On Tuesdays, Ben Schrik, owner and operator of Bristlecone Market (a low-waste grocery delivery service), drives his Subaru around North County to help San Diegans rid their lives of plastic packaging. This former professional motocross rider wasn’t always catering to the health of his environment. After watching the film The 11th Hour, he realized that as a surfer passionate about the ocean’s health, he wanted to have a less-impactful existence on the planet. Schrik says he found inspiration from “the resilience of the bristlecone pine, the oldest living species in the world and earth’s best example of adaptation for survival,” to develop Bristlecone Market, which allows North County residents to purchase (mostly) organic, locally sourced goods without adding to the landfill.  

Ben Schrik stopping at Sage Hill Ranch Gardens. Image: Courtesy of Bristlecone Market.

Schrik learned about regenerative organic agriculture and zero-waste products when he worked in the financial planning department at Dr. Bronner’s. But it was through traveling that he first understood how package-free bulk groceries could be the future of sustainability. “Seeing [zero-waste] stores in Australia and San Francisco’s Rainbow Grocery, I realized we desperately needed one locally, one that also makes it easy to find local in-season produce. I was preparing for a retail store when the pandemic hit, so I pivoted to be a delivery service and launched in February 2021.”  

Image: Courtesy of Bristlecone Market.

Schrik sources all of Bristlecone’s produce, bread, and eggs from local farms. With thousands of small farms in San Diego County, he wanted to offer customers an easy place to get trustworthy food. He found no-till and organically farmed produce from Sage Hill Ranch Gardens, gold-standard eggs from Eben-Haezer's Happy Hens, and Prager Brothers bread, and then packaged it all in compostable or recyclable bags. 

He also wanted customers to have access to more than just produce. Using San Francisco’s Rainbow Grocery as a model (which, by his account, has the best bulk section of dry goods on earth), he began sourcing nuts, dried mangoes, flours, pasta, seeds, rice, and more, none of which are shrouded in plastic. For now, most organic dry goods come from outside of San Diego, but he’s actively searching for other local producers like Rio Del Rey Beans, the only heirloom bean grower in the county. Schrik hopes to add different fruit offerings in the future too.  

Currently, Bristlecone delivers throughout North County to as far south as Sorrento Valley. Schrik plans to begin offering a mobile zero-waste marketplace at Leucadia Farmers’ Market, a pickup location for folks in south San Diego, and plans for a brick-and-mortar zero-waste shop is also in the works. 

Image: Courtesy of Bristlecone Market.

He acknowledges that bulk shopping takes some getting used to. But just like we learned to lug our tote bags to the store, we can adapt our habits to also bring our own containers or cloth bags. For folks unsure of how to integrate zero-waste shopping into their lives, Schrik advises that you “find a way to romanticize it. Gather a collection of glass jars you like and display them. You can make it more beautiful than a pantry cluttered with packaging. Plus, you’re saving money buying in bulk and not buying packaging. Finding benefits for you personally helps you overcome the burden of filling containers.” 

He’s right. Shoppers generally save between $1 to $2 on bulk purchases while also not adding non-decomposable plastic into the landfill. 

Schrik adds, “With every major climate change over the last 5,000 years, the bristlecone pine has adapted its bark to survive in its new climate.” We can adapt too.

Edible San Diego Issue 66 Summer 2022
Cover Image by Dave Rudie.

Published in the print edition of Edible San Diego's summer 2022 issue.

Read issue 66 online now.

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About the Contributor
Michele Bigley
Michele Bigley lives, eats and plays in San Diego with her family. Her work has appeared in Outside, New York Times, AFAR, Hidden Compass and many more. Follow @michelebigley for her adventures on Instagram and find her newsletter at michelebigley.substack.com.