Published: February 24, 2015


Katherine Martinko

High-quality bulk ingredients, as long as you bring your own container — sounds like my kind of dream store!

Alice Bigorgne worked in marketing until she read a book that changed her life. Bea Johnson’s Zero Waste Home (which I’ve cited many times on TreeHugger and think everyone should read) inspired Bigorgne to open a zero-waste grocery store called “day by day” in Lille, northern France.

Day by day” is a small grocery chain that now has five locations throughout the country, including Bigorgne’s. Its mission is to make grocery shopping more ecologically friendly – an admirable shift in mentality that’s desperately needed, particularly over here in North America.

At day by day, there is no packaging; all 450 products are sold loose. You must bring your own containers or use the ones “graciously provided by other clients,” according to the website. This helps both the planet and one’s wallet since we often pay for fancy excessive packaging without even realizing it. Bigorgne told La Voix du Nord that, in some cases, her package-free products are 40 percent cheaper than what you would pay in a conventional store, despite being of higher quality.

You can buy precisely the quantity of food that you want. “If you need only a single spoonful of coffee or two cinnamon sticks, I’ll sell it to you,” Bigorgne says. The idea is to reduce the amount of food waste that gets thrown away by selling exactly what a person will use. (An estimated 24 percent of calories produced globally are wasted, and that number is much higher in the U.S.)

This is not a new concept; it’s the way that many of our grandparents shopped. They would take a jar to the corner store to have it filled with however much of a particular ingredient they needed or could afford. While we enjoy a much greater selection of food than previous generations did, it is unfortunate that we’ve moved so far away from the bulk shopping model and the acceptance of reusable containers in stores.

Stores like day by day show that the trend may be changing. Hopefully, North America will take a lesson from Europe’s more forward-thinking grocery models and start realizing that there is another way to shop that doesn’t involve vast quantities of plastic packaging waste.