Zero Waste Tacoma

I’ve been living zero waste for nearly a year now, and in that time I have learned a lot about the places that are (and are not) accommodating to those of us trying to live a zero waste life. Unsurprisingly, the places I like the most are locally-owned. Bigger chains that are part of a corporate structure often have stricter rules, particularly surrounding reusables, that don’t seem to to be based on anything other than a hesitancy to make it easier for folks to use their own containers. As the often-mocked little sister of Seattle, I thought for a while that I would have to make the trek North to get my zero waste goods. I have found, however, that most of what I need is right here in my own little community. Here are some of my favorite spots in the City of Destiny (Note: I live in the Central District of Tacoma and have not explored options in some of the outlying areas of Tacoma and my post will reflect that):

Marlene’s Market and Deli: When I first started my zero waste journey, I went to Whole Foods quite frequently, and never felt particularly good about it (especially once Amazon bought it). Luckily, I remembered a little health food shop on South 38th, nestled near the mall, Marlene’s Market and Deli. The Tacoma location has just about everything I need: bulk nuts, tea, palm oil-free Castille soap, dish wash, olive oil, flour and more! They also have a great salad bar that offers that you can ask them for a reusable bowl to use instead of the single-use containers and reusable cutlery, so it’s a great place for a healthy lunch. The two things the Tacoma location is missing is bulk shampoo and conditioner and sustainably packaged bamboo toothbrushes. I’ve found that conditioner bars just don’t pack enough punch for my dry, curly hair. Luckily, they have bulk hair products at the Federal Way location, so every month or so I make a short trek to Federal Way for hair products (and any other groceries I may need at the time). Unfortunately, I haven’t found sustainably packaged bamboo toothbrushes at either location. The bamboo options I’ve found are packed in a paper container with a tiny plastic window, so I’ll continue to order from Wowee until I can find a better, local option.

(Re)Style Clothing Company: (Re)Style is new to Tacoma but I can already tell that it’s going to be a favorite spot of mine. Everything at (Re)Style is sold on consignment (meaning it’s being sold on behalf of the original owner so they get a portion of the sales). The shop doesn’t accept fast fashion brands like Old Navy or H&M, meaning the shop contains higher end brands, but at a great price! I personally don’t like to buy fast fashion second hand, mostly because I don’t want to create demand for these companies in the second-hand market, so I am glad that I can easily avoid those at (Re)Style. The founder, Kirsten, is awesome and into sustainability and the zero waste movement, so I love that I get to live out my values when I shop there.

Stadium Thriftway: Like every other place in this post, Stadium Thriftway is part of a local company and they support local nonprofits (including the one I work at). The Thriftway has a small, but reasonably priced, bulk section that has options ranging from nuts and beans to candy and I’ve never had a problem using my reusable produce bags there. They also sell milk and yogurt in glass jars that can be returned for a refund (or repurposed for your reusables collection). Unfortunately, like most grocers, they put rubber-bands or ties on their greens, but I’m just happy to have found a place that sells spinach that isn’t in a plastic bag.

Tacoma Thrift & Consignment: So a little disclaimer on this one, I’m friends with the owner, Jess, but that doesn’t make it any less amazing. Located in a small store on 6th Ave., Tacoma Thrift & Consignment is my favorite place for housewares. When I started my zero waste journey, I raided Jess’s collection of mason jars and other containers and she has helped me keep that collection in stock along the way by giving me a heads up when more jars arrive at her shop. She almost always has cool Pyrex containers and other glasses and mugs that will add way more personality to a new place than mass-produced housewares from Target. Looking through her place, I regret that I ever went to big box stores first when looking for new pieces for my kitchen. The shop also carries jewelry, clothes, books, records, and locally made goods so there’s a little bit of everything you may need.

Purpose Boutique: I’ve been trying to buy all of my clothing second-hand, but sometimes it can be tricky to find pieces when you have something specific in mind. If I am going to buy something new, I want to make sure it’s from an ethical clothing brand that reflects my values. Not only does the shop donate 15% of their profits to fight sex-trafficking, they also carry brands that empower women around the world. The clothing is a bit pricey, but it’s worth the occasional splurge for fair trade clothing that isn’t exploitive. An important part of living zero waste is changing your expectations of what a shopping trip looks like. When I used to shop at the mall, it didn’t feel like a success if I didn’t leave with nearly overflowing bags from H&M and Forever 21. Now, I am content to leave a place with one or two pieces that I genuinely love.

Overall, Tacoma is a great place to live zero waste and I’m finding that there is a growing community of people that are passionate about reducing their waste. Do you live in the South Sound? What are some of your favorite zero waste spots?


2 thoughts on “Zero Waste Tacoma

  1. Looking in Tacoma for package free, natural material cleaning supplies — broom, mop, etc. Can someone point me there? Trying to avoid ordering online whenever I can help it. E


    1. I think your best bet is shopping second hand for things like brooms or rags for cleaning (or re-purpose old T-shirts). Marlene’s is also great! Also, A Drop In The Ocean just opened an online shop. She’s doing refills at the moment (but is doing local events in Tacoma to avoid shipping) and if there’s interest maybe she’ll start stocking more cleaning supplies 🙂


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