Zero waste

Putting an end to packaging: why it's best to buy loose!

Zero waste

Over the past few years, the concept of buying produce loose has become quite fashionable. But it's actually not a new thing. Before we all started doing our shopping in supermarkets, it was quite common to buy loose products. People would go to their nearby grocer (or greengrocer) and buy their food from them, and it was all fresh and often local! And it certainly wasn't overwrapped, like so much food is today...

Yet according to recent figures, French people, on average, get through 75 kilograms of packaging every year! That's 20% of all household waste! (Source: Zei.)

So it's about time we went back to the good old habits of the good old days – which were not so different from the zero-waste habits people are adopting now! It's really not that difficult; it just requires a little organization.

We wanted to take a closer look at this "new" way of consuming better. There are lots of advantages to buying products loose. It can make your life easier, plus your grandparents will be delighted to see that nowadays, just sometimes, we do still do things like they used to!

What does it mean to buy loose?

Buying unwrapped products sold on a self-service basis

Buying loose means buying unwrapped goods. These are often products that haven't been packaged for a long journey and are sourced regionally or locally.

Buying loose means shopping in a more environmentally friendly way. It's a means to reduce your carbon footprint by reducing the waste generated by packaging. It's also a means to avoid food waste, as you only take the amount you need. Nothing more, nothing less.

Now more and more people want to do their shopping this way, which is why the number of stores that sell products loose continues to grow. Buying loose lets you purchase more responsibly – plus the products are often better for your health. They haven't been treated or processed, and they haven't travelled thousands of miles to get there.

A wide range of products

Not so long ago, the only products you could buy loose were fruits, vegetables and spices. But times have changed! When it comes to loose food products, the choice keeps getting bigger. Now you can find pasta, cereals, rice, biscuits, and even ingredients to make hot drinks, such as chocolate powder and tea leaves. In addition, you can buy household products, such as multi-purpose cleaners, washing-up liquid, washing powder/liquid, etc. If you were to buy these products in a supermarket, they'd all be wrapped in plastic...

Of course, now you can also find cosmetic products sold loose! Our zero-waste cosmetics, for example, can be bought loose from our workshop-store in Paris and from some of our retailers.

It's now possible to do all your shopping by only buying from stores that sell products loose. And that's very good news!

Bocaux vrac
Magasins vrac
Grande distribution vrac

Eco-friendly stores that sell products loose are becoming increasingly popular

In 2016, Réseau Vrac, the first trade association in the world dedicated to the sale of loose goods, was created. With the help of 450 professionals in the industry, Lamazuna is involved in supporting this brilliant project. Réseau Vrac addresses both environmental and community issues. It seeks to raise awareness, fight economic inequality, increase employment, develop local economies, and promote responsible, sustainable consumption.

Since 2016 (and even before then), zero-waste and loose-produce stores have flourished! Why? Because there is a real and growing demand for them. Consumers are becoming increasingly concerned about what they consume every day, and tend to have more faith in stores that advocate a greener approach, with no packaging and mostly natural and organic products.

The good news is that because there are more and more retailers selling products loose, it's easier for you to buy loose, wherever you are! If you live in France, there's even a map of loose-produce stores that you can consult, correct and add to. It's a great way to help people cut down on packaging!

Supermarkets are selling loose too!

In France, supermarkets are increasingly talking about moving to zero waste. For example, the French supermarket chain, Carrefour, created the Act for Food concept, focused on the "transition alimentaire". Carrefour wants to deeply transform our food system, from production to consumption. It wants to change the system so that our food is better for our health, our farmers, and our planet. And to do this while ensuring that food remains affordable. On paper, it's not so different from the zero-waste concept, but this time, the concept is being applied in supermarkets. Zero waste and supermarkets? This might seem to be a contradictory combination, but why shouldn't supermarkets get involved in changing consumption habits? In 2019, Carrefour also launched its "Mission Zéro Plastique", where it asked customers to help it draw up its action plan for 2020.

Carrefour isn't the only supermarket that's decided to go down this road. Other supermarkets and superstores in France may not give any publicity to the subject, but if you go to an Auchan or Leclerc store, you'll probably find products sold loose there. So we're heading in the right direction!

Why should you buy products loose?

You won't create packaging waste

It goes without saying that if you buy products loose, then you're buying products without packaging. And that, of course, means less waste. By buying loose, you can reduce your household waste by at least a fifth! (Remember, packaging represents 20% of household waste.)

In short, if you reduce your consumption of packaging, you reduce your environmental footprint. It makes perfect sense. So much sense, in fact, we should all be doing it!

You'll help to prevent microplastics in food

Buying products loose doesn't just mean reducing your packaging waste. By buying loose, you're also helping to reduce the amount of microplastics in the food that we eat. Less packaging means that fewer particles harmful to health are released into the environment and, consequently, fewer of these particles enter our food chain. So when you buy food loose, you're helping to protect people's health.

You may even pay less!

