Sunday, March 22, 2009

Why the West Coast Is Magical and More Talk About Bulk Bins

The roar of an endless blue ocean, the romance of vineyards and fine wine, the beauty of mountains so large they seem to touch the heavens.

Ahhhhhh, the West Coast.

There are so many reasons to love it, but in my opinion, one of the most endearing things about that far away land is how so many grocery stores there sell food from bulk bins.

Being from the Chicago, I never knew the wonders of West Coast grocery stores until a few months ago when I took my covered wagon to Oregon to visit to my oldest sister.

There, I experienced an awe-inspiring sight, which I shall relate to you through the following pictures:

























































You have to agree, it's pretty impressive. At this particular store, there were aisles and aisles of bulk bins full of anything from pasta and cereal to honey and sesame oil. It was amazing.

And it wasn't just the froofy markets that had bulk items. Even Safeway stores had them.

Reflecting on what I learned while I was in Oregon, I feel inspired to write letters to my local grocery stores again to request that they install bulk bins. Here's the letter I wrote last time.

Maybe if enough people write letters, more stores will start offering bulk bins.

After all, why should the people on the West Coast have better grocery stores than us?!?!

25 comments:

Virginia said...

I heard about this blog on NPR and it made my week! Small daily decisions such as these are necessary to get away from petroleum, rather than big sweeping gov't bills and such. Great blog, and I look forward to reading more!

Sandra said...

First of all I love your blog and applaud your mission - it is inspiring. But the bulk bin thing grosses me out - I've seen many a person sneeze over produce, which I can wash, but bulk grains are unsanitary. I wouldn't want my grocery store to replace packaged food with bulk bins. Surely stores won't opt for a total replacement and will have both to keep everyone happy.

Juli said...

Oh. Mah. Gah. Those pictures of bulk bins in Oregon are GORGEOUS. There is nothing like that here in New York City. The largest bulk selection I've found is at the 72nd Street Fairway on the 2nd floor-- but it is puny compared to those photos. No pasta, no honey. But I appreciate what they DO have, and since it is a busy store things turn over there quickly and don't go bad. They also always have an attendant there to help weigh items, clean spills quickly, and keep an eye on 'tasting' customers- they take good care of it. I use my Eco-bags with no problems. They have peanut butter and I noticed they do not allow customers to use outside containers, so instead I buy peanuts and make my own at home.

M. said...

Wow! What is the name of that store, and which city is it in? I'm terribly jealous.

Anonymous said...

Vermont, and many places in NY also have bins for bulk foods. It is actually not especially unsanitary because you do not put you hands into the product. There are always packaged alternatives as well. It is nice to be able to bring in your own bottle to refill with shampoo, dish detergent, maple syrup, tamari, etc. as well as dry items. I don't understand why this doesn't exit in the mid-west!

Thomas said...

I happen to live in the fabled land of Cascadia and I have found that most of the stores here will let you use your own bags, tupper ware or glass (especially the "higher end" stores). It IS wonderful being able to shop almost exclusively in bulk, I save a good 20%. And as to the sanitation concerns, most of the stores I go to use bins that pour instead of the big buckets(when its practical, tea bags and spaghetti noodles don't exactly pour). Its wonderful, if you don't have it, you should want it.

crystal said...

What store is that?! Beautiful.

I'm on the West Coast, Spokane, WA to be exact. And even for a smaller city we have excellent bulk bin options. I am so thankful for them!

LifeLessPlastic said...

It's called Market of Choice and it's in Eugene, Oregon.

Luis Barragan said...

Wow I'm so jealous right now! I'm even thinking about opening my own store featuring only bulk bins like in your photos ;)

I found out about your blog while researching about a plastic-less life to write an article about it, I'm also on my way to quit plastic as much as possible, so your tips are being very useful, thanks!

Anonymous said...

I live in California and while we are somewhat more enlightened (the small city I moved to last year has not only a recycling bin, but a green waste bin that is collected weekly), but in my area the grocery stores are all about individual packaging. That includes the two independent stores and the fru-fru stores. There is even a store in the next town that sells only lettuce and cabbage in bulk - EVERYTHING else is individually packaged. Show the stores how bulk goods will guarantee larger returns to their shareholders than they get now and that's when things will change. Sorry, I"m a cynic.

