Opening a Zero-Waste Grocery Store – Consultancy Services & Online Courses

What if you want to be the next zero-waste entrepreneur, but you feel like you’re lacking that business background? Or what if you just don’t know where to start? I’ll point you in the right direction…

Giulia Saladino   Giulia SaladinoBepakt

First of all, a zero-waste grocery store / packaging-free shop is a supermarket which aims to prevent any kind of packaging. This is how it works: customers bring their own reusable containers, canvas bags or glass jars, fill them up to the quantity of their needs – and pay accordingly. This method prevents a ton  of packaging – especially the plastic kind –  from reaching the trash bin, landfill and eventually the ocean.

Of course, as any other business, setting up a zero-waste grocery store requires some market research, planning and a business-minded approach. Don’t be scared! Some experienced zero-waste entrepreneurs have already thought about helping you! On this page you will find some of the existing online courses, tools and materials you can use in the process of setting up your shop, as well as consultancy services provided by some of these zero-waste entrepreneurs, in case you prefer real-life interaction and support!

“Setting Up a Zero Waste Shop”
by Nicola & Richard Eckersley of Earth.Food.Love
→ Free PDF

After opening their own package-free supermarkets in Totnes (UK), Nicola and Richard Eckersley, founders of Earth.Food.Love (Totnes, UK), decided to share their experience of opening a zero-waste grocery store with everyone, through a free PDF. There, they summarized the 10 most important steps of setting up a zero-waste shop of your own. Their guide will help you in the first stages of your setting-up process, preparing you for all the different phases towards the shop opening. The PDF helps you in becoming familiar with these main issues.

1) Choosing the right location, considering people’s interest, existing competition, rental prices.
2) Planning your budget, the expenses you will need to incur for the right equipment, for the first big supply, for business and branding advisors, for registering the shop etc.
3) Creating your own brand. How to keep it “simple, communicative and powerful”.
4) How to build interest and curiosity amongst people through marketing and advertising. The course sees social media marketing as the perfect tool to attract as many people as possible.
5) Buying the right equipment (containers, cash draw, scales) – Nicola & Richard give you some tips, contacts and discounts.
6) Choosing the best suppliers: highest quality at lowest price.
7) Deciding who you want to target as a customer. Beside zero-wasters, you might also decide to specialize in some specific niche products (e.g. olive oils, flours, spices…). It teaches you, for example, to think about the average age and income of your target audience.
8) You can sell both food and non-food products. What about packaging-free detergents, bamboo cutlery, books, reusable sanitaries…?
9) Hygiene is a must!
10) How do you want your clients to pay? Consider and choose the different paying methods.

But, above all, Nicola and Richard want to tell you not to stress about the business skills you might lack: they would like you to know that with love, commitment, patience and passion, your shop will be a success. All the legal and practical issues are a means to reach your goal: a great impact, avoiding tons of plastic packing from reaching our oceans!

“Your Zero Waste Store”
“Dein eigener Unverpackt Laden”
by Milena Glimbovsky of Original Unverpackt

If you are looking for more comprehensive and structured support, then you should definitely also consult this online course. It was created by Milena Glimbovski, founder of Original Unverpakt – which today is a zero-waste shop in Berlin, as well as an online shop and a magazine – inspiring people towards a zero-waste lifestyle.

After opening her own shop, Milena initially started running seminars in Germany, Austria and Switzerland to help entrepreneurs setting up their own packaging-free shops. And recently she decided to share her knowledge and experience online by providing a 20-part video-coursein German with English subtitles – with additional materials and tools to download. The course is a comprehensive guide encompassing tips, suggestions, insights and all the know-how you will need throughout the process of setting up your own packaging-free shop, while preventing you from making various “expensive mistakes”. Milena will prepare you for the struggles you will encounter, while reassuring you that it will be a lot of fun, too!

She will first make you reflect on whether this is the right job/adventure for you, while showing you all the pros and cons of undertaking it. Then she will accompanies you through all the steps, procedures and relevant activities.

Particular importance will be given to the business planning and the financing section. There, Milena will tirelessly show you the relevance of making a well thought-out business plan, which will serve as a structured guideline along the process (some useful materials will be provided to help you writing up your business plan step-by-step). She will then move on to present you the different options for financing your shop, by showing the pros and cons of each alternative (crowdfunding, bank loan, private investments… what to choose?)

