Shopping in bulk, zero waste at Costco

Zero Waste at Costco?

I’m going to give away the ending: we cancelled our Costco membership earlier this year. Or, rather, we didn’t renew. My husband and I were big Costco fans – true company loyalists. And now, it just doesn’t fit with how we’re living our life.

Can you shop zero waste or plastic free at Costco?

When you say “shop in bulk” many people think of stores like Costco, Sam’s Club and BJs. And it’s true, you are shopping in bulk. But you’re also more than likely buying a lot of unnecessary packaging.

Can shopping in bulk at Costco (and other similar stores) help reduce your waste and simplify your life?

The short answer is: no.

The long answer is: Yes, maybe. Really, it depends…

Some items at Costco are helpful in waste reduction. If you buy a big container of something, your packaging-to-product ratio is better than buying a smaller version. Good examples of this are the white vinegar and large bottles of Dr. Bronner’s castille soap.

Environmentally friendly Costco items and products

You may also find some fruit and vegetables that are free of plastic packaging, but you’re still going to have some packaging that needs to go into recycling. Also, it depends on the store and time of year whether the produce is organic.

Healthy finds at Costco

But, buying a huge box of individually-packaged items, all wrapped in plastic is the opposite of eco-friendly. It’s not even that convenient because you are still in charge of storing and then dealing with all that packaging.

I did shop one last time. I tried to shop as close to “zero waste” as I could. Now looking at the photo, it’s really not great. But we definitely used and love everything we purchased:

  • Coconut Oil
  • Dates
  • Unsalted cashews and unsalted mixed nuts
  • Pesto (<— this was a “goodbye Costco” present for my husband because he loves it)
  • Kerrygold Butter
  • Nellie’s Certified Humane Free Range Eggs
  • Olive oil
  • White Vinegar (not pictured)

Funny (sad) story about the melon – I had to awkwardly search to find one that had only ONE (pretty big) sticker on it. Most had 3-4. Why?!

Let me know if you want an explanation of everything we purchased – happy to share my reasoning and uses for each product! Just leave a comment below.

I thought I’d be sad. I thought I’d feel scared, freaked out to “lose” my Costco Connection. (<— True Costco fans will know that that’s the name of their company magazine, haha. Which of course I never read. I got every month and promptly tossed it in my recycling bin.)

It was good while it lasted, Costco, but I just can’t keep bringing disposable, plastic-wrapped stuff into my home… only to lug it off to a landfill days later.

I don’t think I’ll miss my Costco membership. Truth be told we might still occasionally ask a family member or friend with a membership to pick us up a box or two of Kerrygold butter (their wrappers are recyclable), but that’s it.

Do you shop at Costco? Do you find “less waste” options there?


8 thoughts on “Zero Waste at Costco?

  1. We also have this same dilemma with my husband…to keep or let go? We go to CostCo once a month (rarely do we go twice) to get Pellegrino sparkling water. It comes in glass and CostCo recycles the whole bottle on site so we don’t feel as bad…but at the same time, our efforts are to minimize waste (which we know Pellegrino’s don’t because of the tiny plastic pieces on the cap that we are not sure can be recycled due to their size) so it’s kind of a double-edged sword for us. And yes, whenever we encounter someone and we tell them we buy in bulk, they always picture CostCo-like stores, and raise their eyebrows and challenge us with: “but at CostCo you are buying way more packaging!” Hahahaha I always get a kick out of it!

    1. Ooh yeah Pellegrino is so yummy! I actually took a picture of the Pellegrino and forgot to add it to this post, haha. I see in some of the zero waste groups I’m a part of that lots of people still shop there and try to be mindful of packaging. It’s all about what works for your family and budget! I mean, two dozen Nellie’s eggs for less than $7 is hard to walk away from! 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

  2. Very disappointed in costco and how they have to wrap everything in plastic. Even bananas….? Why? Who knows, maybe if consumers insist, costco too will change a little. I’m going to call their corporate office tomorrow to talk about their bananas. Even though I like the thought of buying the fair trade ones better.

  3. I googled this because I just canceled my membership and was wondering if anyone else had this dilemma. When I went in to get my refund (on rewards and membership), I also had to explain to them that I don’t shop there anymore because I “don’t use plastic”. When I said I shop bulk food stores they became confused. I finally said, I shop at a “package free grocery store” and the farmers market. They had several questions but not in a “we don’t believe you” kind of way. It was more of like “we want to understand so we can do better” kind of feeling that I got. So, I appreciated that. I will actually miss their great return policies and customer service but I just couldn’t justify it.

    1. Hey Amy! Yes I actually do like Costco the company for the most part and have had great experiences with their employees. I went there recently with my sister and stocked up on a few things – I’m hoping to get the post up soon about what I bought. They do truly have the best prices on certain things like avocado oil/etc. but we still haven’t found reason to renew our membership. Thanks for sharing!

  4. We think Costco provides high quality foods and high quality customer service. It is a great place. One very wasteful thing the do, however. The Costco Connection Magazine is printed and mailed. It is 95% advertisements, and otherwise of very little value. They should stop wasting all that paper.

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