Environmental Sustainability at Neighborhood Produce

Neighborhood ProduceMatt Gray, owner of Neighborhood Produce. Photo by Adrianne Mathiowetz.

Best Eco-Friendly Business   
415 Medford St., (617) 702-2811

Winter Hill resident Matt Gray opened Neighborhood Produce last November to meet a need he saw in his community: access to healthy grocery options without needing a car.

Customers return to the store week after week, Gray says, giving it the community feel he’d hoped for.

One of the main reasons people come to the store is because it’s really easy to not make grocery shopping a source of waste at Neighborhood Produce. First, there’s the bulk food section, which customers tell Gray is a big draw. There are the bulk foods you’d expect—nuts, beans, rice, dried fruit, grains—but also foods that are more unusual for bulk sections, like coffee, oatmeal, spices, and tea.

Neighborhood Produce sells reusable spice jars for $1, which Gray says many customers choose to buy. They then return week after week and refill the spice jars with whatever they need.

While many people bring their own bags for the bulk food section, Neighborhood Produce offers paper bags—which are more environmentally friendly than the typical plastic.

Neighborhood Produce also sells milk in glass bottles, and Gray says that people bring back virtually all of the bottles.

“The milk bottles have been very popular … being able to get milk in a bottle or bulk in your own container, along with it being in your neighborhood and being able to walk to it,” Gray says. “You’re really reducing the carbon footprint and the amount of waste associated with getting groceries down near zero.”

The store also gives a second life to some “number two produce”—fruits and vegetables that are deemed too visually unappealing to sell, and are typically destined for processed foods, animal feed, or a trash can.

Gray’s commitment to environmentally friendly grocery shopping extends beyond the customer’s experience. In addition to the ways he’s made it easy for shoppers to reduce their waste, Neighborhood Produce is careful about its waste as well. Gray donates most of the store’s leftover food to the Elizabeth Peabody House and Food Link, and the rest is composted.

“We pretty much zero waste coming out of the store,” Gray says. “I think it’s something that appeals to people.”

This story originally appeared in the 2018 Scout’s Honored issue of Scout Somerville, which is available for free at more than 200 locations throughout the city or by subscription.

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