That’s kind of the point.
Or at least it was the point driven home to me.
All the futzing around with grease pencils (to mark product codes on bags and jars). All the scooping, filling, pumping. All the trying-to-figure-out-what-everything-is-from-the-tiny-labels. All the math and mass.
Combined, the point it all drives home is why we have packaging in the first place: it’s simply a lot easier to pick up a plastic container of roasted almonds from a rack, a container that has a price on it, and put it in your shopping cart than it is to find the right size glass jar, place it under the roasted almonds dispenser, unleash the trap door so that the almonds can flow, hope that the almonds don’t overflow all over the place, and hope that you haven’t mistakenly served yourself $25 of roasted almonds (or, in my case, $20.56 of vegan dark chocolate chips).
On my first visit, last night, my purchases ranged from 1 cent worth of coriander to $20.56 worth of the aforementioned chocolate; there are no itemized receipts provided, in keeping with the zero waste philosophy, but you are invited to take a photo of the display of the point of sale system; here’s mine:
Because of COVID-19, you’re not allowed to bring your own containers, leaving the only option to purchase glass jars (which cost between $1 and $2 each, depending on the size) or to use (free) paper bags (which, led to an embarrassing chocolate chip spill when the bag broke). The jars can be returned to the store for credit on your next order, so it’s not entirely an out-of-pocket cost; post-COVID, when we’ll be able to take our own containers, things will improve (although there will be the need to weigh containers before filling, which is another hill to climb).
Sharon Labchuk, founding leader of the Green Party of PEI, once talked on the radio about how it’s not that the things we consume on Prince Edward Island don’t consume energy and generate waste, it’s just that the energy and the waste, from creation and packaging both, is hidden from us, because it happens offshore; at M. Vrac we’re called to replace some of that energy with our own energy. In doing so, we make the hidden obvious, and I emerged, after 45 minutes of wandering and filling and labeling and (accidentally) spilling, with two shopping bags full of things I am going to either eat or use again, rather than throwing away.
All that said, I’m not sure whether I’ll go back to Monsieur Vrac: I’m completely on board with the philosophy, and seeing how much packaging I didn’t use was enlightening, but I wonder if I have it in me to bus my own tables week after week. I will try. I hope others will try. In the meantime, I have a lifetime supply of vegan 70% chocolate chips.