After warning you about all the obstacles and challenges, and preparing you to structure your business project, you’ll arrive at the fun part of the course: how to take care of all the practical matters which will characterize your shop and make it unique? From finding the right property, choosing the products you will sell, engaging with the suppliers, buying the right shop equipments and making the nicest interior design, to dealing with necessities such as hygienic and safety regulations. Nothing will be left out!

During the whole course, Milena will train you to combine all the practical and exciting aspects of the shop with the business and financial ones: she will remind you it is a business venture and it has to be profitable in the first place to keep it running – and to bring some positive impact to the world! Hence, she will teach you how to adjust the profit margin according to sales and product typology; suggest the best esnterprise resource planning software; advise on how to best manage your team and how to manage the processes through protocols and check lists (which she will provide you), and more. Finally, she will give you some tips and insights on how to best conduct your marketing both offline and online to attract your clients and keep them always updated and connected to your shop, through newsletter and social media!

As a concluding remark, from Original Unverpakt online course you can definitely expect a very complete and well structured training, where every single aspect is considered and nothing is left out nor disregarded! The course costs 190€, but it is absolutely worth it if you want to start your own adventure in the best and most prepared way!

Zero-Waste Consultancy
by Catherine Conway of Unpackaged

For real-life consultancy,  get in contact with Catherine Conway, founder of Unpackaged (UK). In 2007 she founded the very first package-free grocery store in Europe. Through the Unpackaged website you can get in touch with the team, and receive consultancy services and support in the process of opening your packaging-free shop. They will help you in planning your venture, starting from the concept design, business model and financing. They will guide you through the different steps and choices you will have to make (location, equipment, products, suppliers…). Moreover, they will remain be by your side after your shop’s opening, taking care of the marketing and promotion, and the training of your staff. Besides all that, they will connect you with a big network, which will work in favour of your venture’s succes.

But that’s not all – Unpackaged also offers a wide range of consultancy services regarding the implementation of refill systems in your business; rethinking packaging in your supply chain; designing and sourcing sustainable packaging; as well as raising awareness on the zero-waste and circular economy concepts.

„Entwerfen eines Unverpackt-Ladens“
2-Day Workshops by Unverpackt Kiel

Marie Delaperrière, founder of Unverpakt Kiel (Germany) is offering 2-day workshops for aspiring packaging-free entrepreneurs. Just one year after she started to offer her courses, 16 package-free shops opened up around Germany. The workshops are offered at Unverpakt Kiel shop, in Kiel, and touch upon all the questions, doubts, curiosities you might have before or while starting your own packaging-free shop. Marie will provide you with answers, tips and ideas, to make the whole process smoother. The workshop costs 279€ (until 31.12.2017).

Moreover, Marie offers seminars (in German, English or French, which can take place either at their store or outside) about the zero-waste lifestyle and related topics, as well as consultancy services to shop founders, existing retailers, but also whoeveer wants to experiment and test concepts contributing to sell unpackged products! You can find all the info on Unverpakt Kiel website.

So, are you going to be the next “package-free entrepreneur”?

If you know (or are offering) any other online course, online guide, consultancy service or workshop to help people setting up their own package-free shop, feel free to share it with us in a comment. We are happy to spread such inspiring and helpful initiatives around!

Updates 2021:

„Zero-Waste Workshops & Bespoke Consultancy”
by The Clean Kilo (Birmingham, UK)

“For those looking to open their own zero waste shop, or expand their existing shop to incorporate a zero waste dispensing element.”

And check out this handy guide by Jungle Culture (UK)



  1. Veronica Nicolatio Turl

    March 13, 2018 at 01:40

    Hi there.

    My name is Veronica, I’m from Rio de Janeiro (Brazil).

    A friend and I started a brainstorm about a low (zero) waste shop. I would like to know if the discount for the OU course is still available.

    I also would like to say that the Bepackt is an amazing toll/guide about helping people to put in action all the great ideas in mind.

    Thank you so much for this plataform.

    • Rutger Muller (Bepakt)

      March 13, 2018 at 01:44

      Hi Veronica!

      Thanks for your visit and your compliments. It’s always great to hear people find useful!

      There are indeed still discount codes available. I will e-mail you one now.

      Good luck!


