LA2050 Grants Challenge applications are open now through June 28th, 2024.
2023 Grants Challenge

Creating Koreatown's First Zero-Waste Store

Zero-waste stores are gaining popularity in Los Angeles, with new refilleries popping up all over town. However, these stores are in wealthier areas, leaving residents of central LA-who often face higher environmental burdens despite living more sustainable lifestyles-without environmentally-friendly options. Zero Waste Koreatown will address this disparity by creating a bulk store in LA's densest neighborhood, bringing sustainable, affordable, healthy bulk groceries and goods to underserved lower-income people and communities of color.


What is the primary issue area that your application will impact?

Income Inequality

In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

Central LA

In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Expand existing project, program, or initiative

What is your understanding of the issue that you are seeking to address?

Walking around Koreatown, it's clear that people live very sustainable lifestyles: using public transit, growing vegetables on balconies, and creatively reusing materials. However, Koreatown is underserved by amenities like bike lanes, green spaces, and zero waste stores, unlike wealthier wealthier areas. As a low-income neighborhood facing environmental burdens, Koreatown would benefit from an affordable bulk store. Residents of majority low-income communities of color are rarely seen as environmentally conscious despite their contributions, and they are excluded from environmental benefits. Local stores sell primarily packaged goods that create excessive plastic waste. Buying organic bulk staples is impossible, and many struggle to balance the costs of food and rent. Koreatown residents should not have to take hour-long bus rides to access bulk goods. A zero-waste store would allow Koreatown residents to cut food costs, reduce waste, and further lower their environmental impact.

Describe the project, program, or initiative this grant will support to address the issue.

Zero Waste Koreatown (ZWK) will create a bulk food and home goods store to serve Central LA, located next to the LA Ecovillage. ZWK will increase access to affordable, organic, bulk goods; reduce greenhouse gas emissions; reduce packaging waste; and create a neighborhood meeting. It will demonstrate that ecological amenities and organic food should be available to underserved communities that already live sustainable lifestyles, not just wealthy Angelenos. ZWK will sell bulk dry goods, organic produce, beauty products, home goods, and cleaning products. Studies show that low-income people prefer organic groceries but are less likely to buy them because of the cost. ZWK will keep prices accessible by buying bulk goods wholesale and reselling them without packaging. Low-income communities and people of color have disproportionately higher levels of exposure to harmful toxins in household products, and safer products are often too expensive. ZWK will help change residents' shopping habits while sharing information on safer products, reuse, and recycling practices. Inventory will be responsive to local cuisines and needs, offering goods that are not available at other refilleries. Customers will use reusable containers for bulk items, helping to divert waste away from streets and landfills and reduce emissions associated with packaging materials. ZWK will also be a community space for reuse-focused events like repair workshops, swap parties, cooking classes, and gardening.

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

Zero Waste Koreatown has the potential to improve residents' health and quality of life by making organic food and non-toxic cleaning and body products accessible. It will reinforce the sense of environmental stewardship that is already present in the community. ZWK will host activities promoting repair, reuse, and cost savings. The store may sell repurposed and upcycled items such as clothing and furniture at affordable prices, or host swaps for neighbors to exchange unwanted items. Community members will be invited to share their skills by teaching workshops on sewing, mending, fixing electronics, gardening, and other eco-friendly activities. This space would benefit the neighborhood by making ecological and creative reuse activities more inclusive and welcoming. Like bulk stores, spaces like this exist in LA, but they serve higher-income residents. ZWK will be led by longtime residents who understand community needs, and will include programming in commonly spoken languages.

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

LA EcoVillage's Food Lobby is an existing bulk store next door to the ZWK site. It is only open to housing co-op members and has limited hours, so there is demand from neighbors for a public-facing store. ZWK will build on the Food Lobby's model, using some of their processes and their relationships with suppliers. ZWK will define success as maintaining steady sales and regular open hours, so that the project can continue past the grant period. We will track sales, volunteers, and participants at our community events. To ensure that ZWK is responsive to community needs, we will invite feedback through surveys, suggestion boxes, and discussions at events. Feedback will touch on what to stock, prices, programming, and how the space could be more welcoming. We will publicize the store and event space by flyering the neighborhood, tabling at events, and conducting outreach to local environmental and social justice organizations.

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

Direct Impact: 2,000

Indirect Impact: 5,000