Goderich, Ont. has opened its first zero-waste food store.
BYOB Zero Waste Depot, a no-waste, eco-friendly bulk food store, opened amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but its owner says she's already seen great community support.
"A lot of times, with something like this, it would be specialty and very niche and speak to only a certain clientele," said owner Sandra Ambing. "(But) the reception has been amazing . . . We are able to cater to every walk of life."
BYOB Zero Waste Depot sells food, cleaning supplies and body care products, all in the amounts customers want and packed in paper, glass or other recyclable or reusable containers.
"It is nice people can buy only what they need," Ambing said. "It's really done well for a more frugal, conservative lifestyle . . . especially in a very uncertain time."
But opening a bulk store, where customers would typically scoop out their own products and use their own containers, has presented some COVID-19 challenges.
Ambing said she worked closely with the area public health office unit to develop safe practices. She measures out all the products, meaning customers can't touch anything.
Shoppers can't bring their own containers at this time, but Ambing has a stockpile of recyclable and reusable containers that can be used.
Customers can also opt into a jar-deposit program, similar to how milk bottles used to be reused, with empty containers dropped off for Ambing to clean for re-use.
"We're really focusing on the carbon footprint and zero waste aspect," she said. "It's about re-use, repurpose, refill, recycle."
The store is an offshoot of Ambing's aromatherapy business Ambing. She was inspired to pursue a more eco-friendly business after learning dark glass bottles, like those essential oils often come in, aren't recyclable.
Before opening in Goderich, Ambing had established nine cleaning product refill stations in stores throughout Southwestern Ontario, from Owen Sound to Windsor.
Ambing said the new store underlines the need to be more environmentally sensitive not just in large cities, but smaller areas as well.
"(The store) is the first of its kind in Huron County," she said. "I like to bring the big city to the small town."