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My Dream

I walk past this building every day.


I have never been inside but am often gazing longingly through the window. The mixed business convenience store has nothing inside I want. I only peer through the window dreaming for what I wish it could be.

If the building went to sale tomorrow and at the same time I won the lottery – I would buy it. I’d quit my job and put everything I had into making this place a hub of massive plastic free and zero waste proportions. It would be a sustainability mecca for the western Melbourne suburbs.

Like No Plastic Fruit and Vegetables I would work actively to create a store void of plastic.

There would be no plastic bags. No plastic receipts. No plastic anything. I would aim to make it as natural as I possibly could.

The walls would be lined with wooden containers housing the staples sans any packaging. Flour (gluten and gluten free), rice, salt, sugar, quinoa, nuts, cereals, dried pastas, beans – the whole gambit would be housed there. And on the identification labels, next to the weight would be a detailed description of how the item is transported to the store, in what material and if the packaging is returned to the supplier for reuse or how it is recycled by my store.

There would be barrels of olive oil, sesame oil, soy sauce, tamari, almond oil, vinegar, tahini, nut butters and honey. If there is something missing, then the shopper can let me know and I will see if I can stock it.

Hard to source items would be available like tofu, olives, nori, soba noodles. Milk, yogurt, cream would come to us in glass jars that would have a 10c refund scheme. I wold sell butter unwrapped – just bring your container and tell us how much you would like. Cheese would come in wax without a sticky label.

And I would have a small range of broths frozen for people to take home in winter.

A collection of fresh seasonal vegetables and fruit from local farmers would be available without those annoying plastic stickers.

There would be a counter with freshly made condiments and spreads like mustard, tomato sauce, jams and maybe even a Vegemite equivalent that people could buy with their own jars.

Oh and there would be a aisle of tea and coffee too.

On one wall there would be taps ready to pour alcohol. Patrons would visit with their growlers and empty wine bottles to fill with beer, wine, vodka, whiskey and any other locally made alcohol. The empty barrels would be collected and swapped by the delivery team for new flavors and blends – but never new bottles.

Then there would be the cleaning products. Safe and simple ready to go into reusable containers to take home. I would sell a collection of natural and locally made cleaning items too not made of synthetic fibers.

Bulk buying options for beauty products would be available. Rosehip oil, jojoba oil, select essential oils, cocoa butter, beeswax, massage oils, activated charcoal, clay and also suitable containers to put your homemade beauty into. Because sometimes it can be hard to find those. Customers could pick up a bamboo toothbrush too.

The store would own a truck, fitted out with bulk containers. Once a fortnight I would visit rural communities on the outskirts of Melbourne’s western suburbs allowing keen locals to buy items from the truck in their own containers like olive oil or vinegar or floor cleaner. The community would be so inspired they would start their own bulk co-op store.

Because this is Australia and our mornings revolve around brunch there would be a cafe within. It would be modelled off a venue in Berlin where I had a treasured dining experience, enjoyed not just because it was my brother’s birthday (that is a big contributing factor of it being a fond memory) but for the simplicity. Patrons would enjoy hearty vegetarian and vegan meals with no plates over $10.

A set amount of food would be made each day and if the meals ran out before the store closed then that's just the way it is. I would not over cater. There would be no food waste, everything would be composted and I would not offer take away unless the patron had their own to-go containers – this includes coffee. Nope, not even bio takeaway coffee cups would be available in this cafe. You either have to bring your own or sit down to enjoy your coffee. There would also be no straws available either.

Also, I would offer to take customers vegetable scraps for compost. It’s only neighborly.

It is close to the train station, has ample parking and is a stone’s throw away from a busy main street. I would have space for classes on plastic free & zero waste living and host local community groups.

Right now it’s just a dream.

26 comments

  1. I have this same dream every time I walk into the woolies across the road from my house (I curse it for being so convenient). I look at the sea of plastic, sigh, pondering the waste of food trapped and inaccessible inside all those layers of packaging, then do my 'outskirts round' shaking my head at the individually wrapped zucchinis and bananas, all the while wishing the store were stocked exactly as you describe. I too have thoughts of starting my own anti-supermarket. One day....

