It’s the last Friday of the month at Patagonia in Kitsilano, and Nada Grocery is setting up its monthly shop. Baked goods are ready to be devoured, massive Mason jars are filled to the brim with tasty bulk goods, and scales are set to weigh it all. Sure, this pop-up store has all the qualities that a regular grocer would have, but at Nada, it’s BYOC: bring your own container.
Formerly known as Zero Waste Market, Nada believes in food. Real food. Food without absurd labels, ingredients you can’t pronounce, and unnecessary packaging. If stopping in to stock up on delicious locally sourced products, all Nada wants you to do is get creative and bring in whatever containers you have at home: jars, plastic bags, coffee cups, even your very own hands will do the trick (and don’t worry, if this step is forgotten, reusable containers are available on location for shopping needs). “We don’t want people to be buying things if they already have something they can use,” says Alison Carr, chief operating officer of Nada. “As nice as it is to have a really pretty pantry, the aesthetic doesn’t matter. It’s more about using what you have.”
Nada’s goal is simple: empower shoppers to decrease food waste. It began with an idea Brianne Miller had when she was working as a marine mammal observer in Northern Quebec, studying the creatures as they approached construction sites. Although she found herself in remote waters, watching some of the animal kingdom’s most majestic animals, Miller couldn’t help but notice an extraordinary amount of plastic in the water everywhere she went. It wasn’t until she moved to Vancouver, however, that she began to execute the concept that is now Nada.
At the pop-up joined by her playful Hawaiian Airedale puppy, Miller lights up when asked about her mission to reduce food waste and plastic pollution. Chewing on a bright yellow piece of dried pineapple supplied by the Gathering Place Trading on Cortes Island, Miller explains that all products are sourced ethically with a conscious effort to support local, small, Indigenous-led, and female-led businesses. “You know where your food is coming from, how old it is, how fresh it is,” she says of the close relationship she has with her suppliers. “We’re cutting out the middle stuff.” Both Miller and Carr applaud Vancouver for becoming a relatively conscious city. They note that the majority of people who walk into the 100 per cent package-free grocer immediately understand the concept and are open to changing their relationship with food. “The reception has been amazing,” Carr says. While it began hosting pop-up shops, Nada has plans for a brick and mortar shop of its own, due to open in 2018 at Broadway and Fraser.
“We’re trying to be as accessible and open as possible. We don’t want to seem really extreme, that’s not our thing,” Carr says as she watches two members of the Nada team help shoppers weigh their bulk goods. “We’re just trying to inspire people as much as possible and help them participate in whatever way they can.”
The drill is clear-cut: come as you are.
UPDATE, June 2018: On June 20, Nada officially opened its permanent location at 675 East Broadway.