Beetles and Bees said...

Market of Choice? That's really amazing. We have one of their stores in our Terwilliger Portland neighborhood, but I didn't know they had a Eugene store like that. Next road trip: Eugene!

Reenie Beanie said...

Beetles and Bees: Market of Choice has a store in West Linn off of exit 8 on I-205. It's a smaller store than Eugene - Willamette St. location, but 5 times the size of the one near your house. They have a decent bulk selection but it isn't quite the size of the store in the photos.

Eugene has tons of stores that carry bulk products that I would prefer to shop at over Market of Choice for a variety of reasons...the Kiva, Sundance, Capella to name a few.

Unfortunately, I have fewer options here in Portland where I recently moved, but I do live near the New Seasons Market in the Raliegh Hills area.

I generally steer clear of big corporate style stores, but New Seasons seems to run their company like a small business. I have heard they treat their employees very well which makes me very happy. Of course, the Saturday/Sunday tastings don't hurt either...this weekend tropical fruit. Yum!!

Anonymous said...

You're funny, but I might advise that Oregon (an extremely progressive state, esp if you're in Eugene, a college town) is not the 'West Coast.' I challenge you to find bulk bins in Fresno, for example. Keep dreaming, J.

Anonymous said...

Fresno has a Whole Foods that carries bulk foods.

Going Crunchy said...

Oregon is on my list of future places to explore for living. I've heard it is fantastic!

Beautimous pictures! Shannon

Trihardist said...

I was just thinking about this the other day. Overpriced natural food stores are the only places that think to carry bulk items (and even then, it's patchy--some have them, some don't). Guess I'll start sending letters too!

Kiran said...

Wow, guess it shows what a native Washingtonian I am that I just kinda assumed everyone had the bulk options we do. I used to get annoyed when into Safeway and they only had half of one side of an isle of bulk bins (I usually shop at other stores with much more) but now I can be grateful instead. I don' think I've seen a store with quite as much bulk as there is in your pictures, though. What a find.

Thistle said...

Omg, is there such a thing as bulk-bin porn? I'm drooling at those photos! And as an East Coast gal, I agree, we kind of suck at this... I have to go to one store to refill my shampoo and other cosmetic products; another store to refill my almond butter and tahini; another store to refill my laundry detergent and dish soap bottles... ugh! If it were all in one place I'd be so much happier.

Ashley said...

Hey All!
I just wanted to open up a discussion on what people are using as containers to shop bulk. I was surprised that the eco bag website mentioned in a later post didn't have options for us bulk food buyers.
I also wanted to mention that big East coast cities probably tend to stay away from bulk for pest control reasons. But they should find ways around it and get you guys& gals some bins!

imaluma said...

I was really excited when a local chain installed bulk bins only to be disappointed when they were all filled with bulk candy, snacks, and trail mix. I miss the superior quality and accessibility of West coast grocers so much.

scarf said...

I am quite sure if the bulk bins are good or not. personally I don't like it.

The Guinea Pig said...

I've told all of my friends and family about my dream for a utopian society where each block has some form of food production–vegetable gardens, chicken coops, fields for livestock–and the grocery stores are all bulk-bin with reusable containers... but I had no idea that stores like that actually existed. Bravo to Eugene for this magical place.

Inspiring blog, by the way.

Chris said...

Wow! Bulk bins. I've never heard of this concept before. But it does make sense. I've always wondered how packaging of small items can be minimized. Just think about individually wrapped candies.

So tell me more about how this works. If I'm buying sugar, do I bring my own tupperware? Very interesting indeed. Maybe the concept will catch on in my area in a couple of years.

LifeLessPlastic said...

I bring my ecobags (from ecobags.com) for most things, but for things like flour and sugar I bring in my own container and have it weighed first. Then I fill it up and they charge me for the difference between the initial and final weights...

Chris said...

Are these types of stores very well patronized? Sounds like it could be a good business opportunity.