Exploring Toronto’s first zero waste grocery store

May 14, 2019 | Life

Unboxed Market, Toronto’s first ever zero waste grocery store, located at Dovercourt Road and Dundas Street in the city’s west end, opened this past March. (Courtesy Unboxed Market)

Abbie Jack

Toronto’s first zero waste grocery store called Unboxed Market opened at Dovercourt Road and Dundas Street last March.

Founders Michelle Genttner and Luis Martins created the market intending on eliminating all plastic from the grocery shopping experience.

She said they believe the excess packaging currently surrounding food not only detracts from a customer’s ability to experience their food at its freshest, but it is also detrimental to the world’s ability to generate food for future generations.

“We have always had a connection and deep appreciation for fresh and whole foods,” said Genttner, who grew up in a rural community, as did her husband Martins.

She said the market provides produce, dairy, oils, dry goods, soaps and more, all offered package-free. Customers are encouraged to bring their own clean containers or use nothing when appropriate in order to shop without adding to the world’s waste.

The market is still adding to its breadth of stocked items, but all necessities are in the store. Genttner said she’s happy with the public’s reaction to the store’s opening, especially from those who live close by.

She said there was a traditional corner grocery store at the spot for about 50 years before Unboxed Market arrived earlier this year. The original store’s clientele stayed in the area and are “excited about the changes,” Genttner said.

Customers can find all their necessities at Unboxed Market, with a guarantee that it is free of packaging. (Courtesy Unboxed Market)

Landon Tulk, a young professional who moved to Toronto from Dundas, Ont., this year, lives alone, said Unboxed Market is the perfect solution for reducing his produce waste.

“I have been shopping at Unboxed now for a couple of weeks and I have already noticed that I am using everything I buy instead of my typical Sunday night fridge clean out,” Tulk said.

The store isn’t around the corner from Tulk’s Bay Street apartment, but he said he is happy to go out of his way and make the extra effort to reduce his waste, even if it means planning ahead.

“This is a step in the right direction for the environment. I know that Bulk Barn allows you to bring your own containers as well. I think the issue is not enough people know about it,” Tulk said.

Mary Kate Terepka, a Peel paramedic and mother of two young children, said she lives in Etobicoke near Mississauga and loves the idea of Unboxed Market, despite it not being the most practical for her family.

“Unfortunately, this store is far from me and not convenient to get to or park at, so that is the main deterrent now,” Terepka said.

Her home is a 20 to 30-minute drive across the city with little to no traffic. The market also only has paid street parking which can be difficult to navigate during rush hour.

For now, Terepka said her family prefers shopping at the local Costco for buying in bulk and for the prices.

She hopes to see other grocery stores near her reduce their waste of packaging because it’s something her family wants to actively work on.