As much of a distant memory as pre-pandemic life might feel, the need to prevail with daily sustainable practices is still as urgent as ever. Tare Grocery, a package-free grocery store that opened in Highland Park, Los Angeles on Earth Day – yes, right in the middle of March 2020 when Covid-19 was hitting the city hard – has proven that despite all the challenges which come with regular life grinding to a halt, there are still silver linings to be found.
The shop’s founders, Joseph and Lauren Macrino, who are husband and wife, started Tare to reinvent the grocery experience. Devoid of single-use packaging, the shop’s organic and non-GMO product offering is comprised of 400 refillable bulk goods, such as nuts, herbs, spice, flours, superfoods, oils, dried fruit, snacks, chocolate, tea and coffee. Seeing that the word ‘tare’ refers to the weight of an empty container, customers to the store are encouraged to bring their own glass or plastic containers, which staff will weigh (and now also sanitize too), before they are used to fill up on whatever groceries they might need. Since package-free grocery shopping is by weight and not unit, customers are able to buy as little or much as they like in a move that minimizes wastage.
‘We purchase all our bulk products in large quantities, making it as fresh, sustainable and affordable as possible,’ Lauren shares. ‘We essentially want to eliminate the unnecessary step of portioning, individual packaging and branding at a factory. This adds expense and waste. Instead of 32 12oz bags of product individually packaged in plastic, we buy one 25lb paper bag that gets divided up by the customer into their own endlessly reusable containers.’
To adhere with social distancing rules and ensure that the store is as safe an environment as it could be, the Macrinos quickly built and launched an online shop, which they had not originally planned for, to accommodate pick-up and delivery orders. Weighing is done on their iPad app, and because of health restrictions on self-serve bulk bins and salad bars, the shop’s staff will also do the shopping for you. ‘It’s been a fun way to meet our customers, get an idea on how they are using our ingredients, and also helps to keep the store super clean,’ Lauren says.
For the uninitiated or underprepared, Tare Grocery has 100% post-consumer recycled paper bags available for use and sells reusable glass jars and bottles available for a deposit. It also carries a selection of independent brands, ranging from bath and beauty to household necessities, which share its values – putting pride on cultivating honest connections and a shared appreciation for the planet.
Words: Pei-Ru Keh
Photography: Justin Chung