The Sustainable Store

  Tushita Rawat |     July 29, 2022

A look around any supermarket and one thing will be hard to miss: plastic.

Every item small or big, from perishables to ones with a long shelf life is packed in plastic. Even the ones that have a covering of their own, say, oranges are needlessly packaged. The fruit is even peeled, kept on a delicate foam tray, and sealed with a plastic sheet. Apples are individually wrapped in comfortable cushions made of plastic. Gourds are packed in cling films. It’s almost as if humans think that their artificial packaging, which is wreaking havoc on the planet, is better than that of nature. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth.

Packaging waste is one of the biggest menaces that our Earth is battling. According to a study by the Un-Plastic Collective (UPC) in 2020, India consumes 16.5 million tonnes of plastic annually of which 43% is used for packaging. Most of the packaging converts into waste in a short span of time and ends up in landfills or oceans.

The culture of packaging as we know today is inextricably linked to convenience. Dropping many packets at once in a basket, not having to run to the grocery store every second day, and not worrying about carrying a cloth bag are some of the advantages to begin with. In an increasingly plastic-struck world, it is difficult to be otherwise, especially for grocery stores, since doing away with packaging would mean clearing the stock before it spoils. After all, a sealed packet of lentils will last longer than loose lentils kept in a steel container.

However, some stores have taken the lead to become what we know as zero-waste stores. A zero-waste store named NUDE in Malaysia’s Petaling Jaya is reinventing the way people shop in a supermarket. They have created a plastic-free shop with a procurement process designed to ensure minimum carbon footprint. Their items are locally sourced to reduce carbon miles and are provided ‘naked’ or package-free.

Co-founders Cheryl Anne Low and Wilson Chin conceived NUDE as a lifestyle store to help people minimise their plastic and food waste. Founded with the motto ‘Just the Good Stuff-Package Free, Harm Free, Guilt Free’, the store offers products by the gram with no minimum purchase so that customers get to decide how much they want to buy. They are encouraged to bring along clean bags and containers and fill them up with just the quantity they need.

NUDE houses all the everyday essentials ranging from food and grains to personal care. The store targets the general populace with its affordable prices, and the consumers can buy just as much as they need rather than prepackaged quantities.

In essence, NUDE reaffirms the idea that everyone can achieve a zero-waste lifestyle with the right direction, no matter how arduous it may seem, one step at a time. 

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About the Author

Programme Manager, Environment Education Unit, Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi

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