Updated: Aug 29
Bellingham is a cute little town in the northwest corner of Washington State. With a population of 80,000 people it's small enough to know your way around and big enough to have quite a few hidden gems! If you've lived here all your life or just coming to visit, it's a good idea to know the local options for buying products zero waste.
Before you jump right into shopping zero waste, make sure you bring all your supplies and understand the rules around bringing your own jars (because there are some things to know before you go). Bellingham also offers curbside composting which you'll be able to find at many of the stores listed below.
With two locations, the Bellingham Food Coop is the ideal grocery store. It stocks mostly organic produce with labels highlighting items that are GMO-free, gluten-free, and local. Both stores have a healthy supply of bulk dried goods such as grains, sugars, beans, granola, snacks, coffee, and seeds. The location located off of Garden Street also has bulk syrup, honey, oils, agave syrup, and various nut butters. The coop is very "bring your own container" friendly and has stations to tare your jars before filling them. They carry eggs packaging free and locally made yogurt in glass jars.
A small shop on Holly Street, Wonderland Teas is a hidden gem for the bulk buyer. The owner, Linda Quintana, has the largest selection of bulk teas I have ever seen. Mixing many of the blends herself, she is very knowledgeable about the health benefits and properties in each one. On the shelves, you can find tea strainers and tea cups for using your bulk tea. There is also a collection of medicinal salves and lotions made by local businesses. Linda is happy to fill your own jar when requested!
A long standing tradition for Bhamsters is a visit to Mallards Ice Cream on the weekend. With ducks all over the display cases and a beautiful fire place, it is the perfect place to hang out and eat some locally made desserts. Although they can be a little finicky about putting ice cream in your own container (it depends on who is serving you), their bowls and pints are compostable in the city composting system and are never sealed with plastic. Whether you finish it there or take it home, just deposit the container in the green bins labeled "Food Plus" around the city. Even their tasting spoons are metal and get washed for re-use!
Parking in the downtown streets can get busy on a Saturday morning as people roll in to visit the farmers market. Hosting several dozen vendors each week, the market is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. with live music and events every week! Vendors include farmers selling in-season produce, local food trucks, and many craft trades. Overall, farmers are happy to put produce in your bags - but may insist you take the twist ties around the lettuce heads so watch out! The Farmers Market is open from April to September every Saturday with once-monthly days during the winter.
Now technically Samish Bay Cheese is located in Bow, Washington but they attend the Bellingham Farmer's Market each week so I am including them in this list. Samish Bay Cheese makes yogurt and kefir in glass jars you can purchase at the Bellingham Food Coop anytime, and brings a collection of cheeses to the farmer's market each week. If you bring your own container, they are happily to place a slice of delicious cheese in it for you to enjoy at home!
6. Fred Meyer
Although Fred Meyer doesn't compare to the Food Coop in terms of variety, it offers another option to consumers for packaging-free goods. Containing bins of grains, flours, sugars, granolas, pastas, snacks, and seeds, it has a nice variety to keep your pantry stocked. Although Fred Meyer says customers can bring their own containers, many cashiers do not know how to take off the tare weight and will charge you for the whole thing. To ease their confusion and your frustration, I suggest you use only reusable bags for the bulk items which have a negligible weight. Fred Meyer also has a large variety of organic produce, fresh baked items, and will put meat in your own glass container when requested from the meat counter.
If you are looking for bulk junk candies, Haggen definitely will have what you're looking for! They are stocked with all the traditional licorices, gummy worms, and chocolate rocks you dreamed of as a kid. In addition, it sports a hefty bulk section with basic dry goods, pastas, beans, peas, and loose bagels and donuts. Haggen will not weigh your own containers so please bring a cloth or reusable plastic bags to put your treats in! Haggen has quite a few locations around Bellingham but I am most familiar with the Haggen in Sehome Village.
8. Joe's Garden
If you are passing through on a weekday and the market's not open, Joe's Garden is a lovely hidden gem in Bellingham! With their "store" literally on their farm, it's a great place to buy in-season produce as well as plant starts. Since the produce is freshly harvested, their is very minimal packaging, if any. Definitely bring your own mesh bags to fill up on yummy items! And support a local farm at the same time. Joe's Garden is open every day of the week but make sure to check their website as their hours vary and they are only open from March through mid-October.