The Zero-Waste movement: Bay Area shops offering a sustainable way to buy essentials

Parenteau helping customer Stella Howard.

Arlie Sarnicola

Photo Essay By Arlie Sarnicola, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

WEST OAKLAND, Calif. – The concept of a zero-waste store may be unfamiliar to many, but it is a phenomenon that is growing in popularity all across California. Re-Up Refill Shop in West Oakland, Calif., is one of the many Bay Area shops providing an alternative to stores generating single-use waste.

Stores such as Fillgood in Berkeley; Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco; Mudlab in Oakland; Zero Waste Grocery (which delivers throughout the Bay Area and Los Angeles); and Re-Up Refill Shop in West Oakland; all of which offer local residents a way to purchase home essentials and groceries without generating single-use waste. The Pioneer visited Re-Up Refill Shop to learn more about the zero-waste movement and what this particular store offers.

Re-Up operates within a repurposed shipping container in O2 Artisans Aggregate, an eco-industrial park in West Oakland. Customers can shop in person or through Re-Up’s bicycle delivery service, which operates twice a week, on Mondays and Thursdays. This service is only available to customers residing in Oakland, Emeryville, Berkeley, and Albany.

Customers pay by weight; the larger quantity purchased, the less you’ll pay by weight. In addition, for many of the items on the menu, the price is lower if you buy 50 or more ounces worth, making bulk buying even more attractive to customers who want to get the most for their money.

Patrons are encouraged and welcome to bring their empty containers to be refilled with their favorite items. For those who don’t bring their own containers, there are some available in-store that can be brought back when empty.

The shop has an extensive menu offering bath and beauty products, food and pantry items, as well as cleaning and various do-it-yourself products. Those who are concerned with the convenience of a shop that requires the use of reusable bottles rather than disposable containers should rest easy when it comes to Re-Up.

Like many similar shops in the Bay Area that have opened up in recent years with zero-waste as their goal, Re-Up Refill Shop is focused on offering sustainable, natural products to customers without relying on disposable containers that often end up in landfills or make their way into oceans and water supply.

Co-owner Matt Zimbalist explained he and his business partners Carly Fishman and Peter Lollo saw Oakland as an East Bay city that was uniquely positioned to benefit from the waste-reduction industry.

Despite opening the shop right around the beginning of the pandemic, Zimbalist said there has been a lot of interest in the shop from the get-go, and locals seemed to respond well to the idea of going zero-waste via supporting a local business rooted in the East Bay.

Anyone interested in giving zero-waste a try and exploring Re-Up’s offerings should note, the shop will be moving to a new, more spacious location beginning July 3, in the Rockridge neighborhood. The new location will have a self-serve option and new bulk bins offering dried goods like legumes, pasta, sweeteners, flour, nut butters, essential oils, and more.