BYO containers: Look inside this zero-waste store in Northern Virginia


Pantry items such as granola and olive oil, plus household essentials like soap and detergent: You’ll find it all at the zero-waste store in Vienna, Virginia — but what you won’t find is disposable plastic packaging.

Trace is a small shop hoping to make a big impact on the planet.

“We are here to help people use less plastic and less single-use packaging in their everyday lives,” Trace owner and founder Mala Persaud told us.

At Trace, items are sold in bulk. Customers fill their own reusable containers, paying by the ounce or pound. The weight of the container is deducted from the price, so they’re only paying for the product itself. And there’s no plastic packaging going into the trash.

“Plastic doesn’t go anywhere. It doesn’t have anywhere to go. A lot of times ‘biodegradable’ for plastic means that it just breaks apart into ever smaller pieces, and that’s what’s getting into the environment and getting into our animals and getting into ourselves,” Persaud said.

Since opening two and a half years ago, Trace has refilled more than 17,000 containers. Customers like the idea of reusing and refilling.

“I love that I’m not paying extra just for the packaging, because as you can see, it is still in great shape and it can be reused,” one customer said.

Persaud says there are plenty of ways to protect the environment, and starting with something small, such as reusing and refilling, can achieve something big.

“If you start with the one thing that you can do, you see, ‘Oh, this isn’t so bad,’ and you add another thing and you add another thing and you add another thing, and altogether, that adds up to a really huge impact,” Persaud said.

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