Reducing your plastic waste starts off really simple: switch to a reusable water bottle, get reusable grocery bags and straws, and so on. But then you go shopping. In the midst of an aisle filled to the brim with plastic food packaging, cutting plastic out of your life can be an insurmountable task.
An enormous amount of food and toiletries come in plastic packaging. And it adds up.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, most of the plastic waste generated in the US in 2017 came from containers and packaging. More than 14 million tons of plastic bags, wrappers, bottles and glasses were thrown away – slightly less than all of the cars registered in Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky combined.
In hopes of reducing this waste, some buyers are turning to bulk shopping. This format essentially means customers bring their own containers to replenish supplies like cereals, beans, pasta, oils, and shampoo – what you call it.
But where can you buy bulk in Indianapolis? A reader asked us, and as part of our Scrub Hub series, we found it out for you.
The short answer
Most stores offering bulk shopping are in the north of the city and in Hamilton County. There are a few options for residents of the south and east sides. And if you’re trying to get your full shopping list in bulk, you may need to go to more than one place.
Some of the larger locations include Good Earth Natural Food Co. in Broad Ripple and Market District Supermarket in Carmel or Fresh Thyme Farmers Market in the northwest.
For a more complete list and how bulk buying works, see below.
The long answer
Depending on the type of products you’re looking for, you can likely find bulk options for all of your needs – that is, if you live on the north side of town. Many stores offering bulk shopping are located near Broad Ripple or in Hamilton County.
In some shops you can stock up on dried goods, make your own refillable bottles, or fill them with oils, shampoo or soap. There are even locations that sell reusable household products like wool dryer balls with no waste.
Don’t worry if you scratch your head wondering how to buy something without the packaging: we’ll break it down for you.
Bulk buyers pay for their products by weight, not units.
To this end, bulk buyers bring reusable containers, cloth bags or jars to carry the groceries they want to buy. Before filling up, it is important to weigh the container yourself so that you can deduct this weight from the total at the end. For products like lotion, shampoo, or soap, some recommend bringing the container that you keep the product in at home.
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It might sound complicated, but once you get used to it, it becomes second nature, said Shelby Kartes, a local environmental attorney who started bulk shopping during her college years. And while reducing plastic waste is a big plus, it isn’t the only benefit.
“You also save money when you shop this way,” Kartes said. “It was a really economic decision (for me).”
Another option for sustainable shopping, according to Kartes, is buying products from local farms through community-sponsored farming boxes. A CSA, as it’s called, is a once-weekly or bi-weekly box of local produce and produce. Some CSAs need to be picked up, others can be delivered to your door.
A list of CSAs near Indianapolis can be found online here.
“Basically, you get a box of goodies,” Kartes said. “You can’t always choose what’s in, but it’s fun.”
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Kartes itself is in the process of setting up its own wholesale store and a CSA pick-up and delivery point. She is currently in crowdfunding and planning.
Kartes, with a background in public relations, was always sustainable and decided that she wanted to devote her time to promoting a wasteful lifestyle.
“I think it’s really helpful to know that you can make small changes in your daily life that might seem very small,” said Kartes. “They don’t think they’re making a difference, but they’re powerful.”
Here’s where to buy in bulk in Indianapolis:
Note: The COVID-19 pandemic may affect the availability of mass-produced items in some stores. This is not an exhaustive list and there may be other locations that sell mass-produced items in Indianapolis.
Oils and Spices:
Cereals, pasta, nuts and other foods:
Toiletries, bath and household products:
- Lush (soaps, shampoo and conditioner bars, and other packet-free beauty products)
- Onatah (some waste-free products)
Contact IndyStar reporter London Gibson at 317-419-1912 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @londongibson.
Connect with IndyStar’s environmental reporters: Join The Scrub on Facebook.
IndyStar’s environmental reporting project is made possible through the generous support of the non-profit Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust.