herself is transitioning to a zero waste lifestyle: "Every day I learn new things! A lot of my customers give me great advice, and I am loving every bit of this journey!" She opened this gorgeous store in December 2015, and lets the store and the details unfold with her own progress and her customers. I have to admit, I really like this approach. I feel her store will also gradually become a center for encounters. She used to be a health care worker so she is very interested in herbalism. She knows somebody in the area who grows herbs, and she plans on offering herbal tea made from local herbs, like tea that can ease pain. She and the lady whose jam she sells are trying to find a new way to offer jam in bulk instead of selling it in jars. They are not sure it will work, but they are willing to at least try to find a solution. You gotta admire this kind of mindset and the spirit!
She puts an emphasis on sourcing locally grown food whenever possible and on providing basic everyday items to a normal price, so that everyone can afford it. She is also in the process of stocking up on things like baking soda, castille soap and other versatile things that can be used to make affordable, all-natural cleaning and beauty products. She also cooperates with the local bike courier to provide a grocery delivery service, which is especially great for the elderly or lazy people like we are 😝!
How does it work to shop there?
Buying everything in bulk is a bit different compared to shopping in a regular supermarket, where you pretty much grab whatever you feel like and just toss it into your cart.
First of all, it is wise to remember to bring your own containers. There is a scale at the entrance where you can weigh your own jars, bags, or whatever, and write the weight onto your container with a non-waterproof marker.
I LOVE how she decided to NOT have a sticker system for this – unlike pretty much every other store with bulk bins! When I asked her she explained she does not see why she should have a sticker system that produces trash when it can be so easily avoided with just a simple marker. Yessss, that's the spirit 😁👍💚!!!
There is another scale you can use to check the weight so you know how much you have filled your jar with.
Like in the other zero waste store there is the option of buying jars or paper bags if you happen to not have any of your own containers on you.
Paying at the register is very straight-forward. Everything is weighed and the weight of your own container is subtracted.
The is a small section of fresh (and I think sticker-free) produce.
There is a very nice selection of nuts, seeds, cereal items, legumes, rice and also snack items.
They also sell tea and coffee in bulk and you can sit down and have a tasty cup of coffee! I'm very sorry I forgot to take pictures of that 😅..
Soooo pretty 💚!
Dried fruits in candy jars – nature's candy...? 😝
I don't think have never seen honey in bulk. Well, I'm vegan, but it's still cool 😉.
Now onto my favorite corner in this store!!
I think those are the prettiest bulk bins I have seen so far! And they are filled with snack mixes that are to die for! Too bad we cannot get our hands on these snack mixes where we live in Germany 😢.
Okay, I'm vegan and I'm out when it comes to the mayonnaise and honey mustard. But again, I really appreciate the extra mile to even offer condiments in bulk and not just in jars or glass bottles!
Now THIS ONE was my all-time favorite!! I have seen these machines on instagram believing I would never be able to try one in real life! This, ladies and gentlemen, is a machine that grinds peanut butter! YES, I bought freshly ground peanut butter IN BULK 💚💚💚!! And it smelled divine!!
Of course there is oil and vinegar.
I was a bit bummed to see these boxes of apple juice. They reminded me of boxed wine... I asked Marjolijn if there was a plastic bag inside that will be disposed of afterwards. Well, the juice was indeed in a plastic bag, but she explained that the (local) farmer who makes the juice takes the bags bag and refills them.
I have never seen nougat sold in bulk! I love how she uses a glass dome! She does the same with the cheese. I always forget to take pictures of the cheese (and the wine)! Guess my personal preferences do show 😜.
Right now the cheese selection is more on the fancy side. Marjolijn is looking for a close-by cheese manufacturer where she can buy more basic kinds of cheese. She does not have a big selection, because the bigger the selection, the more will spoil in the end.
Out of the four zero waste bulk store I have been to, I think one did not offer cheese (not too sure though, could be that I just didn't pay enough attention), and the other two stores did wrap their cheeses in cling film 😕. I had suggested glass domes to both of the store's owners. Both were concerned that the domes were too expensive but told me they would look into it. They do have quite the cheese selection so to be fair that would add up. Personally, I think it's worth considering narrowing down the cheese options, also because cheese as a dairy product is a product that spoils easily. However, I have no idea what it is like to run a zero waste bulk store. It is easy for me to say all of this, but it might be very difficult to implement.
I was surprised and excited to see a bamboo toothbrush brand I had never heard of – the Humble Brush, a Swedish company! We have been using hydrophil, a German brand, but are open to trying other toothbrushes. However, I could not find any information on how long the bristles take to decompose. I looked it up and could only find the statement that the bristles are made of nylon 6 and that nylon 6 is "biodegradable over time". Well, regular nylon is biodegradable as well – it just takes 30 to 40 years! Also, the package was very obviously plastic-coated, similar to the cover of a hardcover book. The packaging is completely made from recycled material.
Well, we decided to stick to our hydrophil toothbrushes with nylon 4 bristles that decompose within 18 months and plastic-free packaging made from recycled paper. However, I was told by the owner of a Fairtrade organic clothing store that the manufacturer of nylon 4 went bankrupt and that hydrophil intends to switch to regular nylon. Seems like we will then give Ecobamboo a try. An acquaintance will order their compostable straws for a café anyway, so I have asked her to order some toothbrushes for us while she's at it, hehe.
There is also detergent in non-branded canisters...
... and shampoo bars on the same shelf. The shampoo bars are completely wrapped in paper instead of just a paper sleeve though...
The section for personal hygiene and cleaning products is still very small, but will be enlarged. I love how there are many labels that can be re-written!
It is a really cool store 😊! What I liked best was probably the fact, that the store is growing with Marjolijn's journey and her customers as well. This is a very sustainable concept in my opinion. Start small and sleak, keep your investment costs low, learn and grow with the people around you, and support your own region.
The assortment, however, is (still) smaller than what I had seen in the other three zero waste bulk stores I had been to. As a zero waster I would probably still have to shop somewhere else. If we lived in one of the cities where the other three stores I had been to are located, we would probably do all of our grocery shopping there and would be all set.
I am really excited to see what this store will be like in a couple of years! To me it looks like Marjolijn's connections bear an incredible amount of creative potential. Zutphen is a cosy town where people seem to know each other, and where people seem to care about their town. I wouldn't be too surprised to learn that GOODsONLY had become a center of encounter for Zutphen's creative folk, coming together to try to make their city an even better place.