Looking out at a world where plastic litters our landscapes and oceans, Brooklyn resident Sarah Metz felt compelled to do something, starting with her own community.

Metz, a full-time pediatric occupational therapist, noticed that the numerous grocery stores in her neighborhood didn’t provide products in bulk bins. Instead nearly all came in plastic or cardboard packaging.

What inspired her to research zero-waste grocery stores was the alarming fact that only roughly 14% of plastic is recycled. “I’ve become more and more aware of, and almost morally burdened by, the amount of waste we generate as humans and the role consumerism plays,” said Metz in an interview to Co. Exist. “On a more personal and local level, I’m frustrated by the grocery options in my community. I enjoy cooking and trying new ingredients, but I’m limited by the fact that I’m buying for one person and have a kitchen with minimal storage.”

The more research Metz conducted, the more she became captivated by the idea of opening a packaging-free, zero-waste grocery store in Brooklyn. In her spare time she organized a business plan and ventured to Europe to visit new zero-waste supermarket chains that have emerged there.

 

The result of Metz’ hard work and determination is The Fillery, a zero-waste grocery store, funded on Kickstarter. The store will mostly focus on selling dry goods in bulk; only some liquids, perishable items such as milk, and some local products will be sold in sustainable packaging.

Metz opted for a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) pickup point where customers can receive a weekly supply of fresh vegetables provided by local farmers in season which will help prevent food waste.

“Space is extremely limited in Brooklyn, which I imagine is one of the reasons most grocery stores here do not have a bulk section, or at least a substantial one,” said Metz. “I opted to leave out a produce section for a variety of reasons: to maximize the variety of bulk items I can carry, to ensure there is room for a community learning space, to support regional farms and the slow food movement, and to reduce operational costs.”

The Fillery has been designed to aid customers in rethinking what they actually need to purchase.  Metz also helps customers who are used to buying processed food learn to cook through cooking classes offered at The Fillery.

“We recognize that we cannot replace everything within a regular grocery store—and we don’t aim to,” says Metz. “That’s actually part of the point—there is so much excess in a regular grocery store, which is a big contributor to both food and packaging waste.”

Recently, grocery chains in the United States have received strong criticism for their excessive packaging of products. Even Whole Foods, known for promoting eco-friendly and organic products, has been under fire. Customers were so outraged by the sale of pre-peeled oranges stored in plastic containers that Whole Foods quickly removed the product and apologized to their customers, stating that they had made a mistake.

Metz stated that “part of our mission at The Fillery is to educate our community and give them healthier, more sustainable options. We want people to start thinking in a more eco-conscious way as consumers, so not only considering the packaging an item is in, but also the life of that item. What are alternatives that might be more sustainable and longer-lasting?”

With the increase in consumers’ eco-awareness, will this model be the start of a major change in the way large grocery chains offer their products?