Plastic is the packaging of choice for so much of what we eat. Bulk stores are an option, of course, but that requires bringing along your own jars, getting them tared and labeled, and trekking back home with heavy bags. Zuleyka Strasner knew that there was a better way to eliminate plastic from our groceries. She’s the founder of Zero, the first single-use-plastic free grocery delivery company.
Zuleyka did not consider herself an environmentalist before founding Zero. Her background in politics and venture capital meant that she spent 12 hours a day working, and didn’t have much time to consider environmental issues. She grew up using lots of plastic wrap—so much so that her husband would comment on her leftovers wrapping job!
She and her husband went to the Corn Islands in Nicaragua for their honeymoon. They stayed at an eco-resort, which was a big contrast against the piles of plastic trash that washed up on some shores of the island. From then on, Zuleyka eliminated plastic in her household. A couple of years later, she founded Zero.
What Zero Does
Zero is the first single-use-plastic free grocery delivery company. All of their products are delivered to customers in reusable, returnable materials. With over 400 products—many of which are organic, locally-sourced, or both—they have something for everyone.
Beyond not selling anything packaged in single-use plastic, Zero also works hard to sell their products for less than bigger stores. Zuleyka says, “today on Zero, we are about 10 to 15 percent cheaper on each item than its equivalent.” That includes name brand items like Straus Family Creamery or Pirate’s Booty.
Members of Zero pay $25 per month for benefits such as free delivery, ordering as often as they like, a lower bulk price on products, and the ability to edit their carts up until the night before their delivery.
Members can also return their used packaging materials whenever an order is dropped off, creating a closed-loop for all of Zero’s materials. Just like milk delivery companies used to recoup, sanitize, and reuse their glass jars, Zero does the same with their glass jars and silicone bags.
Why Big Brands Don’t Go Plastic-Free
So if Zero can send their customers everything plastic-free, why don’t the big brands switch to sustainable packaging?
When it comes to the grocery industry, most companies operate with razor-thin margins. Small margins mean that switching from plastic—a cheap, readily available packaging material—to glass or another sustainable option, could destroy a company’s profits. The current grocery supply system just isn’t built for the zero waste movement.
That doesn’t mean that stores aren’t trying to do better, though. Companies like Target are adding more eco-friendly options to shelves every day. Others, such as Ikea, are putting significant amounts of money towards carbon neutrality.
Accessibility to Quality Products
One of Zero’s goals is to make quality zero-waste products more accessible, both in the price and in ease of access. Organic products are often noticeably more expensive than non-organic options, although this gap is lessening each year.
As the demand for organic food increases, more companies are focusing on organic versions of their products. That’s why we are seeing cheaper organic products year over year. There are more options available, and the prices are getting more competitive.
Zuleyka believes that “eating well should not be a luxury. It’s really a right.” That’s why all of the fruits, vegetables, and herbs available from Zero are organic.
In addition to organic produce, Zero also carries locally-sourced items. Zero is committed to working with local producers such as Ginger Lab Ginger Beer, Obour Hummus, and Proyecto Diaz Coffee. The key, though, is working with producers to avoid single-use plastic. It could be the best product in the world, but if the company will not budge on plastic packaging, Zero won’t carry it.
Lastly, Zero puts products on their site as generic versions. This is with products that don’t necessarily require a brand name, like bamboo toilet paper, or cage-free pasture-raised eggs. This cuts down on costs for consumers and guarantees that they will receive a high-quality product, regardless of which egg farm or TP company it came from.
Zuleyka’s Tips for a More Eco-Friendly Lifestyle
1. Make simple swaps towards products that are better for the environment
Zuleyka recommends finding a couple of swaps that are sustainable for you. For example, switching from disposable cotton rounds to ones that can be washed and reused, or switching from disposable plastic straws to reusable bamboo straws. These small changes are a great way to start.
2. Do the best you can with what’s available to you
Instead of worrying about how your choices aren’t eco-friendly enough, try to make the best choice available to you. If you like to shop at Target—find eco-friendly options at Target! If you can afford an Ikea bed instead of the fanciest sustainable option, that’s okay—Ikea is working hard to reduce their climate footprint. Making the best choice available to you is much better than doing nothing at all.
3. Get (or give!) a reusable water bottle
4. Work with your neighbors
If you can, try to work with your neighbors on sustainable actions. From community gardens to sharing a compost bin to attending a recycling workshop together, there’s no better way to make those small changes that can have a ripple effect in your community.
If you live in the Bay Area and want to try their service, be sure to use the code HELLOBRIGHTLY for your first month’s membership free.