Zero waste shopping Bay Area

Zero waste shopping directory East Bay (Fremont / Newark)

Do you live in Fremont or Newark in the Bay Area, California, and are looking for zero waste shopping options? Look no further – here’s my ultimate guide to zero waste shopping in Fremont and Newark (i.e. shopping groceries while avoiding [mainly plastic] waste and trash).

I’ve only just moved here, so the list probably isn’t complete – it’s a living document that I hope to be expanding on a regular basis as zero waste shopping becomes more and more mainstream.

Bulk aisles are great for shopping zero waste

You may think that this part of the Bay Area is a not-so-zero wasteland compared to, say, San Francisco, or Berkeley, Oakland or the Peninsula. We may not be as hip over here, but actually, we’re quite lucky in that we have so many farmers markets and a few independent specialty shops offering everything from bread to tea and coffee to soaps package free.

Here’s a list of where you can get what:

Zero waste shopping in Fremont / Newark

Fruit & veg:

  • Farmers markets (Fremont and Newark):
    • Thursdays: Kaiser Permanente farmers market at 39400 Paseo Padre Pkwy – it’s quite a small market with only 2-3 fruit & veg stalls, but it also has a local artisan soap maker and a few food trucks.
    • Saturdays:
      • Centerville Farmers Market at Bonde Way between Fremont Blvd. and Post Street, Fremont, CA 94536 – only during summer / fall from June 6 through December 19.
      • Niles Farmers Market on Main Street in the parking lot by the Plaza, Fremont, CA 94536 – again quite a small market, but in a lovely setting in historic Niles – combine with a stroll through the antique shops nearby or go for a ride on the historic steam train.
    • Sundays:
      • Irvington at Bay St and Trimboli Way – I’ve not been to this one but it’s supposed to be one of the best ones in the area, I’ll have to check it out.
      • Newark at Newpark Mall – a larger market with a great variety of stalls and produce, plus a few snack vans and also live music, apparently.
Organic veg at Fremont farmers market
Kaiser Permanente farmers market in Fremont
  • Grocery stores
    • Most grocery stores have a good selection of loose fruit & veg.
    • My favorites are Sprouts and Wholefoods for their choice of organic fruit & veg.
    • Stay away from Trader Joe’s as most of their stuff is pointlessly packaged in plastic.
    • Also try Asian or Mexican grocery stores for good prices and seasonal quality, such as Bharat Bazaar on Mowry in Fremont or Santa Fe Foods on Thornton in Newark.
Bharat Bazar in Fremont is good for fresh produce
  • Online
    • This doesn’t technically qualify as it’s not local, but it’s worth having a look at Good Eggs for seasonal, regional produce or Imperfect Foods for their selection of regular produce that would normally be thrown away. I haven’t tried these myself so can’t comment on the packaging involved – please let me know your experience in the comments below if you’ve tried them!

Bread and pastries

  • Bakeries:
    • Boudin Bakery on Mowry has yummy sourdough bread and baguettes; they’ll happily place the bread into your cloth bag (I recommend old pillow cases).
    • Panera Bread on Mowry has a smaller selection of bread but a great choice of pastries; they also serve their coffee and food in/on real ceramic mugs and plates!
    • Maiwand Market on Fremont Blvd. is an Afghan shop who make their own Afghan bread which is divine and really good value for money ($2.50 for a huge pita-type bread – you just need a big pillow case! Buy once, cut into toast size pieces, freeze, unfreeze in toaster, eat and melt away…).
    • There are quite a few bagel shops and Mexican bakeries around, too!
    • Being German, I can’t help but recommend Two Mice Bakery who deliver real German goodness in the Bay Area.
Great choice of package free bread
Have I mentioned that I love bread? 😉
This is Boudin Bakery’s mouthwatering display of fresh sourdough bread
  • Grocery stores:
    • As far as I’m aware, only Wholefoods actually sell their bread without packaging. Let me know if I’m wrong…

Meat & fish, deli meats and cheeses

  • Grocery stores:
    • Most grocery stores have fresh meat and fish counters as well as deli meat / cheese counters. Make sure you bring your own containers, most will be happy to put the products directly into your boxes instead of wrapping them in plastic.
    • Santa Fe Foods on Thornton in Newark has a huge choice of meats at good prices.
  • Specialty stores:
    • Munchner Haus Delicatessen is a German deli which has been run by Rita for over 30 years now. You can get German cold meat cuts, deli meats and cheeses there, very authentic… You can also get your fix of Sauerkraut there!
    • I haven’t found any traditional butchers or artisan cheese makers or fish mongers yet, so please do let me know if they exist!
Say “cheese”!
Photo by Waldemar Brandt on Unsplash

Pantry staples in bulk

This is where the US (or at least California) is clearly superior to the UK and the rest of Europe. When I moved here, I was so surprised to see regular grocery stores having bulk aisles and selling dried goods in bulk.

