A small business that will make a huge difference
Hip hip - hooray! It’s finally here. A zero waste grocery store has opened in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Change has arrived and grocery stores across New York City are shaking. All jokes aside, this is big news. The pollution problem affecting our natural resources on land and within our oceans will not solve itself. If you don’t want to eat little bits of plastic in your sushi anymore, I’d say it’s time to start giving a damn.
Precycle allows New Yorkers to buy grocery goods without the packaging. Yes, that’s right, this store is 100% package free. Each customer is charged for the product only. The product is weighed at checkout in order to obtain the price, minus the weight of your chosen container to transport your goods home. You can either bring in your bags, jars, or whatever makeshift containers you can find , or purchase glass jars at the store while you’re shopping. The concept is simple, but it can make an impact on our environment in a big way. Precycle has a variety of regular and seasonal grocery items to choose from to keep environmentally responsible savvy customers on their feet.
Sustain had the pleasure of picking the brain of Precycle founder, Katerina Bogateriva. It turns out, the idea of preventing the need to recycle in the first place has struck a chord with New Yorkers and generous contributors throughout the internet. With 127 backers on Indiegogo and thousands of dollars raised by supporters alone to bring Precycle to life, we were very excited to ask the face of Precycle some questions.
SUSTAIN: Essentially, why is there such a huge need for a package-free grocery store?
KATERINA: I think that a lot of people are recognizing the plastic pollution problem and want to make their own purchasing decisions based on what they put out there in terms of their contribution to the problem.
SUSTAIN: How did you come up with the idea to open a store like this? Were there any strong driving factors?
KATERINA: It started with recognizing my own contribution to the pollution and that evolved into doing extensive research in terms of how vast the disposable plastic pollution is. Life events and critical thinking eventually led me to conceptualize the store in a way, I as a consumer, would like to shop for groceries. (see more in my story on the website)
SUSTAIN: How does the consumer take the grocery goods home?
KATERINA: Customers bring their own containers (fabric bags, glass jars, tupperware). Customers weigh the empty containers and mark the weight (print label, write, or take a picture). Fill those containers with goods they choose and the amount they choose. We weigh them again at the checkout counter and deduct the weight of the empty containers (tare). We also offer glass jars in various sizes at a reasonable price and offer paper bags for dry goods.
SUSTAIN: What type of grocery items do you sell? Anything that would surprise us?
KATERINA: A full list of bulk food is available on my website - produce and fruit availability changes daily.
SUSTAIN: Where does the produce come from and are there organic options?
KATERINA: A lot of the products are organic, some conventional are available also. Most food suppliers are local.
SUSTAIN: I think what you're doing is amazing. Do you think the idea of a package free grocery store will quickly catch on?
KATERINA: I sure hope so! We have a responsibility towards future generations to keep the planet alive. "We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children," is a Native American proverb that is suiting (I have it in front of my eyes always).
SUSTAIN: Can you tell the readers a little more about how your idea came to fruition? Was it difficult to open a specialty grocery store? Biggest challenge?
KATERINA: It has been a lengthy process - partly because NYC is a difficult place to open a small business (at the same time there is a lot of small business support). Biggest challenge in opening and to this date is sourcing responsibly - the customers take no extra packaging home - but as a business, we have to be mindful of how and what we source to minimize the carbon footprint as a business.
SUSTAIN: Why should New Yorkers shop at your store over others?
KATERINA: As a NYC consumer, we are faced with many choices (luckily) - but we also produce vast amounts of trash (very noticeable in NYC) . The pace of life is quite rapid in densely populated urban areas such as NYC. I do think that we are amongst 8 million fortunate people that have found home in this inspiring city. Why should one be shopping at Precycle? Well, every purchase is a vote. Simple economics dictate demand/supply equilibrium. If there is no demand- the supply of (packaged groceries) will lessen as well. NYC is known to be setting an example for many aspects - including how we shop. If more New Yorkers shop package-free, perhaps it will send a message to the industry as a whole.
If you would like to read more about Katerina’s story or learn how to help Precycle flourish, please visit Precyclenyc.com for more information.
Photography by Marina Moskvina-Williams
If you’re in the neighborhood or interested in checking out this amazing new grocery store, Precycle is located at 50 Cypress Ave, Brooklyn, N.Y 11237