After reading Waste Free Home I decided to begin purchasing some food items from Bulk Barn. The idea was to carry food home in reusable bags and store them in my glass containers. Zero garbage. Simple.

Turns out this was an exercise in frustration. Allow me to rant.

  1. First trip to Bulk Barn I asked if they allowed the use of reusable bags. Nope. Apparently they ‘are unable to tare the weight on their scales’.
  2. I am confident this is a load of crap but I figured that it was still semi-environmentally friendly to reuse their plastic containers (not the single-use plastic bags). I did this for several weeks until…
  3. I had a cashier tell me they would have to charge me for each container because I was ‘suppose’ to be using the plastic bags. I informed her that I had brought the containers from home as I had been reusing them. She let me off the hook.
  4. Suspicious, I went home and found my previous Bulk Barn receipts: I discovered that I had been charged for the containers EACH time I had used them. What?! These were now the most expensive plastic containers on the planet.
  5. Infuriated, I went and asked Bulk Barn if there was a way that I could mark the containers so that I could reuse them without being charged. Nope. Apparently it is physically impossible to mark plastic containers.
  6. Seeking an alternative solution I went and found a new, locally owned, bulk food store. THEY will let me use my own containers. Hurray!
  7. I figured, might as well keep using my stupidly expensive plastic containers. I mentioned to the cashier that the containers were mine (they also clearly had the Bulk Barn logo on them). Yet when I got home I realized I was charged for the damn containers again! I was almost ready to give up on bulk food at this point. [In retrospect this was just an error by the cashier, I have not had issues with this since]
  8. New plan. I tried bringing my glass containers to the bulk store and taring the weights. While this worked, carrying a bag of heavy glass containers in one hand and a baby in the other proved to be painfully awkward.
  9. Finally my mom got me these cotton bulk food bags from EcoBags. So…much…easier.  I now use these bags at my local bulk food store. The only problem I still had was that this local store has a more limited selection. Specifically there is no regular pasta. Since my toddler has decided that she only eats carbs, this was a problem.
  10. So I went back to the Bulk Barn (just for pasta) with my cotton bags, and told them not to worry about the tare weight (the bags are really light). I actually was able to do this several times until…
  11. The Manager was working the cash one day and flipped out that I was using reusable bags (no joke, you’d think I killed someone by her response to the reusable bags). “Apparently”, reusable bags are a “health hazard” because they cross-contaminate the bins…I almost laughed. The Bulk Barn is filled with open bins…with haphazardly placed spoons for scooping…that customers freely go in and out of…and they are worried about my reusable bags cross-contaminating food? And the cashier looked at me like *I* was being ridiculous.

So this has been my struggle with the Bulk Barn. Turns out that some of the stores in this franchise are coming around to being more environmentally conscious. It was recently announced that select Bulk Barns will now accept reusable bags. Provided of course that they are inspected for cleanliness by the staff before use so that nothing is cross-contaminated. Holy crap, people.

This is what I have learned from this experience:

Local stores are generally more accommodating

Use cotton bulk food bags that are lightweight

We cannot expect people to change their waste habits if it is not easy to do so