Here you can usually find grains, pulses / beans, cereals, dried fruits, nuts, snacks, chocolate, sweets, spices, flour, tea and coffee in bulk.

The bulk aisle at Wholefoods Fremont

My favorite grocery stores for bulk shopping (based on choice and price) are:

  • Sprouts (in Fremont and Newark)
  • Wholefoods (Fremont)
  • Smart & Final Extra (Fremont)

It’s also worth mentioning Maiwand Market on Fremont Blvd. for well-priced walnuts in bulk; they also sell chickpeas or garbanzo beans in bulk but they’re cheaper in the grocery stores listed above.

Admittedly, we don’t have any dedicated zero waste shop / bulk shop / package free shops in Fremont or Newark yet. But if you ever venture out into other parts of the Bay Area (which I’m sure you do, otherwise you would be dead), check out this handy list of zero waste shops on Zero Waste California. Whatever you do, go to Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco – it’s zero waste heaven and there’s nothing you can’t get package free there!

Zero waste heaven at Rainbow Grocery Coop in San Francisco

Other zero waste food products and ingredients

Hopefully the list above should cover 90% of your shopping needs if you start with a zero waste based meal plan and shopping list. However, there are always other items which can be a bit trickier to find:

  • Coffee & tea: While these are covered by the bulk sections of the major grocery stores, I’m a fan of supporting local businesses wherever possible – in this case Suju’s Coffee on Thornton or Stevenson Blvd. Their coffee is roasted on-site in Fremont and they also have a huge range of loose leaf tea. Just remember to bring your own container and ask them to use that, as their packaging is made from plastic, unfortunately.
Loose teas at Sujus Fremont
Home roasted coffee and loose tea at Sujus Coffee in Fremont
  • Milk & cream: Sprouts, Wholefoods, Safeway and Lucky stock Strauss Creamery milk or cream in reusable, returnable glass bottles. You pay a $2 deposit for the glass bottle when you buy the milk, which you’ll get back from the shop when you return the bottle. The bottle then gets RETURNED to the creamery where it gets washed and REUSED; not just recycled. Pure circular economy at its best! (ok, if you’re Germany and reading this, you’re wondering what the big deal is… glass return schemes normally don’t exist in the US 😦 ).
  • Olives, sun-dried tomatoes, artichokes etc.: Try the deli section at Sprouts or Wholefoods using your own container(s).
  • Orange juice: Wholefoods has one of those great juicer machines; bring your own bottle. I’m not sure about the other grocery stores (Sprouts doesn’t have them). Alternatively, especially in Winter, buy a load of oranges and get squeezing, baby! (suggest the Mexican or Asian grocery stores for good prices).
  • Nut butter(s): Again Wholefoods to the rescue with their nut butter machines… butter-me-up, honey!
Squeeze me, squeeze me, squeeze me baby… for zero waste orange juice

Food items and ingredients that are hard to get waste free in Fremont / Newark (and how you can get around this challenge):

  • Juice (other than orange, see above): go without (fruit juice has a lot of [albeit naturally occurring] sugar), or buy a juicer, or make smoothies.
  • Oils & vinegar: Head to Rainbow grocery in SF (or any of the other true zero waste shops in the Bay Area) with a BIG jug and get your bi-annual supply.
  • Yogurt: Make it yourself. Seriously. It’s so easy. Check out my blog on which zero waste foods to make yourself.
  • Cream cheese: Make it yourself. Not kidding, easier than you think. Recipe here.
  • Beer, wine, spirits: Good question. Go to a bar and drink draft beer from the tap. Travel to Sonoma or Napa and ask if you can lie down underneath a big wine barrel and let it drip into your mouth. Start a vodka distillery. Any other ideas please comment below ;-).
Drinking from the tap is the best zero waste way of getting drunk!
Photo by Evan Dvorkin on Unsplash

Noon-food items package free

Aside from food shopping, this is likely to be the other area where you fill up your household with trash – like cleaning products, beauty or personal hygiene products, etc.

So it makes sense to avoid waste here as best as possible, too.

