The Wally Shop

New York’s completely green online grocery delivery service

By Samantha Tassone

Photo by The Wally Shop

Photo by The Wally Shop

When I first heard the name, ‘The Wally Shop’ I was convinced they sold wallets. As silly and ignorant as that sounds, I was excited when I heard what they were truly all about. The Wally Shop is a online sustainable grocery delivery service. They use reusable packaging and deliver your purchased goods on bicycles to reduce their carbon footprint. They even come back to collect your used packaging to reuse for another delivery! The Wally Shop provides an assortment of goods and even frozen meals that can seriously satisfy the average New Yorker’s appetite. Tamara Lim, the founder of The Wally Shop explains the unique and inspiring meaning behind the name of her company.

“A lot of people have asked about where our name comes from; the word "Wally" is derived from the term dabawalla, which refers to a group of individuals from India who inspired our model. Every day, the dabawalla visit people's homes to pick up freshly made lunches (usually prepared by a wife or daughter) in reusable metal tiffins and deliver them by bike to their husbands/fathers in the city. After lunch, they pick up the empty containers and return it to their respective homes. It's a service that has been happening for over 100 years and thousands of people participate - there's no waste involved, everything is done by bike, and there are never mistakes!” - Tamara Lim

Photo of Tamara Lim, founder of The Wally Shop

Photo of Tamara Lim, founder of The Wally Shop

The Wally Shop aims to set the tone for what sustainable grocery shopping should and can be like in NYC and across the country. Their products are exclusively local, fairtrade and organic, so you don’t have to worry about the quality. They even deliver your groceries the same day you order them. Talk about freshness and convenience!  Feel free to continue reading and see the very inspiring responses Lim gave SUSTAIN.

SUSTAIN: What inspired the creation of this online business/service?

LIM: "Growing up in Taiwan, my dad always instilled the importance of keeping our natural spaces clean and beautiful. We had some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, and whenever I'd visit, we would always pick up litter that we found on the shore line. We'd always visit the markets for the most beautiful produce, and the fishmongers for incredibly fresh seafood. When I moved off on my own to the US, I wanted to continue those practices, but it became so hard - I'd have to visit several different stores to get the highest quality groceries in non-plastic packaging. If there were this many barriers to me, someone who went out of my way to shop sustainably, I imagined how hard it was for everyone else out there. By combining the convenience of a delivery service with an eco-friendly, all-reusables model, we can provide really fresh, local and organic ingredients without any of the plastic waste that comes with conventional delivery services."

SUSTAIN: Can you explain the importance of the package free movement? For people who don’t know already, what are the benefits of zero plastic/waste grocery shopping?

LIM: I think one thing that everyone can agree on is that too much trash is bad. Plastic packaging ends up in oceans, harms marine life (who mistake bits of floating plastic for food) and breaks down into microplastics, which never really disappear. Studies have been done recently that show that these microplastics are already showing up in human bodies! Recycling is a flawed system - only 9% of plastic packaging that gets sent to recycling actually gets recycled; composting is also a good option but it's not universally available. Reusing then becomes the best option for preventing unnecessary waste, and we've done that by creating a model based on the circular economy, whereby nothing ends up in landfill but instead continues to get reused.

SUSTAIN: What makes the Wally shop special? Why should New Yorkers shop at your online store versus in person somewhere else?

LIM:The Wally Shop is really the first service of it's kind - in grocery delivery nowadays, everything comes in disposable packaging. If you're trying to shop package-free, you often have to go out of your way and visit several different stores/markets to get all of the products you're looking for. And for those who are willing and able to shop zero-waste on your own, we fully support them! But if you don't have the time or access to those bulk options, we can do all the shopping for you without any of the waste. We visit local farmers markets and organic bulk shops, bring all our own reusable containers, and even work with small businesses to provide cruelty- and palm oil-free products in returnable packaging. We want to be everyone's one stop shop for everything, which it all just happens to be in reusable containers.

SUSTAIN: How do the items arrive? How does the delivery process work once the order is placed?

LIM: Everything comes in reusable and returnable packaging - think mason jars, organic cotton mesh bags, muslin bags, and tote bags. Plus, everything is delivered by bicycle!

Customers can order up to 2pm for same day delivery, and up to a week in advance. At 2pm is when the day's shopping list goes out to our Wally shoppers, and they will only shop for that day's deliveries (which means that often, your produce will have been on the farm that morning!). Shopping ends at 5pm, then from 5-6 we pack orders, and we send everything out for delivery between 6-8pm.

SUSTAIN: What kind of impact do you think The Wally Shop has on society or specifically, New Yorkers?

LIM: Starting The Wally Shop in New York was very intentional. This is the trashiest city in the world, so what better place to start than right here? The city is so fortunate to have year-round farmers markets, so we can buy fresh and local produce every season. I also feel like NYC is the hub of delivery - whether it's takeout or grocery delivery, delivery services have become inextricably tied to the fast-paced city lifestyle. If we can meet people on their own level without having them work harder to make the more sustainable choice, we can change the entire grocery industry, and further down the line, set an example for all businesses.

Photo by The Wally Shop

Photo by The Wally Shop

Having this new service surface for New Yorkers is going to change the game. In a world of instant gratification and convenience, this is a perfect concept that turned into a popular reality. The world needs more affordable and waste free, healthy options regarding the food we eat. Instead of spending hours at the grocery store, your produce delivery is at the click of a button and it’s guaranteed fresh. Before you can even think twice about it, your order is at your door. No plastic bags, no wasteful packaging and a reduced carbon footprint.

Some of the Wally Shop’s most popular items include penne pasta, dried mango, gala apples, olive oil, and kale as well as some of their pre-made frozen options. If you’re reading this and you live outside of their delivery zip codes, don’t sweat it. The Wally Shop plans on expanding to New York zip codes with the most interest in their services. Personally I am excited to see the positive changes and impact on the environment this service will ultimately have on New York.