#TheGoodTribe Interview with Michelle Genttner, Co-Founder of Unboxed Market

unbox market

Did you know that just in Canada, about 1.31 million tonnes of food produced is lost or wasted every year by grocery stores? That’s about 60% of all food! Now that's not something to feel good about.

To help minimize this, the idea of zero-waste grocery markets is slowly on the rise. Enter Unboxed Market, a zero-waste grocery store located in Toronto, Ontario. 

Unboxed Market is the first of its kind in Ontario where instead of buying everything pre-packaged, customers can bring in their own containers and produce bags to be filled with whatever they need. With over 1000 products that are plastic free from different food products to household items for cleaning or personal and beauty uses, Unboxed Market makes living a zero-waste lifestyle easy.

A lot goes into running a zero-waste grocery store. You have to worry about the freshness, cleanliness, cross-contamination, sourcing products, and the list goes on.

If you feel a little hungry while shopping, don’t worry because Unboxed Market has a nice little cafe inside where their goods are made from their own products. They even offer a unique meal program, which is also zero-waste!

This week on #TheGoodBlog, I’m so excited to introduce change-maker Michelle Genttner, one of the co-founders of Unboxed Market. She’s passionate about everything she does and is an inspiration. Running a zero-waste shop is no easy task! With the amazing store she co-founded to help those trying to live a zero-waste lifestyle, check out this week’s must read to learn more about Unboxed Market.

1. Tell us about your journey and how Unboxed Market began.

Luis and I come from rural communities. We were raised in an environment that recognized the importance of fresh, local products, and of using the things you have, as long as you can. We both spent many years in the hospitality industry, where it is impossible not to notice the steady increase in packaging, whether coming into, or leaving the business. After selling our last space, we decided to open a grocery store. While researching countless models, we kept circling back to our community and our world, and the place we hold in it. A grocery store that could help the local community reduce their own waste, support small, local producers, and help slow the environmental crises enveloping our world…the plan for Unboxed Market was formed!

unboxed market2.  Can you explain how Unboxed Market works for readers who may not know?

Unboxed Market is a full-service grocery store. We have fresh produce, pantry products, as well as butcher, deli and frozen goods. We sell household cleaning products, oils and vinegars, personal care products, and more! We also have a full kitchen on-site, where we use products from our store to create meals, soups, stocks and pastries. 

When you visit our store, bring your grocery list, and any clean containers that you’d like to refill! Your containers are weighed before you fill them up, and when you cash out, the tare weight is deducted, so you only pay for what’s inside. Unless specifically noted, everything is sold by weight - from milk and yogurt to soap and oil. You can stock up on salmon filets as easily as saffron rice, using things you already own. 

If you visit us without your containers, that’s also not a problem!  We have jars available on deposit, cotton bags for purchase, paper bags when needed, and of course items that travel on their own (oranges and avocados, for example) can happily be carried loose!

 organic food  zero waste shop

3. I love that you have a cafe inside your market with items made from your own products! What kind of goodies do you offer?

Our prepared offerings change depending on what inspires our kitchen on any given day!  We have daily salads and sandwiches, as well as a full assortment of baked goods (complemented by local vendors like Dufflet’s).

organic food  sustainable products

4. It’s great that you also have a meal program for those who may be too busy to cook! Can you tell us a bit about the program and what type of meals customers could get?

Our meal program is so much fun! Customers let us know their dietary restrictions or preferences, and we create the meals for them. There’s no menu, the meals change constantly, and best of all, they are zero waste! Food is packaged in containers and a thermal tote, all on deposit. Customers receive an email when their meals are ready to pick up, and they drop off their cleaned containers and tote when they are finished (usually when they pick up their next meals). We have created dishes like steak salad with raspberry & balsamic vinaigrette; purple cauliflower steak with sweet potato & chimichurri; chilli with corn tortilla chips, and more. 


5. It’s amazing that your store makes it easy for shoppers to live a sustainable and zero waste lifestyle! What are some tips you have for readers looking to reduce their waste?

The best thing I can recommend is to start small. Use up the things that you already have, and consider whether you need to replace containers, or whether they can be refilled. It’s often easier to start with one area in your home - the shower, for example, and work out from there.  When buying new items, consider their lifespan, and what happens to those things when you’re finished with them. 

6. With over 1000 items available at your store, a cafe, and a meal program you have just about everything a person could be looking for! What is Unboxed Market working on for 2021 and beyond that you could tell readers? 

We are always working on bringing in new products and offering better alternatives for our customers. We’re looking at a few new products right now, and of course we’re always looking for new suggestions!

zero waste  toronto store

As an eco-friendly company whose packaging is plastic free and sustainable, it’s a no brainer that The Good Tee has to share this gem of a place with you! Ready to join the zero-waste movement? Stop by Unboxed Market and start voting with your dollar and score some points with mother nature.

Let us know your thoughts on zero-waste grocery stores in the comments!

If you’d like to support and keep up with Unboxed Market and what products they’re releasing next, follow their links down below ♥️


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