  • Cleaning products: Despite everything that modern fast-moving consumer goods companies try to tell you, you don’t need 27 different highly toxic chemical cleaning products to keep your house clean. In fact, you only need a maximum of 3: vinegar, baking soda (bi-carbonate of soda for the Brits) and maybe some lemon. You can get vinegar in bulk from Rainbow Groceries (or another Bay Area zero waste shop of your choice), and you can usually find baking soda in the bulk sections of all major grocery stores. And if life gives you lemons, then add them to your cleaning routine for a lovely smell.
  • Shampoo, shower gel, washing up liquid: Switch from bottles to soap and shampoo bars, available at Sprouts, Wholefoods, Fremont Kaiser Permanente Farmers Market.
  • Body lotion: Try to use a light oil instead.
A lucky haul of jars from Goodwill in Fremont
  • Sanitary / female hygiene products (urgh, is the no non-awkward word for this? Period supplies? You know what I mean…): I use a menstrual cup instead of tampons / pads. Safer, reusable, better for the environment, cheaper. Available at your local pharmacy or online.
  • Tooth paste: This is a tricky one – there are lots of home made tooth paste recipes out there but I’m skeptical. Zero waste stores sell tooth paste cubes or at least tooth paste in more environmentally friendly packaging.
  • Toilet paper: Wholefoods sells a large pack of recycled toilet paper at a competitive price.
  • Re-usable containers for your zero waste shopping kit: Milk the local thrift stores! Goodwill, St. Vincent de Paul and Hope Station in Fremont are all great.

Phew, that’s a long list, isn’t this great? And I’m sure I’ve missed loads of other gems that I haven’t discovered yet, so please keep adding them in the comments below. Cheers, Bettina

5 thoughts on “Zero waste shopping directory East Bay (Fremont / Newark)”

  1. Great post, Bettina! Thank you so much.

    About Imperfect:
    – We do have a subscription to Imperfect Foods. Everything it’s in bulk, without plastic or packaging. When a product has packaging, you have the information on the website. We know at the moment that we are making our order everything about the packaging of the product.

    But since I order mostly veggies and fruits, everything arrives inside their cardboard box, without any plastic or bags, it’s excellent! The cardboard box is also reusable: we can leave the box on our porch on the delivery day, and the person that makes the delivery that day will take the old box for reuse. I really love Imperfect Foods! Also, it’s possible to skip deliveries: so no food waste, we only order what we need and when we need it.

    About other stores:
    – Like you know, I live in Palo Alto, in the Peninsula. I shop mostly at Whole Foods (sometimes at Sprouts or TJ’s, but mostly is WF). For the things that I buy:

    ** Bread – I try to purchase always Acme Bread that comes on a paper bag

    ** Nut Milks – Sometimes, I make my almond and oat milk at home, but most of the time, I purchase milk on the store, not great. I want to buy the Almond Milk machine, so the process of making my milk will be easier daily.

    ** Rice/Beans/Dates/Dried Fruits/Nuts – Everything on bulk. I have a dozen bulk bags (purchased at Whole Foods and Sprouts, but they can be easily made at home too), and I bring them every time I go shopping.

    ** Veggies and Fruits – Mostly of them are in bulk at Whole Foods, which is excellent. I use my bulk bag for the mushrooms and everything else like onions, garlic, carrots, spinach, kale, lemons, tomatoes, oranges, or bananas I put them on my cart/basket without any package. The only fruits that it’s tough to find in bulk (the only place that I found them was on the Palo Alto Farmer’s Market that only happens during the summer) are the berries and grapes.

    ** Cereals – I try to make my cereal with granola and nuts, but sometimes I purchase cereal in a box. When I do, I choose the Engine 2 – Plant-Strong brand, since it’s a sustainable brand and they don’t use any oils or add bad stuff.

    ** Snacks – I eat ~ a lot ~ snacks during the day. I eat a lot of nuts (mostly cashews, purchased in bulk) or dried mango (also in bulk), but sometimes I eat cereal bars. I try to make them at home, but when I run out, I purchase some at the store… not great, I know.

    For cosmetics and beauty, I purchase soap bars in bulk at Whole Foods. I use solid shampoo and conditioner – I buy that on Etsy or, sometimes, when I need a new shampoo, and I don’t have time to wait, I go to Lush at the Stanford Shopping Center.

    For toothpaste, since I tried Georganics in Europe two years ago, I’m addicted to this UK brand. I brought some from Europe, since here in the US, it’s hard to find zero waste tooth products. But I found them! Georganics is sold at the Urban Outfitters stores now! 🙂 I tried three types of toothpaste cubes (Lush, Georganics, and a homemade brand on Etsy), but I didn’t like the texture. I love the toothpaste from Georganics with their bamboo spatula or even their tooth soap, they’re great and 100% zero-waste.

    For the other cosmetics, I try to buy everything on Etsy in bulk or, at least, in glass containers.

    For period supplies, I also use a menstrual cup for at least five years now, and I also have a dozen reusable pads – I have a friend in Portugal that made them, they’re great! You can also find them on Etsy. I also have two Thinx panties (they work!). For razor, I have an all-metal razor, so no plastic for that too.

    For toilet paper, I have an excellent tip for you. It’s called Who Gives A Crap! They ship a box of toilet paper WITHOUT ANY PLASTIC! 🙂 everything its wrap on paper, 100% recycled paper, and the toilet paper it’s great. It’s what we have been using for a year now, and I’m 100% satisfied.

    Thanks again for all of your tips and great work!

