Here’s why I started the first online plastic-free grocery delivery startup

Zuleyka Strasner
3 min readNov 14, 2019

Founding a startup is not easy, but to make matters more difficult, we are doing it plastic-free. In 2018, I went on my honeymoon to Little Corn, Nicaragua. If you haven’t heard of it, look it up. It’s a tiny island in the Caribbean sea with a population of ~1k. Little Corn’s hourglass shape is accented by shallow, warm, lapping turquoise waters. It takes 3 hours to walk around the whole island.

Little Corn has a major plastic problem. While the eco resort where we stayed was paradise, the east and west sides of the island are littered in plastic trash. When I asked locals why, they simply said, “It just washes up here every day”.

Before Little Corn, I didn’t really pay any attention to plastic. I have a background in politics (specific interests in foreign and educational policy) with a deep love of ground campaigning and organizing. I had never studied the environment, worked on anything concerning the health of our planet, or thought deeply about the roles of consumers or governments in fighting climate change.

Actually, my husband used to tease me for my love of plastic wrap (read: Cling Film, if you’re from 🇬🇧 ). I would grab a bowl of leftovers and encircle it some fifteen times in plastic wrap. If he bothered me, I’d say, “I’m tired, plus I just put something in the recycling”. I felt good about that. It was later that I found out 90% of my recycling never actually got recycled. My “recycling” was going straight to landfill along with the rest of my trash.

I returned from Nicaragua with a newfound vigor that took me from one extreme to the other. I emptied my kitchen cupboards and set about going “zero waste”. I saw women on Instagram with four years worth of trash stashed into a 16oz jar and thought “that’s gonna be me”. I would drive the 45 minutes from Redwood City to Rainbow Grocery (the Zero Waste Mecca) armed with my jars. I’d spend hours shoving powders into my jars, pouring liquids into my bottles and calling stores on the other side of the Bay to look for obscure, hard-to-find ingredients. I was exhausted, but slogged on for a year and a half. I kept thinking “no-one in their right mind is going to do this, let alone those with kids, those working long hours, women, men, singles, anyone!”

That’s when I decided to build Zero, the first plastic-free online grocery store. I wanted to combine the convenience of online grocery shopping, the low price of bulk stores, and environmentalism. We quickly outgrew my apartment and got real paying customers, VC funding, a warehouse in Redwood City and ten team members in less than 9 months.

Today Zero, @ is available to anyone living in San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley and Redwood City (more coming soon — stay tuned). If you order by 7pm, you’ll have plastic free groceries outside your door the very next day. We even have the ability to stock your fridge if you choose Zero’s in-home service. Growing this fast, we’re continually amazed by the rate at which our world is going plastic-free.

I started Zero because I wanted to help our customers save the environment. I was one woman with no savings, no money, and lots of ideas to bring environmentalism to the masses. That’s why our team is building Zero, and I hope you’ll support the cause!

How we build Zero is a different feat. Stay tuned.



Zuleyka Strasner

Founder & CEO @zerogrocery_ | London —> Silicon Valley