Waste Not Package Free Grocery new

Waste Not Package-Free Grocery for Portland, OR

The Problem

So many products at the grocery store are packaged in non recyclable materials. From cereal in plastic bags to salads in clear plastic clam shells to frozen items in wax covered cardboard. With the downward turn in recycling in the US, there is even more unnecessary waste going to landfills and incinerators. Many of these same commodities can be sold in bulk, reducing waste by using reusable containers.

My Role

Context Based Evaluation


How might a package free store startup and exist within the opportunities/constraints/culture of Portland?

Potential Local Opportunities

  • Strong identity with sustainability including recycling and waste concerns
  • Strong identity with local food systems
  • Increase interest in grocery delivery
  • Shifting demographic skewing towards tech/experience/value/sustainability

Potential Local Barriers

  • Commercial rent on the rise
  • Commercial space availability limited
  • Competition from existing grocery stores with bulk sections
  • Competition from other package free startups

Competitive Analysis

I conducted extensive research on package free stores based domestically and internationally.

I conducted research on grocery delivery companies and existing grocery stores with bulk sections.

500+ zero-waste supermarkets across the globe

Ecosystem Mapping

Business Model Evaluation

Recognizing that success may best come from the right structure, I evaluated a range of potential business models.

Qualitative Research

Developed interview guide

Conducted 1:1 interviews with Portland based grocery shoppers


  • Average spending: $60/person/week with some exception
  •  Convenience is of high importance
  • Time – control over the use of time is of high importance. For most this is more important than cost
  • Distance plays key role in store selection
  • Trust in quality, freshness, organic, local. Sense of connection or knowledge of source is somewhat important
  • Value vs Action: Guilt and frustration gap between values and desires. Want to reduce waste, support local, organic, but hard sometimes. Tries to do what’s right but still purchase items with non-recyclable packaging
  • Everyone had exceptions to their routine, allowing time, location, and spending based on desire
  • Store design: Spatial layout of store, spaciousness, easy to maneuver through, no crowds in the way, warm lighting is important

Key Drivers
etermining shopping patterns

1:1 interviews revealed that while time was most important factor for grocery store shopping, the majority preferred an in-store experience over delivery services

Product Selection
VS Delivery

Current Bulk Practices

My research revealed that while many value package free, there is only moderate use of existing bulk sections. Additional ease of use may be necessary for more shoppers to practice bulk purchase shopping.


Interviewees were asked about both the stores they love and their ideal store.

Customer Journey Map

Earth-Centered Design Lens

  • How to commit to maximum sustainability as a mission
  • How to best communicate the sustainability message to customers
  • Have full transparency on waste, carbon footprint
  • Biomimicry influence – draw inspiration from natural systems for the shop’s design, the way customers interact with the store, the app’s design
  • Conduct resource tracking and impact
  • Consider relationships with local growers, producers, distributors
  • Power of the collective towards good – how best to have store employees and members unified
  • Link the store with plastic reduction and zero waste efforts elsewhere
  • Utilize reclaimed material for displays, signage
  • Pursue B Corp and/or Benefit Corp certification

Wireframe conceptualization of tracking eco benefits for shoppers

Each product would have a value associated with the CO2 impact from the product’s packaged version. Totals would be tallied after each purchase and annually. The annual tally would be represented by an ever-growing tree.