Oddly enough, one of the most wasteful modern-day industries is the grocery industry — supermarkets are responsible for 10 percent of food waste nationwide, averaging out to about 43 billion pounds yearly. And in addition to food waste, packaging waste also tends to be a major problem, as many major retailers are guilty of using unnecessary amounts of plastic and paper. That's why we're so excited that package-free grocery delivery service called Jarr finally exists.
Green Matters had the honor of catching up with Jarr's Founder and CEO, Emily Sproule, who told us a little more about her inspiration to start the Vancouver-based grocery company, and how she thinks it will change the food industry as a whole.
What to know about package-free grocery delivery platform, Jarr:
Jarr is a package-free grocery delivery platform that's based in Vancouver, B.C., Canada. The company delivers all kinds of groceries in returnable, deposit-based jars to customers throughout North Vancouver, Vancouver, West Vancouver, Burnaby, New West, and Bowen Island. The company aims to lower consumers' household packaging waste, Sproule tells us, and although she only started the company last year, she found a passion for sustainability at a young age.
"In elementary school, I was in the Kids for Saving Earth Club, and I was constantly looking at ways to reduce my impact on the environment. After graduating with a BBA from Simon Fraser, I started working at Ethical Bean Coffee. I learned a lot about the organic food industry at Ethical Bean as well as fair trade. While traveling I was even able to tour farms we purchased coffee from, solidifying my connection to growers, producers, and our earth," Sproule explains in an email.
"In coffee, I also learned about the challenges of packaging," she continues. "No matter what type of packaging we looked at, included bio-plastics, there was always a downside and I hated that. It wasn't until later in my career I started hearing more about reusables and after digging into it knew reusable packaging was what we really needed in the world."
Sproule realized the need for package-free grocery delivery when she became a mom.
Becoming a new parent is a challenge in itself, but ensuring you're always making sustainable decisions in the process can be seriously tricky. Sproule tells us she wanted to shop zero waste as a new mom, but found it difficult to do so if she didn't have time to shop at local farmers markets or specialized shops in-person — thus, she realized there was a need for a package-free grocery delivery service.
"It was my personal experience as a mom working full time that reducing packaging waste was hard, and generally really inconvenient. I wanted to be shopping zero waste but it took time, and extra time was something I didn't have," she says.
"I knew I wasn't the only person who felt stretched who wanted to be doing more for the environment. Eventually, I left my 9 to 5 and began working full time on Jarr. After a slight delay due to the pandemic, we launched in May 2020 and have been growing ever since!"
Jarr runs on a circular system.
If Jarr delivers to you, here's how it works: the customer places their order online, and their food is packaged in returnable, deposit-based jars. They're delivered to the customer's doorstep, and when the customer places another order, the delivery person picks up jars from the previous order, and a credit is added to the customer's account.
"This happens over and over again, keeping packaging waste out of the waste streams and reusables in the hands of consumers," Sproule explains.
Jarr is already leaving a positive impact in the Vancouver area.
Jarr's main goal is to lower single-use waste and to grow and expand worldwide, Sproule tells us. First, though, she hopes to expand the company throughout mainland Vancouver, then throughout Vancouver Island and the Okanagan. Already, the company has saved a shocking amount of waste.
"Compared to a standard grocery delivery service, from July to February, we saved 6,177 plastic bags, 5,670 pieces of flexible plastic and 2,277 hard plastic containers," Sproule says. "It's amazing how much can be saved in such a short amount of time with a brand new growing start-up!"
Sproule is excited to see how the grocery industry changes post-pandemic.
Although busy moms were already accustomed to grocery delivery, Sproule says it's gained considerable popularity since the start of the pandemic.
"While I realize some people may go back to shopping in stores once the risk of exposure is lower, folks who hadn't shopped regularly online before are now very savvy and have the skills to keep shopping online if they want to. I foresee that grocery delivery is very much here to stay and will be a growing industry after the pandemic," she says.
Sproule also believes there is about to be a major shift in the realm of package-conscious grocery retailers.
"When it comes to the future of zero waste and your groceries, currently, there is a groundswell of small-batch producers and zero waste grocery stores that are all making a move to reusables which we see as a very good sign. While it can be painful to know that larger companies take the longest to get on board, the small companies and our customers are pushing the envelope and showing larger organizations that going reusable is possible," she says.
"It turns out, we do not need to be dependent on a single-use throwaway economy that is quickly destroying the planet," Sproule continues. "We need systemic change with a move toward reusables that is accessible to everyone, and the sooner that can happen, the better."
Are there other package-free grocery delivery platforms of the like?
Until Jarr makes its way to the U.S., we won't be able to order any groceries to the Green Matters offices. But are there other companies of the like?
Those in Los Angeles and the Bay Area, Calif. can shop from Zero Grocery, while those in Brooklyn, New York, can order from Precycle. They're far and few between, but we're definitely looking forward to Jarr's future global expansion.