Here’s an overview of what zero waste shops around the Bay Area are doing to keep their staff and customers safe while still providing a low-waste, healthy shopping option during these challenging times.
Zero waste shops around the Bay Area tend to be independent, employee-owned or owner-operated businesses.
They are so important for providing healthy, sustainable and low-waste grocery options to local communities, that I believe it’s important to continue to support them during these difficult times.
Many of them are open for business – not “business as usual”, but with amends to make shopping as safe as possible for their customers and employees. Here’s a list of who’s doing what, by area:
The mother of all zero waste stores in the Bay Area was one of the first to respond to the challenges the COVID-19 outbreak poses for grocery stores.
Even before the Bay Area issued the collective “shelter in place” order on March 16, Rainbow started to make some changes to how they operate their stores from March 12.
This includes suspending access to all bulk aisles. From 9am to 10am every day, Rainbow Grocery is prioritizing senior shoppers and anyone who is part of their high-risk community.
Finally, they’re metering access to their store, which may lead to wait times of up to one hour. Shoppers are asked to queue outside while keeping a safe distance from each other. If you’re in line by 6.30pm, you’re guaranteed access to the store.
Zero waste shops in the East Bay (Oakland, Berkeley)
In addition to standard measures such as increased cleaning and disinfecting, Berkeley Bowl have implemented crowd control in both stores.
The olive bulk section has been changed to prepackaged, but there’s no word on whether the main bulk section is still available (please let me know in the comments section if you have any intel on this).
Store hours have also been changed to make time for senior citizens to shop, and for extra cleaning, sanitizing and re-stocking:
- Sunday: 8am to 7pm (no early senior citizen shopping)
- Monday, Wednesday & Friday: 10am to 8pm (senior shopping from 8am to 10am)
- Tuesday, Thursday & Saturday: 8am to 8pm (no early senior citizen shopping)
You can read their full COVID-19 update on their website here.
Fillgood.co, based in Albany, is a refill shop and delivery service for zero waste products including household cleaning, baby, pet and beauty products. They’ve temporarily closed their shop but they have pickup locations and are still delivering all around the Bay Area. Orders above $40 get free delivery.
Here’s what they’ve posted on their website:
In order to protect our team and our customers, we have decided to close the store for now while maintaining home deliveries. This way, you won’t have to wait in line to get your bathroom and kitchen products. We hope this will ease things up a little bit for you and your family while you adapt to this exceptional situation.STEPHANIE REGNI, FILLGOOD.CO
Mandela Grocery Coop, West Oakland
This employee-owned and operated community staple in Oakland has amended its shopping hours to 9am to 6pm daily.
If absolutely necessary, elders are welcome to shop from 9am to 10am. However, the shop is urging seniors to pre-order for pick up:
If you are over the age of 65, please stay home. You can call our store (number is (510) 452-1133) to place an order for pick up. We will do our best to shop for you and schedule a time for you to pick up your groceries.MANDELA COOP
They’re limiting the amount of shoppers in the store to five at a time. Self service in the bulk section and the use of your own containers is no longer allowed.
MudLab Oakland is a relatively new zero waste grocery store, co-working space, zero-waste event hub, bookstore, artist’s workshop and bakery, based on 3933 Telegraph Ave, Oakland 94609.
They officially launched on December 21, 2019, so this fledgling of the Bay Area zero waste community deserves extra support! And they’ve responded to the COVID-19 crisis with creativity and ingenuity, offering zero waste hand sanitizer in bulk, cotton masks for $1, and a “pandemic essentials bag” for $35. You can order via a message on Instagram or by completing this online ordering form.
They’re also hosting webinars on how to make pasta or pantry essentials for everyone stuck at home. Check out their Instagram for latest updates and webinar schedule.
South Bay / Peninsula
Byrd’s Filling Station, San Mateo
This refill and zero waste delivery service out of San Mateo has expanded its delivery range in response to COVID-19. Determined to continue to reduce plastic waste during the crisis, they offer free local delivery (covering most of the SF Peninsula) for orders over $25, or $5 for purchases under $25.
Deliveries will be made to residences or businesses on the business day following order receipt.
They no longer attend Burlingame Farmers’ Market which is currently suspended due to COVID-19.
