If you haven’t already heard, London has its first zero-waste grocery store!
And although Reimagine Co is no stranger to our Forest City, its new location has breathed sustainable life into our downtown core.
Even the Mightiest Oak Starts as a Tiny Seed
Reimagine Co, which started as a pop-up in the old Novack’s building, has blossomed into a brick-and-mortar shop for all your sustainable living needs! In addition to their stand at The Market at the Western Fair District, the new location is ideally situated right downtown at 206 Picadilly Street. After a wildly successful crowd-funding campaign, owners Heenal Rajani and Kara Rijnen are excited to bring a new way to shop for groceries (and more!) to people all over the city.
Waste Not, Want Not
But what does “zero-waste” mean for buying groceries? Essentially, you bring your own containers and get to curate the exact amount of whatever you need to purchase. Just looking for two burger buns? Okay! Do you prefer to buy quinoa in increments of 217g only? That’s not a problem here! This new way to shop encourages customization and only buying what you need — resulting in far less packaging, far less food waste, and far more variety for you to enjoy.
I had the pleasure of getting my groceries at the new shop. Although it was my first time, the process was easy-peasy-organic-lemon-squeezy. So, allow me to take on you a little field trip during my first time around the reimagined block, procuring everything from laundry detergent to an inhuman amount of organic pasta.
Where’s the Beef?
Reimagine Co is a plant-based operation, so you won’t find any meat or dairy here. Approximately 85% of their produce is organic and as local as possible! As you would expect when opening a serve-yourself business during a pandemic, Reimagine Co has given the utmost care and consideration to both its staff and customers’ safety and health. And with a capacity of 14 people, there’s an extensive amount of space conducive to social distancing.
Still feeling a little nervous? (That’s okay! You do you!) Reimagine Co also offers curbside pickup options. Plus, they deliver orders of non-food items — think cleaning, beauty, and household products — for free with purchases over $40.
If You Stay Ready, You Don’t Have to Get Ready…
But I’d never done this, so I had to get ready. Before you head on over to Reimagine Co, make sure you wash and sanitize any container you want to bring!
Mason jars, branded plastic bottles, reusable produce bags — whatever you need to bring home the bacon (so to speak, again, no meat), as long as it’s clean!
As an added bonus, they carry all sorts of reusable containers at the shop for purchase or deposit if you forget yours. I head on over, reusable bags filled with sparkling clean jars and containers in hand!
One Sunny Walk Downtown Later…
Upon arrival, I am greeted by a cashier as I sanitize my hands. She asks me if I’ve been in before and gives me a rundown on the process. Her name is Emily, and she is helpful and smiling (well, her eyes were.)
First things first, I weigh my containers. Taking a small electronic tag, all in different sizes based on one’s container, I scan it on a small device next to the scale. This step ensures that when you check out, you’re not paying for your vessel’s weight.
I grab a recently-sanitized shopping cart and make my rounds, following the clearly marked arrows on the floor. Every step of the process is made as easy as possible by the staff, posted signage, and supplies. Well placed and clearly marked “clean” and “dirty” bins make for an easy way to grab and discard any supplies you might need, including funnels, scoops, and little spoons.
Buyin’ Desires and Wares, Oh My!
I find everything on my list, and then some! In addition to produce, there is an abundant dry-goods bulk section, oils, butters, and a whole deli area filled to the brim with meat and dairy substitutes. Plus, a massive freezer with any manner of vegan treats, a plant-based milk bar, and retail areas throughout complete with sustainable kitchen products.
There was so much to see and look over that I almost missed the store’s back portion! Just past the deli is the refillery — a magical place. Upon entering, vast containers of soaps, detergents, cleaning supplies, skincare, and beauty products meet the eye.
Variety and ease meet as I treat myself to a few beauty products, including a delicious-smelling lime face mask, prepacked in a reusable jar.
Happy to Help
Any questions I have are quickly answered by the staff. The enthusiasm for what they’re a part of is palpable and apparent. It makes me feel even better about shopping there.
After I collect everything that I need, I head back to the front. By this time, there are more people shopping. As I do a last once over — maybe one more mason jar of macaroni — I hear the conversations and remarks of excited and happy patrons. I smile beneath my mask as I see the thriving shop plants.
Check Me Out!
Everything is weighed, and prices are calculated. The savings on the packaging are noticeable immediately, even with my select impulse buys, organic produce, and bonus beauty supplies. My receipt is emailed to me — another way to remove needless paper waste.
I was lucky enough to spend a little time with one half of the dynamic duo responsible for Reimagine Co, Heenal Rajani. He is as friendly as he is passionate about what he’s doing, which is to say: very. We chat about what the future has in store.
Along with the grocery space, there’s a massive back area with a capacity of ~100 that is slated for various community events once it’s safer to do so, along with continuing their series of sustainability workshops. Their repair café, a space for art therapy, pop-ups, and a tool library are just some of the things we can look forward to from this fantastic new London fixture.
Above all, I have to say that I can’t remember the last time I had fun grocery shopping. Along with the obvious environmental and cost benefits of this new style of shopping, there’s the addition of getting to be more present. It’s an excellent method to make your grocery experience whatever you want it to be, whether quick and dirty or more leisurely and involved.
More questions? Head on over to the official website – they have a wealth of information on everything from FAQs to specific product and nutritional information.
Want some specifics on how they’re ensuring your health and safety? Here!
And be sure to check out Reimagine CO’s blog to keep up to date on their continuing progress and future events!
Or just take a trip on down and see all that Reimagine Co has to offer!
All photos by Marty Annson.