Opinions are divided when it comes to cost. But it's important that you remember to "compare the comparable". After all, buying loose does not necessarily mean buying organic, and vice versa. Often, products sold loose are certified organic, in which case you can compare their prices with those of equivalent organic products sold in a regular supermarket, but in packaging. The French website, Zéro Déchet Nord Finistère, compared the prices of such items and came to the conclusion that it doesn't cost more to buy products loose. Or at least it doesn't in France!

In fact, if you look closely at the prices, you'll find that the equivalent product, sold loose, can even cost up to 15% less! That means that 15% of the price is for the packaging – and that 15% ends up in your bin. It is, almost literally, a waste of money! So buying loose is not just an alternative that's better for the planet; it can also save you money and help you to consume better!

vrac et pas d'emballages
courses produits bio et locaux

You'll eat more organic and local produce

The motivation behind buying loose is a desire to reduce both food and packaging waste, and to consume better. So it's not surprising that many of the retailers who sell products loose also sell a good selection of certified-organic products.

Of course, if you want to eat organic, you may also want to eat local, seasonal food. When food is local and seasonal, it hasn't travelled for miles to get to your plate, so you don't have all the negative aspects related to its transportation. When you buy local, you know where your food comes from. There aren't any unpleasant surprises – such as products that have travelled through several countries. Less pollution is generated by the journey from the producer to the final consumer. The shorter the supply chain, the lower the product's carbon footprint will be.

In case you didn't know it (or had forgotten!), Lamazuna's solid cosmetics are made in the south of France, and we work with French suppliers as much as possible!

You'll buy smaller amounts and waste less

When you buy food loose, you can purchase precisely the amount you need. So whether you're buying by weight or by number, you'll avoid getting too much. There's no need to buy large packets of food – like the ones you'll often find in supermarkets. You refuse what you don't need – and this is one of the main principles of zero waste!

You'll try new foods

Now that you can buy in small amounts, a whole world of potential cooking ingredients opens up to you! If you can buy ingredients you've never tried before, in small quantities, then you can try out new recipes with them! For example, maybe you've never eaten haricot beans and you're not sure if you'll like them, but you would like to try them. Well now you can! Simply buy enough to make one meal, then see what your taste buds think. If they're not impressed, it doesn't matter – just don't buy that ingredient again. But at least you won't have almost a whole packet sitting in your cupboard until it goes past its sell-by date and has to be thrown out! Buying ingredients loose is perfect for anyone who wants to be experimental in the kitchen – and for all those zero-waste families out there!

Buying products loose = being organized

Remember to bring your containers!

No need to panic at the sight of the word "organized". You don't need the skills of a high-level PA! But you must remember that if you're buying products without packaging, you need something to put them in to take them home. So think ahead and take jars, shopping bags, loose produce bags or other containers with you. It could be glass jars or tote bags or anything that's easy to carry and fill! You just have to get into a new habit. Soon it will come naturally...

If you're going to the baker's, remember to bring your bread bag – or baguette bag, especially if you're in France! This is another way to avoid single-use items.

Pochettes à vrac
pots et sacs à vrac

Store your food safely at home

When you buy food loose and bring it home, obviously you can't just leave it out in the open, or it risks going off or stale. You need to store it properly. If you put some of your food items in glass jars when you bought them loose, you can simply leave them in the jars. Or you can transfer them to airtight food-storage containers, so they keep for longer.

If you've bought food that needs to stay in the fridge, then put it in the fridge straight away. But that's exactly what you'd do if you'd bought the same products from a supermarket, so it's not difficult to remember!

Put labels on your containers

If you're going to store food in your own containers, unless they're all transparent, you'll want to put labels on them! Otherwise, you'll end up forgetting what you've put in them and it will take you longer to find the right one each time. To prevent this easy-to-avoid situation, all you need is a few labels and a pen or pencil, then you can write labels for each container to indicate what's inside. Afterwards, keep using the same container for the same product, so you won't even need to change the label! It's really easy.

If you wish, you could add the "best before" date on the labels. Use a pencil, then you can just rub it out the next time and add a new date, without having to add a new label.

In conclusion

Buying loose goes hand in hand with being zero waste, and it reflects a real need to consume less and better. More and more stores these days are selling products loose – and lots of different products too!

Not so long ago, it wasn't possible for many people to shop this way. But now it's becoming more popular, more widespread and more affordable. That's good news for our planet – and for all of you reading this article!

Another good thing about buying loose is that it won't cost you any more than buying something similar from a supermarket. Plus it's a way to vary what you eat – and to eat better products! It's eco-friendly and economical, and it allows you to consume better and waste less!

At Lamazuna, we sell products loose or in recyclable packaging. Thanks to these products, 45,189,815 items of waste have been avoided since the start of our adventure. That's the figure we recorded on February 26th, 2020. And it's all thanks to you! So THANK YOU, once again, for following us and believing in us and making this possible!

If you'd like to add a comment, please do! Maybe you could tell us about the solutions available where you live? We'd love to hear what you have to say about buying loose!