Country Sun Natural Foods, Palo Alto
This Silicon Valley staple has been promoting organic, local groceries since 1971.
There’s no update on how COVID-19 measures are affecting their bulk section, but they’ve adapted opening hours and are offering shopping for seniors (65+), people with pre-existing conditions and pregnant women on Wednesdays:
New Seasons Market / Evergreen, San Jose
The self-proclaimed “friendliest store in town” has updated its store opening hours to 8am to 8pm, with 8am to 9am being a designated “community care hour”.
They’ve also extended their Senior Discount to all hours, all days to accommodate the senior community.
To provide extra space and service to customers, New Seasons Market have instituted temporary store capacity limits at all locations.
They’ve also employed a cool new waitlist technology at some locations that gives customers the option to join a waitlist queue via text with their mobile phone upon arrival at the store. I’m not sure whether this applies to Evergreen in San Jose – if you know, please confirm in comments below.
The Source Zero, San Jose
This zero waste supply store in downtown San Jose (60 N San Pedro St Suite 30, San Jose, CA 95110) stocks essentials like household cleaning and beauty products, as well as sustainable, reusable containers.
In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, they’ve reduced their store opening hours and are encouraging customers to pre-order for pickup. They also offer deliveries:
We will continue to fulfill orders for pick up during scheduled hours, and are able to deliver within Santa Clara county for a small fee and minimum order of $30. Just send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. You will receive an invoice to use your credit card online, and the option to choose a pickup time or delivery. We will fill your orders in our mason jars or other glass or aluminum containers.THE SOURCE ZERO
The shop is open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 12pm – 3pm, with three people allowed in the shop at any one time due to the small space. You can shop all their products online here. Stay up to date on shop opening hours via their Facebook and Instagram page, or subscribe to their newsletter.
Zanotto’s Market and Deli, San Jose / Sunnyvale
Zanotto’s is offering special order-ahead, no-contact grocery pick up (or delivery to residence or workplace parking lots if necessary), with no fees. You can find details of how it works here.
They’ve also temporarily changed their store hours from 9am to 7pm. At their Willow Glen, Sunnyvale and Rose Garden locations, seniors are allowed to shop one hour before opening to the general public, from 8am to 9am.
Zanotto’s recognizes the importance of helping seniors and also frontline healthcare professionals working in hospitals and clinics deemed essential services.ZANOTTO’S MARKET AND DELI
What’s really useful, Zanotto are posting their stock levels on Instragram every day, so you can see what’s available and what’s not, so that you don’t need to leave the house if something is out of stock.
Their bulk sections are closed for the time being.
Grocery store chains throughout the Bay Area
As with independent stores, grocery chains have also changed operations in response to COVID-19. Most of them have closed their bulk sections, and some are managing customer flow and/or are offering senior shopping hours. Most (except Smart & Final) offer home delivery.
Here are the links to their respective statements:
Please continue to support zero waste shops in the Bay Area during COVID-19
Waste is unavoidable and sometimes even necessary (medical equipment, personal protective gear, etc.) during this health crisis. However, that doesn’t mean that we have to abandon our quest for zero waste.
Independent zero waste shops depend on our business, and the responses above demonstrate that they can be more flexible in adjusting, and be more caring about the community, than larger stores.
I’m not a health expert nor do I want to argue for or against certain shopping practices when grocery shopping – I leave this to the more established zero waste experts.
Zerowastecalifornia.org has put together some really useful, simple steps on how to navigate the Coronavirus while avoiding waste.
My personal steps are:
- I base my meals on (unpackaged) fresh fruit and vegetables (you can download a free zero waste meal planner here) and wash them thoroughly; I freeze, use or ferment any fresh produce we can’t use up.
- When buying non-perishable packaged food, I try to go for the biggest size possible to achieve the best packaging-to-volume ratio. More tips on how to reduce waste when bulk isn’t available on Zerowastechef’s blog here.
- If you want to stock up, only stock up on non-perishable goods to avoid food waste.
I hope this is helpful. Please all stay safe. Cheers, Bettina
Thanks to Zerowastecalifornia.org whose thorough list of California bulk shops and refilling stations immensely helped with putting this overview together.