Building a Zero Waste Store with Lauren Macrino, Co-Founder of re_ grocery
We ask the co-founder of one of our favourite zero waste stores in LA, re-grocery, about how she built a plastic free business and what her dedication to a more sustainable future looks like. As well as some practical tips for going zero waste personally!
“Our vision is a holistic grocery experience that removes the need for plastic packaging altogether.”
When was re_ grocery founded?
We’ve been working on re_ for years, but we officially opened our first store in Highland Park, Los Angeles on Earth Day 2020, right in the middle of the pandemic. It was an incredibly challenging time to open a business, but the community has been amazing and we are so thankful to be here. We’ve had a lot of people visit that are totally new to this style of shopping and are excited and enthusiastic to make it part of their lives. It’s really inspiring to see people embrace a simpler life—reconnecting with each other, with food, and with the planet. We’re seeing this continue even as life is beginning to open up again.
We’d love to know a bit about the people behind Re!
re_ was started by myself, Lauren, and my husband, Joseph. My background is in design and branding and Joseph’s is in food and beverage. Joseph and I met in San Francisco and on one of our first dates, he brought over groceries from a great co-op called Rainbow Grocery (a huge inspiration to re_) so we could make brunch together. This is the first time I noticed how complementary we were, almost dancing around each other in the kitchen, intuitively knowing what the other was doing. That’s when I knew we could be partners in both life and work. Fast-forward 7 years and we’re so grateful to be working with our store team in Highland Park, with plans to open store #2 late this year.
Can you tell us the story behind the store? What led you to open Re?
We are both passionate about low-waste living, but were finding it so difficult to accomplish day-to-day, particularly when it came to grocery shopping. Bulk-style shopping is really popular in Australia, where I’m originally from, and we wanted to take the best parts of this and of co-ops like Rainbow to reinvent the way people think about grocery shopping in the US. re_ exists as a way for shoppers to choose sustainability without forfeiting convenience and affordability. Our vision is a holistic grocery experience that removes the need for plastic packaging altogether.
What can people shop for at Re?
We’ve curated hundreds of the highest quality refillable bulk goods and low-waste products in a beautiful, effortless experience, both in store and online. We strive to source only organic, non-GMO and clean products, all plastic-free. Our offerings include a large selection of herbs & spices, snacks, nuts & seeds, superfoods, dried fruit, flours, legumes, grains, pasta, oils & vinegars, honey, candy & chocolate, coffee & tea, cereal, bath & body and cleaning products. We also have a refrigerated section with items that are typically very hard to find package-free, like tofu, plant-based meats, cheeses and spreads. We even have plant-based mylk on tap! We also have a selection of low/zero-waste accessories like natural cleaning brushes, beeswax food wraps and reusable bottles. We encourage you to bring your own reusable containers from home, but we also have 100% post-consumer recycled paper bags or reusable glass jars/bottles for purchase.
“If you are consuming something, know where it has come from – it’s true value, it’s journey to you.”
What tips would you give people trying to live and shop more consciously?
You don’t have to be perfect, and you don’t have to change everything right now. Start with something simple. Be mindful of what you’re throwing away. Be easy on yourself. Every week, try to eliminate one of those things. Reuse what you already have first, but little swaps as you run out of things make huge impacts over a lifetime. Replace your disposable razors for a lifetime reusable one, refill your dish soap instead of buying a new plastic bottle, grocery shop package-free or at a farmer’s market if it’s available to you. Before you know it, it really becomes a lifestyle and you couldn’t imagine going back.
Do you have any personal life hacks for getting through the day in the most sustainable way possible?
Los Angeles is a driving city (unfortunately!), so it’s been super helpful to keep a reusables kit in my car. Tote bag, reusable coffee cup, container for any leftovers, cutlery set etc. That way, I always have it on hand if I need it. I am never without my reusable water bottle. A friend also suggested putting all our refrigerated fresh produce in large glass jars instead of cotton bags. So easy, but it has been an absolute game-changer in terms of reducing food waste. Even herbs will last up to a month.
What does sustainability mean to you?
Being mindful of where we fit in the broader ecosystem. Everything has an impact on everything else. If you are consuming something, know where it has come from, it’s true value, it’s journey to you. Know where it will go once you are finished with it, it’s continued impact. If you have the privilege of making a choice, sustainability is being mindful that your choices are important, impactful and far-reaching.