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    1. I wish i could snap my fingers and make this happen

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  2. This sounds amazing, and I'd be one of your first and regular customers! Far too much waste, far too much packaging...why do these shops not exist! (I'd have to win the lottery too as I live in the UK!) :) xxx

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    1. Maybe I can get a sister store in the UK. I lived there for two years and would love an excuse to go back for something longer than a holiday....

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  3. Sorry if I entered this twice...my comment seems to have vanished.

    I think you should start working on a business plan. You could get investors and also do a kickstarter :)

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    1. I thought about that but i am not sure the owners would let me buy it...yet. They are an elderly couple that I am sure should be soon to retire. Plus hardly anyone goes in there! It would be a good idea to write down a business plan just in case the opportunity arises :)

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  4. Anonymous5/01/2015

    I live on the other side of Melbourne, I'd come! Dream on..... Cheers Donna Z

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    1. Thanks Donna :) Good to know I already have a local customer

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  5. This is an awesome dream and one I have too! Stores like this are definitely possible via kickstarter it's been done! I have this dream when I'm in trader joes. I'd move to Australia for this store

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    1. Australia is pretty awesome. I'll keep wishing everything I walk past the store :)

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  6. Anonymous5/01/2015

    Hi Erin, I love this! I would definitely shop here. I live in the inner west suburbs too and I get so frustrated that all the bulk buy type stores are over 'the other side'... I found your blog by accident and it's so nice to read about someone aiming for zero waste in my local area. I am learning lots from your experience and love to hear about the local treasures you find that are often virtually on my doorstep as well! You have a very nice way of writing and I very much look forward to your weekly updates. Sarah

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    1. Hello inner west neighbor. There are more and more shops popping up in the west which is making it easier and saving on travel time. Thanks for the compliments :) Hope you continue to enjoy reading about plastic free and zero waste living in Melbourne. If you have any tips or find something worth sharing don't hesitate to get in contact.

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  7. Oh Erin, this makes me smile because my husband and I have exactly the same dream (although we weren't planning on snaffling your building from under your nose, obviously!) We always say when we retire rather than when we win the lottery though...but it means the same thing - when I have enough money to live off. I'd like to run mine as a co-op or not-for-profit, and my cafe would take great pleasure in refusing anyone takeaway in a disposable container! (I've thought about this - I'd "hire" reusable cups with a deposit matching the value of the cup - or people could SIT DOWN with a proper cup!)

    I don't know if we ever will, but I still like to dream about it : )

    (Oh, and maybe if you win the lottery and need staff, I'll come down and work for you!)

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    1. I will fly you over and we can run it together :)

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  8. Fantastic idea. It reminded me of The People's Supermarket in London, which had a TV series made about it. (http://thepeoplessupermarket.org/) The kitchen even serves up takeaway meals using unsold produce that would otherwise go to waste.

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    1. I remember that series! I was living in London when it was on. Thanks for reminding me about it.

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  9. Please make this dream come true! It sounds like you are ready to get started! You could try to raise funds through an online crowd funding platform. I feel that there are more and more people interested in living with less plastic and with less stuff, so this could really be a hit in the Melbourne suburbs!

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    1. I want to so badly!! I might look more into it next year. My partner thinks the building would sell for well over a million due to its location close to public transport. I agree it would be a hit in Melbourne. Thanks for your support Annemieke :)

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  10. Wow, what a wonderful dream! If I would ever go to Australia (still on my wish list), I'd definitely visit you :) I'm just wondering though... wouldn't it be possible to talk to the current owners and see if they would be willing to make a transition to a zero waste shop?

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    1. You should come to Australia. It is a wonderful place to visit :)

      I wish I could but they are old (later 60s - early 70s). I don't think they have changed the way they do stuff there for a long LONG time. Not many people shop there anyway.

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  11. Anonymous11/24/2015

    Believe it...and it will happen for you.

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  12. Anonymous11/28/2015

    Hi Erin, I think your dream sounds amazing. If you're ever in need of a business partner I just know that my daughter would love to join your cause.

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    1. Thank you :) your daughter sounds awesome already.

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  13. Anonymous4/19/2016

    I can genuinely see this being a reality in the near future. Particularly in a major Australian city like Melbourne. Best wishes to whomever puts their energies into such wonderful enterprise.

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