These environmentally conscious women are dreaming of a zero waste future; one where a consumer’s conscience overrides convenience, and bringing containers from home to fill at the store becomes a habit.
It is a step up from the plastic bag free movement to an entirely re-invented shopping experience where there is no plastic packaging in sight.
For those who are old enough to remember, the experience of weighing jars brought from home and filling them with produce is not an entirely new concept, but a return to shopping habits of times past.
But for younger generations, this environmentally conscious way to shop for food has become trendy.
And the options to shop zero waste, shop local and shop fresh are expanding in Ballarat to meet the growing demand.
There is rubbish in every stream… It really has to change on a global scale to make it natural for everyone. When the cheapest and easiest option is also the best for the environment, then there will be mass buy in.Kate Haughey, Ballarat Wholefoods Collective
The Source Bulk Foods Ballarat owner Janet Smith said she had been surprised by the broad cross section of people shopping at her store since it opened in October.
“There are young people who are really mindful of excess packaging and zero waste up to older people who love the store because of the no packaging and they love it because they remember it as the way they used to shop,” she said.
“But I think they also love it because they get served and we can help them, they bring in a recipe and can weigh exactly how much they need so they are not wasting anything, if they live on their own they can just buy a little bit at a time and there is product in here they can’t get at the supermarket anymore.”
While The Source Bulk Foods is the first commercial waste free store to open in Ballarat, the community-run Ballarat Wholefoods Collective has provided an alternative to the supermarket for almost five years.
There shoppers pay a membership fee and must volunteer at least two hours of their time for the privilege to buy more than 200 items from mainly Victorian farms with only a small mark up from cost price.
Those involved say it just makes sense – its cheaper, the producer benefits, consumers can access quality produce and there’s far less packaging and food miles.
A wholefoods collective has also begun in Creswick in recent years.
Now, a group of environmentally conscious Buninyong residents have developed their own model, beginning with a select range of locally sourced produce with plans to continue expansion.
Ms Smith said customers shared a sense of satisfaction once they had changed their shopping habits.
“I think once people get into their routine they come back every week and fill up again,” she said.
“There is a real sense of satisfaction with that, not going home undoing packaging and throwing it into the bin. It is actually easy because you can take it home and put it straight into the pantry and you’re done, a lot of customers say there is something really satisfying about that.”
For Ballarat grandmother Alison Barby, the concept of supporting local farmers and shopping plastic free is what first attracted her to join the Ballarat Wholefoods Collective more than four-years-ago, when it began with a few products set up in founder Wendy Aston’s backyard.
Since she has seen membership numbers and the range of produce grow ‘tremendously’.
“I like the concept of it; the fact we can support our local farmers, a lot of it is organic, your food is not travelling so far and cooking in season – you pop up there and you never know what you are going to get. The other day there were apricots, peaches and avocados,” she said.
Ms Barby said she has always been conscious of reducing her waste, recycling and composting, only producing one or two small bags of rubbish each week, so the concept of plastic free is not new.
“When I had my very first job 40 something years ago I used to serve biscuits out of a tin into paper bags and used to weigh up the sugar. It was a little supermarket on the corner where the Japanese restaurant is near Sovereign Hill,” she said.
“Of course the supermarkets came along with packaged stuff, but for many years if I went to the supermarket or the fruit shop I would be putting produce individually in the basket instead of plastic bags. Robert (her husband) used to be horrified when I would put all the veggies and fruit in the basket individually and they would be all over the place when we would be going to the register.”
Ms Barby’s top tip for shopping waste free is to pre-plan; think about the containers you will need, exactly what produce should be on your list and remember your reusable bags.
Young mum Kate Haughey moved to Ballarat around one year ago and has been shopping at the Ballarat Wholefoods Collective since. It is the first time she has shopped at a community co-operative.
With a background in material science engineering, Ms Haughey understands the life cycle of a product and that even with recycling, plastic production is not a closed loop.
She said it has taken a bit of practice to change her habits and get her jar system set up, but shopping zero waste was been worth the extra effort.
“Especially coming from interstate, it has been lovely making friends,” she said.
“The volunteers run community type workshops like regular sewing bees and they had a passata making day which was amazing. Going regularly you see the same people so you make friends and they have toys for the kids to play with. It is always enjoyable.
“It is not just about low waste, it is about buying locally and organic, sourcing top quality products.
“But it is different to just grabbing off the shelf. Any change is tricky, but once you’re set up you’re set. It’s especially worth it when it comes to shopping at the co-op because of all the other benefits like savings, community and good quality food that supports local farmers.”
Ms Haughey takes her young children to the Wholefoods Collective and hopes zero waste may be the way they shop in the future. She envisions the system being more high tech and automated to be rolled out on a larger scale.
“There is rubbish in every stream… It really has to change on a global scale to make it natural for everyone,” she said.
“When the cheapest and easiest option is also the best for the environment, then there will be mass buy in. When supermarkets are free of trash, there will be no throw away.”
HOW TO SHOP ZERO WASTE
The Source Bulk Foods Ballarat owner Janet Smith explained to The Courier how to shop zero waste at her new store.
The same principles apply at the Ballarat Wholefoods Collective, Creswick Wholefoods Collective and Buninyong Community Collective and volunteers will also be able to help guide you along.
Step one: If you bring your own jars from home, ask store staff to weigh them. If you have forgotten your jars, grab a paper bag provided.
Step two: Write the code of the product on the bag. You can also write the code of the product on your jar if you will reuse the jar for the same product.
Step three: Fill your jar or bag with as much produce as you need.
Step four: Repeat process with each item on your shopping list.
Step five: Bring your jars or bags to the counter for staff to weigh once you have finished your shopping.
Step six: Take home your produce in your reusable shopping bag.
Don’t forget to share recipes and ask staff for information about ingredients during your shop.
Anyone can shop at the Source Bulk Foods Ballarat and Go Vita Ballarat which also has bulk food options, while you must be a member to shop at the Ballarat Wholefoods Collective, Creswick Wholefoods Collective and Buninyong Community Collective.
The Ballarat Wholefoods Collective is open 9am to 11am and 5pm to 7pm on Wednesday expect school holidays.