    Like

  2. Great post, Bettina! Thank you so much.

    About Imperfect:
    – We do have a subscription to Imperfect Foods. Everything it’s in bulk, without plastic or packaging. When a product has packaging, you have the information on the website. We know at the moment that we are making our order everything about the packaging of the product.

    But since I order mostly veggies and fruits, everything arrives inside their cardboard box, without any plastic or bags, it’s excellent!
    The cardboard box is also reusable: we can leave the box on our porch on the delivery day, and the person that makes the delivery that day will take the old box for reuse. I really love Imperfect Foods!

    Also, it’s possible to skip deliveries: so no food waste, we only order what we need and when we need it.

    About other stores:
    – Like you know, I live in Palo Alto, in the Peninsula. I shop mostly at Whole Foods (sometimes at Sprouts or TJ’s, but mostly is WF). For the things that I buy:

    ** Bread – I try to purchase always Acme Bread that comes on a paper bag

    ** Nut Milks – Sometimes, I make my almond and oat milk at home, but most of the time, I purchase milk on the store, not great. I want to buy the Almond Milk machine, so the process of making my milk will be easier daily.

    ** Rice/Beans/Dates/Dried Fruits/Nuts – Everything on bulk. I have a dozen bulk bags (purchased at Whole Foods and Sprouts, but they can be easily made at home too), and I bring them every time I go shopping.

    ** Veggies and Fruits – Mostly of them are in bulk at Whole Foods, which is excellent. I use my bulk bag for the mushrooms and everything else like onions, garlic, carrots, spinach, kale, lemons, tomatoes, oranges, or bananas I put them on my cart/basket without any package. The only fruits that it’s tough to find in bulk (the only place that I found them was on the Palo Alto Farmer’s Market that only happens during the summer) are the berries and grapes.

    ** Cereals – I try to make my cereal with granola and nuts, but sometimes I purchase cereal in a box. When I do, I choose the Engine 2 – Plant-Strong brand, since it’s a sustainable brand and they don’t use any oils or add bad stuff.

    ** Snacks – I eat ~ a lot ~ snacks during the day. I eat a lot of nuts (mostly cashews, purchased in bulk) or dried mango (also in bulk), but sometimes I eat cereal bars. I try to make them at home, but when I run out, I purchase some at the store… not great, I know.

    For cosmetics and beauty, I purchase soap bars in bulk at Whole Foods. I use solid shampoo and conditioner – I buy that on Etsy or, sometimes, when I need a new shampoo, and I don’t have time to wait, I go to Lush at the Stanford Shopping Center.

    For toothpaste, since I tried Georganics in Europe two years ago, I’m addicted to this UK brand. I brought some from Europe, since here in the US, it’s hard to find zero waste tooth products. But I found them! Georganics is sold at the Urban Outfitters stores now! 🙂

    I tried three types of toothpaste cubes (Lush, Georganics, and a homemade brand on Etsy), but I didn’t like the texture. I love the toothpaste from Georganics with their bamboo spatula or even their tooth soap, they’re great and 100% zero-waste.

    For the other cosmetics, I try to buy everything on Etsy in bulk or, at least, in glass containers.

    For period supplies, I also use a menstrual cup for at least five years now, and I also have a dozen reusable pads – I have a friend in Portugal that made them, they’re great! You can also find them on Etsy. I also have two Thinx panties (they work!).

    For razor, I have an all-metal razor, so no plastic for that too.

    For toilet paper, I have an excellent tip for you. It’s called Who Gives A Crap! They ship a box of toilet paper WITHOUT ANY PLASTIC! 🙂 everything its wrap on paper, 100% recycled paper, and the toilet paper it’s great. It’s what we have been using for a year now, and I’m 100% satisfied.

    Thanks again for all of your tips and great work!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Krystel,
      Thank you so much for your reply, so many helpful insights! And glad you found the post useful.
      I will definitively give Imperfect Foods a try as I love the idea of avoiding food waste. Also thanks so much for all the waste free alternatives for cosmetics and toothpaste, as they’re so hard to find! I’ll get on the toothpaste right now as mine has run out!
      I’m aware of Who Gives A Crap, and I like the idea in general, I just don’t like the idea of shipping toilet paper and that each roll is wrapped individually… I’ll have to look into the overall environmental impact of the two alternatives and make an informed decision ;-).
      Thanks again
      Bettina x

      Like

      1. Yes, individually wrapped rolls it’s not ideal … what I do with the papers is to use them to put inside the baskets where I have my onions/garlic/potatoes, and I also use the paper to wrap the clothes I sell at Vinted / Poshmark. They are so colorful and fun, so I try to give them another purpose. But yes, in the end, many end up in the trash … but I think it is still better than plastic since they are 100% recycled. Or maybe I’m wrong, I don’t know 😅

        Like

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