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Eat and Drink

3 NYC food businesses that are all about reducing waste

Reduce, reuse and recycle at your local grocery store, coffee shop and salad chain.

Katerina Bogatireva is behind Precycle, a zero-waste grocery

Katerina Bogatireva is behind Precycle, a zero-waste grocery store in Bushwick. Photo Credit: Marina Moskvina-Williams

Zero waste is not a throwaway idea for these food businesses.

Four years ago Mayor Bill de Blasio announced his vision for New York City to become a zero-waste city by 2030. For customers looking to embody the reduce, reuse, recycle ethos beyond their own home, here’s a look at how three local brands are taking the lead in zero-waste practices.

1. Grocery store: Precycle

For Katerina Bogatireva, the idea to open a zero-waste grocery store grew out of a personal desire to create less garbage in her own household, an undertaking which proved very challenging.

“You end up going to one store for this, another store for that,” she says.

At her Bushwick grocery store Precycle, the environmentally conscious can enjoy the convenience of one-stop shopping without guilt. Since opening four months ago, she’s already had customers stop in from other states and countries.

The shop is nearly package-free — apart from a few items like deodorant and toothbrushes that come wrapped in compostable materials — and stocks fabric bags and jars from a local glass company that Bogatireva picks up herself. As much as possible, she also works with vendors who reuse containers, such as an upstate New York company that takes back honey buckets, supporting a burgeoning, circular economy which utilizes resources to their fullest capacity.

“I like working with people who are willing to go the extra mile,” Bogatireva says.

Inside, everything has been meticulously considered. Bogatireva, who once ran a wearable art gallery, has arranged the space with a relaxed, open feel, wide pathways and some greenery. There are shoots for bulk items; old-fashioned deli-style jars for preserves; and farmer’s market-like wooden bushels for produce.

“Some stores are so cluttered you get anxiety in them, especially if you have a stroller,” Bogatireva says.

Precycle is getting company; Sarah Metz, who runs a small online shop specializing in bulk food items called The Fillery out of Brooklyn, is looking for space to open a brick-and-mortar store dedicated to zero waste.

2. Coffee shop: IXV Coffee

For many locals, to-go coffee cups like the iconic Anthora are a symbol of New York City life. But disposable coffee cups, which often are coated with plastic, are vastly more complex to recycle.

“Sustainability should matter to everyone,” says Jenny Cooper, who is planning to open a zero-waste coffee shop, IXV Coffee, in Boerum Hill in early May. “I’ve heard we go through something like 100,000 disposable coffee cups every half-hour in New York City.”

For environmentally concerned individuals like Cooper, reusing is the new recycling. At IXV Coffee, customers will be able to drop off their reusable cup at the shop, so it’s washed and ready for their morning cup when they return. Disposable to-go cups will be available for those without a reusable one handy, but will have a surcharge that will go toward composting and recycling fees, Cooper said.

The shop will also have a full stock of reusable cups for sale, including from GSI Outdoors, which Cooper recommends for espresso, macchiatos, and cortados, and rCUP, which touts itself as the world’s first reusable coffee cup made from used paper cups.

Thinking holistically, Cooper also is looking for ways to reuse the grounds.

“There is a local fabric dyer who has expressed interest in them and they also make excellent compost,” she says.

(And for those who can’t quit that aforementioned coffee-truck classic, it is available in a reusable, ceramic form at the MoMA gift shop.)

3. Fast-casual: Just Salad

Fast-casual salad shops make it easy to get more veggies and lean protein in your diet, but your healthy habit often comes with the trade-off of a disposable bowl. To make it easier to eat more greenly for yourself — and the planet — the NYC-founded Just Salad has a mission to send zero waste to landfills by 2022.

This builds on the chain’s commitment to the environment: Thanks in part to its signature $1 reusable bowl, Just Salad has the only restaurant reusable program approved by the New York City Department of Health, according to the company.

To celebrate the launch of its new zero-waste mission, the chain has collaborated with another local company, S’well, which has targeted the end of single-use plastic bottles, for a special-edition sustainability kit ($39), featuring a reusable VIP black bowl, a reusable bottle and an “It’s Easy Being Green” reusable tote.

For Janani Lee, the new chief sustainability officer for Just Salad, which has 20 locations in the city, sustainability is a way to pay it forward.

“The concepts of sustainability and value aren’t mutually exclusive,” she says. “A reusable bowl allows us to save on the cost of disposable containers, so we pass those savings on to our guests with free toppings.”

But mostly, she just wants people to see how simple it is to waste less.

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