  2. Hi,
    I established a Children’s Consignment shop in our town over 4 years ago, with the goal being to begin getting my community in the reuse frame of mind. I’ve grown a loyal and like-minded customer base and have recently updated my shop to include a more ‘boutique’ section featuring local-made organic products, up-cycled goods, etc. This continues to evolve toward encouraging sustainable choices in daily life, naturally leading to wanting to set up a small Zero-Waste Refill Station for general household, baby and personal care products.
    My concern is about sourcing dispensers that will not lead to product waste, and aren’t made of plastics themselves.
    I’m having great difficulty sourcing fixtures… can anyone guide me or suggest where to locate these?

  3. I’m definitely interested in starting this up in my hometown. Are there discount codes still available for the course? I’m so glad I cam across this site. THANKS !

  4. Hello, Any chance there are discount codes for available for the online course?

  5. Hi there,

    Can you email the latest code for the online course please im very interested ,

    • Rutger Muller (Bepakt)

      March 4, 2019 at 09:09

      Hi Kaylee, I’m sorry, we’re all out of codes, hence this section was already removed from the website. Best of luck in you business endeavours! -Rutger

  6. Hello, is there any consultant with experience of opening a Zero Waste store in the USA? Thank you!

  7. Thank you so much Rutger! I’ll reach out to them!

  8. Hi,
    thanks for such a great set of resources and network of zero-waste shops. I am interested in starting a shop in Colombia. Is there any consultant with experience in Colombia or Latinamerica?


  9. hi There
    I’m from Lebanon, and I’ve been business planning my new Zero waste Bulk store for a while now, it will be the first one in the middle east if i’m not mistaken. but i am having troubles finding the appropriate wholesalers and distributors for equipment and products.
    will you be kind to giving me ideas?
    thank you

    • Rutger Muller (Bepakt)

      October 15, 2019 at 22:32

      Hi Lynn! Awesome you’re starting a zero-waste shop! For the wholesalers, I can’t directly help you. How about local farmers and producers? Various zero-waste shops also sell international products, for example Little Plant Pantry (Amsterdam) does, maybe they can help you. There are also Facebook groups, like the Zero Waste Shop Setup Group UK.

      Hope that helps!

  10. Hi guys
    I must say I really appreciate your page. You guys make it possible for everyone to contribute something positive to the environment / world in a non-complicated way. A simple way to motivate and help people of doing something great! (I just had to say that 🙂 )

  11. I have a commercial rental that will be available in spring located in Lawrenceville, NJ. I’d like to bring a refill store into our town. Any suggestions on how to do so?


  12. Hi there!

    I live in Kingston Ontario and am seriously considering opening a zero waste shop! Any codes for the online course 🙂

    Kindest regards, Shaynna

    • Rutger Muller (Bepakt)

      February 4, 2020 at 21:07

      Hey Shaynna, I’m sorry, we ran out of codes. We’re crowdfunding to keep this website running, so it’s been outdated a bit… I wish you a lot of luck though! Fantastic you are considering this!


  13. Hi Everybody,

    I am trying to put together the business plan.

    Is it possible to share how much would be an average investment per sqm and average margins for this kind of business?

    Thanks hundreds

    • Rutger Muller (Bepakt)

      February 19, 2020 at 19:44

      Hi Jelena!

      Great to hear. Good luck.

      You can try the facebook group “Zero-waste shop set-up support group UK”

  14. Hello, is there any consultant with experience of opening a Zero Waste store in the Croatia? Thank you!

  15. Hi! I’m really glad you decided to make this page, as I’m interested in starting a zero waste store in my city in Canada. I was wondering if there were any consultants with experience in Canada? Thanks!!!

  16. Hi! Thanks for this website, it’s amazing 🙂 I am brainstorming and gathering info to open a bulk shop in Spain (Alicante). I currently live in the UK but am hoping to be able to start this project next year. Do you have any tips/contacts/consultancy contacts doing this in Spain? In Alicante currently there are only 3 such shops and they only sell soaps and nuts, but I am interested in having bulk staple foods, spices etc.

    Many thanks!

  17. melissa lorena

    March 11, 2021 at 23:00

    Buenas tardes
    Me encantaría asesorarme sobre la creación de una tienda de ceros residuos y sobre todo en donde yo soy que es Colombia gracias por la ayuda

  18. Hi, we are searching for suppliers of organic food products with long shelf life such as grains, oastas rice, oils, vinegar etc. Any suggestions please? We are based in the indian ocean.

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