▍Feature News》Zero Waste Fad#2: The Unprecedented Community-Based Zero Waste Store in Austin, USA

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Photo Credit: Indiegogo

One day when the idea of baking cookies comes across your mind, you might be surprised that how much waste would be produced during the process. Do you know baking cookies could possibly take 13 pieces of packaging sheets? In our daily life, we walk into a supermarket to shop kinds of ingredients for fridges, while, for us, it is hardly possible to imagine that those sheets or papers used to wrap the food up are such awfully tremendous. Take USA for instance, the Americans, in average, would toss away 5.7 million pounds food packaging every day, amongst which are mostly reusable or even unnecessary resources. If we could reduce the amount of packaging while shopping, is it not great that we are able to greatly reduce the pressure that packaging sheets impose on environment?

Since 2011, the concept of zero waste shopping has started sprawling around in the capital of the U.S. southern state of Texas, Austin. Besides, this city has earned itself the reputation of a primary hub for American organic food chain stores since late 20th century. Nowadays, a group of indigenous entrepreneurs in Austin stick together in hope of collaborating to establish a zero waste society without food packaging. In 2012, a community-based and local-food-economy-based zero waste store, In.gredients, was finally born come into Austin. Other than encouraging customers to shop in store with containers from home, In.gredients also combines a community garden and beer bar to its compound as public open space for residents.

“Truth be told, what’s normal in the grocery business isn’t healthy for consumers or the environment.”

 -In.gredients co-founder Christian Lane

In.gredients believes that the food we usually purchase are processed and packaged well, rendering us makers of excessive garbage if we fail to pay full attention. Thus, they intend to initiate a revolution of grocery shopping in order to prevent customers from wasting resources, and, meanwhile, offer them the most genuine culinary ingredients. After nearly five years of operation, In.gredients managed to attract more and more support and participation from local residents and businessmen. Last year, it even launched a fund-raising project on Indiegogo, a globally well-known crowdfunding website, hoping to raise 30 thousand dollars to upgrade infrastructure and ingredient quality. [annotation 1] To implement the project, In.gredients would start from enhancing local coherence. Accordingly, the followings are the distinct managerial traits In.gredients will carry out after succeeding in fund-raising:

Creation of an excellent outdoor interactive space

In.gredients is not just simply a zero waste store. Its surroundings serve as a perfect place for customers to join, chat and feast along with families. In.gredients plans to equip wind-powered heaters or polystyrene wall panels so as to provide a comfortable venue for activities, in which customers could still live a cozy zero waste life to heart’s content even under hot and cold weather.

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Photo Credit: Indiegogo

Environmental afforestation

Planting perennial plants, such as tangerines and fruiters of persimmon, in its own garden becomes one of goals that In.gredients endeavors to conquer. The goal not only helps to conserve soil, but also accommodates shady sites customers use to cool off.

Promotion of zero waste snack in office

Besides selling zero waste objects, In.gredients itself also introduces to the market with zero waste suppliers and snack. With the investment from crowdfunding, is is hoped that all the food pantries in Austin offices would one day be stocked with plenty of authentic zero waste snack as the “fair-trade café” [annotation 2] action, popularizing the concept gradually.

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Photo Credit: Indiegogo

The five-year operation might be a piece of cake for general enterprises, but it is a quite harsh and difficult journey for zero waste stores. In the beginning of March, the 30-thousand-dollar project not only met the goal but also surpassed the expected. Over more than 50 local vendors and small companies stood up together to support the business augmented plan via donating supplies, teaching lessons and tour-guiding activities to help flourish In.gredients in form of a social enterprise with triple bottom lines, which cares people, planet and profit. To sum up, In.gredients aspires that the concept of zero waste in packaging could allure residents beyond locals, bringing up enthusiastic participation from all walks of life.

[annotation 1] The fund-raising project aims to invest the infrastructure of stores and surroundings. In.gredients focuses on community-oriented development rather than just an independent store. The following contexts are organized and arranged essence.

[annotation 2] It derived from Hong Kong Fairtrade Association on May 10, 2008, and a “fair-trade café” treaty was signed. The idea promoted and encouraged the offices to have fair-trade coffee, tea and cookies, educating employees for the idea of fair trade and participation.  

[annotation 3] Compared to the fact that giant chain stores possess 13 percent revenue and only 47 percent would be invested in indigenous enterprises, In.gredients is able to feed 70 percent of revenue back to community business for accelerating local economy and creating reciprocally profitable business environment; furthermore, every six months the customers would assist in selecting one of non-profit organizations in Austin as the target of six-month support project. When one customer uses a reusable container, In.gredients will donate five cents to the very NGO.

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