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Help create plastic-free supermarkets

So much of the plastic packaging and waste we generate we get from our weekly visits to supermarkets. Canada’s major supermarkets aren’t taking any real…

Take action

Welcome to the #ReuseRevolution, where carrying Zero Waste Kits and asking for items to be put in reusable containers has become a worldwide phenomenon. As dead whales with stomachs full of plastic trend on Twitter every few weeks and images of wildlife sporting plastic necklaces they never asked for flood our newsfeeds, it’s no wonder a global movement of people have begun actively saying no to single-use plastics. 

But are supermarkets, coffee shops and restaurants also ready to say no? 

With a country-wide week of action, Greenpeace set out to show retailers that the #ReuseRevolution is already underway, their customers are looking for refill and reuse options, and if they don’t respond, they risk getting left behind. During Global Refill Week, we encouraged everyone to grab their favourite reusable container, head to a coffee shop, grocery store or restaurant and ask to get what they were looking for put in it. Then, post the results on social media (full details on how you can still participate can be found here).

I hear what you’re thinking – how can me and my container help encourage supermarkets to implement reuse systems rather than offering everything in single-use packaging?! Well, let me tell you the story of how Bea Johnson, instigator of the modern zero waste lifestyle movement, unwittingly sparked a major reusable container program in Canada.

Bea Johnson and her family were visiting Canada for a vacation in 2015. But because there are no vacations from low-waste living, naturally Johnson & fam began looking for all the hot spots where they could fill their containers and cloth bags with all their vacationing desires. Luckily, Johnson had launched a Bulk Finder app where people can list and search for bulk/package-free shops from anywhere in the world. Also fortuitously – someone had listed a Bulk Barn to the app close to where they were staying in Gatineau, Quebec.

Johnson had heard rumours of Bulk Barn and its vast variety of goods offered in bulk. She had also heard that it had a policy against reusable containers. In fact, many of her loyal followers had been giving Bulk Barn a hard time about their stance on this, encouraging them to adopt a storewide reusable container program. Jason – nephew to the owner – had been fielding these kinds of complaints for years and had even tried himself to convince the company to change its mind. But alas, to no avail. 

Things changed on this fateful day, however, when Johnson and her family paid a royal visit to Bulk Barn. Johnson, never one to ask permission to fill her containers, proceeded to fill her cloth bags with goodies and head for the cash. Fully expecting to be given a hard time, she was surprised when her items were scanned through just like everyone else’s.

She then released this tweet (read the comments):

Which sent her followers into an uproar. They unleashed their anti-plastics wrath onto Bulk Barn, where poor Jason was left to once again field questions from an onslaught of angry zero wasters who had been denied filling their containers at this very establishment for years. Why could she fill her containers and not them?! they roared.

Much feedback and several petitions later, Jason had just the right amount of offense to convince the company that now was the time to reconsider their policy against people bringing their own reusable containers. They rolled out a few pilot programs, which, having proved successful, turned into a permanent Canada-wide reusable container program. 

And that is how one woman, her container and a community of people looking for more package-free options helped create the conditions for you to fill your containers at Bulk Barn today. This demonstrates the power we have when raise our voices together, creating pressure on companies to change by refusing no for an answer.

But wouldn’t it be so much better if more stores would provide refill and reuse options? After all, the more accessible these options are, the more people will be able to participate and the more normalized reuse will become (which leads to the finale: no more single-use plastics). 

So while Refill Week may be over, there are lots of things you can do to call on Canadian supermarkets and other retailers to join the reuse revolution! Here are two actions you can take right now:

1) Sign the petition asking supermarkets to ditch single-use plastics! Over 220,000 Canadians have added their name – once we reach 250,000 signatures, we’ll take them to Canadian supermarkets, calling on them publicly to move away from harmful plastic packaging and to listen to the many Canadians who have already joined the #ReuseRevolution. Your voice is a powerful tool, use it!

2) Leave supermarkets a message with our printable placards. So many of you reached out after watching us take action at supermarkets across Canada asking where you could print your own. So we put them online for you in both English et en Francais! Here’s how it works:

🛒 Next time you go shopping in your supermarket, place these placards in the aisles to encourage them to join the #ReuseRevolution.

📍Where to place the placards?

Place this one with staples (rice, pasta, flour), snacks, candies, tea, coffee, spices, cleaning products,personal hygiene products (toothpaste, shampoo, shower gel), beverages, etc 👇

Place this one with fruits and vegetables, bakery products 👇

Place this one with perishables (soups, sauces), frozen meals, beverages, chips, etc 👇

❌What aisles to avoid?
Single-use items: Cups, plates, cutlery and other single-use items should be banned. Avoid placing placards in front of products like disposable tableware or single-use hygiene products (cottons, q-tips, wipes…). We want reusable alternatives to those products, not those products unpackaged 🙂

Greenpeace is also campaigning for the reduction of meat, seafood and dairy consumption, because industrial production and fishing are a disaster for our planet. We recommend that you do NOT place placards in front of meat, fish and dairy products.

🖨️How to print the placards: to print in the most eco-responsible way, print on both sides on 100% post-consumer paper.

❤️Sharing is caring! Share your pictures on social media using the hashtags #ReuseRevolution and #BreakFreeFromPlastic. Tag us! @greenpeace_canada

Happy refilling, zero waste warriors!