While working as a marine mammal observer in northern Quebec, Brianne Miller had a lot of time to herself. It was while sitting on a dock for about 10 hours a day that she made the connection between the health of our oceans and our food systems. From pesticides in agricultural runoff into oceans and rivers, to marine plastic pollution, it all had a major impact.
It was this realization—and the desire to do something about it—that led to NADA: Vancouver’s first zero waste grocery store. “It started out with wanting to have a more just food system, one that’s really focused on local growing practices, and smaller-scale infrastructure, and then it worked into this zero waste concept over time,” says Miller.
In essence, a zero-waste grocery store is one where you can buy nearly anything, like honey or cereal, in bulk, so the packaging waste is eliminated. Containers are provided, and you’re more than welcome to bring your old Tupperware and mason jars. If you’ve ever crammed into the bustling lavender-scented Soap Dispensary on a Saturday it’s not surprising there’s another zero-waste business emerging. Miller says the progressive demographic here makes Vancouver and sustainable businesses go hand-in-hand: “People that have grown up here, they have the mountains in their backyard and the ocean in their front yard and they spend so much time outdoors that the people on the West Coast just generally have an appreciation for how special this place is.”
NADA has also come at a good time for the city, with Vancouver’s ambitious goal of “greenest city” by 2020, and to become a zero-waste community by 2040. Other local businesses are catching on to the urgency of reducing landfill waste; Miller notes Tap and Barrel and Cascade Room among them.
The city happens to own the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified building where they secured a storefront at Kingsway and Fraser. Mindful of reducing waste whenever possible, Miller and partner Alison Carr teamed up with contractors Naturally Crafted to salvage materials from the deconstruction process, reusing studs, insulation and drywall.
Finding an affordable space that suited their needs was one of the biggest hurdles to overcome, but the community support and desire to make a positive impact are why it’s taken root. As Miller says, “It’s not a very profit-driven market, but we’re doing it because we know it needs to be done.”
675 E Broadway, Vancouver