Since September 2019, I have been working in a zero-waste shop. Shopping at these sorts of shops has become the norm for me since living in Bristol, but it occurred to me that perhaps not everyone knows what that even involves. Since chain stores like Waitrose are now trialing packaging-free stations, I thought I’d give you the lowdown. It’s really pretty straightforward; you pop into the shop with whatever reusable containers you have at home and fill them up with anything from pasta to vegan fudge to loose tea to washing up liquid. We even make dairy-free milk and butter from scratch using whatever ingredients you like! The whole point is to cut down on single-use packaging and product wastage – you only buy what you need.
I know from first-hand experience now that some people find the whole process a little daunting. There’s the possibility of spilling stuff (which obviously isn’t ideal in a zero-waste shop), getting it “wrong”, or just not knowing where to start when you’re surrounded by so many options. But once you get into the swing of it, it’s so much more straightforward than elbowing your way through the aisles of Tesco, not to mention the environmental damage you’re preventing.
One myth I’d like to debunk is that it is not more expensive than supermarket shopping. Head to the Preserve Foods Instagram and check out their Prices Highlight for a few examples of the money you can save by shopping zero-waste. Things like nutritional yeast (a fave of mine), chia and sunflower seeds, and even things like salt and pepper are under half of the price of retail.
A few easy changes…
- Swap out your toothbrush for a bamboo or electric one
- Swap out your disposable plastic razors for safety razors
- Take your own bags to the shop rather than getting plastic ones
- Refill your shampoo and conditioner bottles or use bars instead
- Switch to dent tabs instead of toothpaste tubes
- Use a lunch box or sandwich wrap
So, is this a trend? Or something that desperately needs to happen more widely? With mainstream supermarkets now joining in, I’m torn. On the one hand, I’m so happy that it’s catching on and becoming popular, but I do worry that it’s a trend that’ll wear off eventually. Optimistically, I hope that people are starting to realise the importance of waste reduction and how easy it is to make little changes once you know how.