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Ottawa woman aiming to open zero-waste grocery store

Store would eliminate packaging waste wherever possible, hopes to open this summer.

Valerie Leloup hopes to open a zero-waste grocery store in Ottawa by summer.

Ryan Tumilty / Metro

Valerie Leloup hopes to open a zero-waste grocery store in Ottawa by summer.

Valerie Leloup is trying to solve a problem that has vexed civilizations for centuries: How do you sell spaghetti sauce in bulk?

This summer Leloup is hoping to launch a new downtown grocery store, named Nu Grocery, that would be a zero-waste establishment. The store would sell items in bulk or in re-usable containers.

“It’s a store where you can find almost all of your daily grocery needs, and the primary benefit is that you don’t create any packaging waste,” Leloup said. “My intention is really to find a solution for every need that we have, so I also want to sell products that are not usually available in bulk.”

She is finalizing a lease on downtown space, but there are a lot of hurdles to clear, including sourcing products. She is turning mostly to local suppliers and has found that many of them are receptive to the idea.

Leloup said that the idea for the store came out of her frustration at how difficult it is to avoid food packaging.

“It’s quite a selfish project when you think about it, because it comes out of my own struggle to live a zero-waste lifestyle,” she said. “I was running around town with my containers trying to find all the products that I needed.”

Leloup said she knows the store has to be able to cater to families without a lot of time, who won’t want to make multiple stops, hence the search for a spaghetti-sauce solution.
“We’re in a society where convenience is hugely important, so it has to be convenient,” she said.

She expects that the store would also be a cheaper alternative, noting that “the price of the packaging can be 20 or 25 per cent of the product.”

Zero-waste won’t just be a goal for the customers: the store itself will donate produce and will compost anything that goes bad.

“There is no way I am throwing away food that is still edible.”

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