Picture this: you’re out to dinner with some friends. You feel full but still have a lot of food left on your plate. Naturally, you would ask your server to wrap up your leftovers, likely in a styrofoam or paper container. Now instead, you pull out your reusable container and fit your remaining food inside to take home. This might seem unnatural for many people, but for Ellin Park and Kevin Choi of Zero Waste Bulk, it is a common part of their zero waste lifestyle. 

“For me, it started with minimalism, just trying to reduce the stuff I own,” Park said. “And there is a lot of overlap between the minimalist and zero waste communities, especially online.”

Park stumbled across the zero waste movement by accident only a couple of years ago. Since then, she has turned her passion into action by planning to open Waterloo Region’s first zero waste store called Zero Waste Bulk. 

When Park and Choi first began their zero waste journey, they quickly realized just how difficult it is to find products that fit their lifestyle, all in one place. 

“Everything is scattered. If I want to get my bulk foods, I go to one place. If I want to get my produce I go to another place. If I want to get lifestyle items, such as toothbrushes, you go to another place,” Park said.

Out of this frustration, the idea for Zero Waste Bulk was born. Zero Waste Bulk would be the first store of its kind in Waterloo Region; a one-stop-shop where individuals can find the products they love and need, all with less waste. 

“We have this trash problem. We are producing so much waste and not even that, we are consuming so much mindlessly,” Park explained. “Zero waste is more of an aspiration. Zero Waste Bulk would help the customer live zero waste, but it is almost impossible for the store to actually produce zero waste.”

Customers often do not see the waste that is produced by stores that have items shipped in. Products are often wrapped in layers of cellophane — a plastic that is not recyclable and destined for the landfill.  

Park and Choi may have plans to launch an online store before securing a physical store location in Waterloo Region. However, it is still their goal to open a physical store in the near future. 

“There are definitely people who are into trying to live zero waste [in Waterloo Region]. Ever since I started working on the store I have met a bunch of different people interested in trying to live zero waste and they have expressed that they are really excited for this and that they really want this.”

If you are interested in the zero waste lifestyle or simply want to produce less waste, Park and Choi encourage everyone to talk about zero waste more, to make it more common and well known. As well, be sure to not give up and learn from your mistakes for the next time. Before you know it, bringing your own containers to restaurants will become second nature.