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  • Writer's pictureCRAIKER

The Future of Sustainable Zero-Waste Merchandising

Architects get all kinds of requests, and when I was asked to renovate a small retail store on Main Street to make a “sustainable store”, I scratched my head as to what that meant. We had a few conversations about their product and mission before I got started. The store’s name was to be Juniper Station (Station being an homage to the building being the former bus station) and their owners Kristina Palmieri and Jessica Benjestorf were determined to do something different. The team was dedicated to the concept of sustainability and minimizing our merchandising footprint as a way of life and a business model.

Now, I’m not in the habit of hyping any shop or store, especially one I worked on, but I honestly believe this is the wave of the future and I sincerely hope it's just the first of many to embrace the idea of refilling and less single-use packaging.

The concept is simple. Cut out unnecessary and wasteful packaging by allowing shoppers to fill up their own bottles and jars with their desired products. Customers can bring in their own containers or they can purchase glass or aluminum containers in a multitude of sizes and options, including pumps, sprays, you name it. They even have a collection of donated jars in a variety of sizes and shapes that have been sanitized for use.

Purchases are made by weighing the container before it’s filled, a record is made and then fill it with the product of customers choice. It’s all about weight, not volume. Obviously, some products are denser than others, so laundry soap will weigh more than the same volume of spray cleaner, as an example.

They originally wanted to provide bulk foods as well but that licensing process was more complicated and expensive, so they decided to focus on personal care and home items for now. They can sell “low risk” foods that are shelf-stable and non-perishable.

Their available products include personal care such as shampoos, conditioners, body lotions, sunscreen and hand soaps and everything for babies. Home care products are everything from laundry detergents (liquid and tabs) and dish soap to spray cleaners and toilet cleaning tabs.

They buy their products from companies specializing in these products shipping 5- or 30-gallon jugs and return them to be sanitized and recycled. Some of the 5-gallon jugs can’t be returned so they are being donated to Connolly Ranch where they are a farm staple. It’s all about zero-waste and minimizing land fill debris.

My vision which I’ve shard with the Juniper Station Team is seeing this in our everyday grocery markets, perhaps as an in-store kiosk with just a few products initially. Everyone brings in their own recyclable bags: why not bring your jugs for your laundry soap and lotions?

Kristina told me, “I love the idea of Juniper Station being in more stores and for other businesses to start employing this process themselves. It is a big commitment but one that at the end of the day we think is the right answer for our community and for the planet. There is just no reason every single item we purchase for our day-to-day lives needs to be packaged in plastic and only used once”.

Check out Juniper Station at 1642 Main Street Old Towne, Napa. Bring your clean bottles and containers. You’ll be surprised at what you’ll find.

Chris d Craiker AIA/NCARB says if we all recycle our plastic “stuff” we’d cut landfill in half

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