This Packaging-free Grocery Puts Conscious Consumption Within Reach

Humble Market promotes the zero-waste lifestyle with locally-sourced, eco-friendly products.

Walking around a supermarket makes you keenly aware of how much waste goes into packaging. Plastic shampoo bottles, tubes of toothpaste—all this trash must go somewhere, and that somewhere often ends up being the ocean. With the zero-waste movement gaining so much traction in the past year, there’s never been a better time for eco-friendly enterprises to rise and provide alternative solutions.

Humble Market, a packaging-free grocery store that aims to reduce the use of plastic, is a breath of fresh air. The store occupies a quiet corner right inside YDG Coffee in Mandala Park along Shaw Boulevard, and you’ll see it right when you enter: an entire wall stacked with dispensers and bins for kitchen essentials and food items, plus a towering shelf devoted entirely to reusable and sustainable personal care products.

The concept is the brainchild of Roanna Medina, an integrated nutrition and health coach by profession. After being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease in 2014, she began to be more deliberate in deciding the kind of food she eats and the products she uses. “I choose clean, whole food, and I am mindful as much as possible about how they’re processed and sourced,” she says. This eventually led her to start her health coaching practice, The Healthy Row, where she helps clients make the transition to a healthier diet and lifestyle. And from her perspective, it’s all interconnected. “Whatever we do to the environment comes back to us and vice versa. How we take care of ourselves can help take care of the environment as well.”

“Whatever we do to the environment comes back to us and vice versa. How we take care of ourselves can help take care of the environment as well.”

- Roanna Medina, founder and owner of Humble Market

She started Humble Market as an extension of her practice, and through it, she wants to spread the idea that we can take charge of our health and feel empowered to make better choices. Here, practical and environmentally friendly alternatives are made easily accessible. You’ll find the usual glass and bamboo straws, but the store also sells shampoo bars, reusable facial wipes and feminine hygiene products, loofahs, powdered toothpaste and liquid deodorant from Zero Basics, even metal razors. Beeswax wraps are a great alternative to cling wrap, and Humble Market’s sets are made in Palawan to boot. Soy candles from Laguna-based Saan Saan are available as well; empty jars can be returned for a discount on your next purchase. “There are so many producers in the Philippines but they just need a marketplace and a platform,” Roanna says. “I want to get local brands and small businesses together and provide a place where people can easily access their products.”

Food items are sold by weight and the store operates on a simple self-service set-up. Customers are expected to weigh their containers, fill it with what they need, weigh it again, make a note of the net weight, then bring it over to the coffee shop counter to pay. (The shop offers paper bags, glass bottles, and glass jars for walk-in customers who don’t have their own containers.) Basic kitchen essentials like sea salt, vegetable oil, and rolled oats can be found alongside more unusual health food items like chlorella powder, activated charcoal, spirulina, maca powder, and goji berries. Roanna specifically wanted to stock these superfoods, knowing from experience that they are not as easily available. “What you find here is food that I enjoy eating and food that I also recommend to my clients.”

As much as possible, she sources products locally and values the relationships she has cultivated with her suppliers. Granola is procured from Cebu-based makers Pili and Pino; tablea, cacao nibs, and raw forest honey are all from Davao. Red rice is supplied by small rice farmers supported by the Rice Watch and Action Network, which works to protect these producers and pursue policy changes in the rice industry. Adlai, an heirloom grain and popular substitute for rice, is grown and harvested in Bukidnon. They’ve also partnered with local business Gabrielli Gourmet Pasta to offer organic spinach lasagna noodles and squash fettuccine.

It’s been quite a journey for Roanna, with Humble Market making its debut at The Good Trade bazaar last July and opening its brick-and-mortar shop just two days later. But there is nothing quite as fulfilling as seeing her dream come to life. “I’ve been wanting to do this since 2016,” she shares, recounting how she’s spent the last two years writing down ideas for the store she’s always wanted to open. And this corner at YDG Coffee in Mandala Park is the right place to start, the partnership a perfect fit: the building is solar-powered, and Good Food Sundays, a vegan market, is held right outside the shop every weekend.

Humble Market is located inside YDG Coffee, Mandala Park, Shaw Boulevard, Mandaluyong, 1552, Metro Manila, Philippines. Follow them on Facebook and Instagram: @humblemarketph

Author

Liezl Yap

Photographer

Ralph Mendoza

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