I admit it, before yesterday i was a zero waste virgin. I had never filled up my own container in a store, and it was time i started! This is a guide to the ins and outs of zero waste stores, how to find them, how to take advantage of them and get the best deals and also what to expect.
In this blog post i aim to take you along on my journey in finding out more about this mysterious way of shopping - which is actually probably very similar to how our grandparents shopped. This was the 'good old days' before the fluorescent lit supermarkets with their scientifically orchestrated ways suggesting to you what you need to buy before you even knew you needed to.
In hackney we are lucky because when i googled zero waste stores in hackney there are a lot very close to where i live. This is important because proximity and practicality is everything when it comes to buying zero waste. The above picture is me looking at the nice row of grains and cereals at my most local zero waste shop called Get Loose. I think in order to be a zero waste shop you first need to come up with a good PUN shop name :)
This image is from a shop in Hackney City Farm called Get Loose Foods. I'm going to do a comparison to see whether its cheaper or more expensive to shop like this, taking a basic item - Basmati rice as an example.
Online/offline zero waste shops
I found some other zero waste shops which i like the look of, they are located far away from my place but they offer delivery, now, i'm not sure about this becuase i wonder, does this defeat the object of them being zero waste if they are packaging up their products and delivering them to me? As a business owner i get that to subsidise the walk-in customers you need to also get the quantity afforded by online shopping (a larger catchment area)
Basmati Rice - a price comparison
Get loose - Basmati Rice £4.20/kg
Sainbury's - own brand basmati rice £1.85/kg
Tilda - basmati rice £4.90/kg (Sainbury's)
Tilda - everyday basmati price £2.00/kg (iceland)
Re-Store - organic white basmati rice £4.90/kg
Washing up liquid - a price comparison
Washing up liquid is another item that is worth comparing.
Fairy from £2.61/litre (sainbury's or Iceland)
Fill yourself organic £8.50/litre from the Refill Room
Ecover from Sainbury's £3.11/litre
Method washing up liquid. (fancy bottle) Sainsbury's £5.64/litre
Although the Zero Waste shops can't compete on price alone, they offer a wide range of interesting products that you may not be able to get in a regular supermarket. For example the Re:store shop in Hackney downs also stocks a good range of vegan cheese such as Notzzarella and Shamenberg.
If you are wondering (like me) is there a difference between organic rice and regular rice? The answer is yes. Organic rice in simple terms is free from any kind of fertilizers and pesticides, in a nutshell, it is chemical-free. Normal or conventional rice is produced by using fertilizers and pesticides for better crop yield. Much of your decision making comes down to whether it is important that the products you eat are organic OR whether you are cutting down on plastic use. You also obviously need to choose the option that also comes within your price. budget.
PROS AND CONS OF ZERO WASTE SHOPPING
Here is Jessica from the zero waste shop in hackney called 'GET LOOSE', she explains just some of the benefits of shopping in this way. I have to say, i totally agree with them all.
Pros of shopping at Zero Waste stores
* wide range of interesting and hard to find products
* products are usually organic and certified at the shop's point of purchase from their suppliers
* you are cutting down on the use of plastic packaging
* you are supporting a more sustainable world and way of living and passing these habits onto to your children / friends.
* you are likely to be supporting a small independent business or social enterprise.
* its a much more pleasant and positive experience to shop in this way, more relaxing and less hectic
Negatives of shopping at Zero waste stores
* may not be the cheapest when comparing similar items
* you need to check whether products are organic, there is no packaging so information at the point of purchase is extra important
* no info packaging (inn case you need to know things about the product for later)
* it can be time consuming to shop around at different stores to find the things that you want
* it requires you to be more organised ie. taking your own bags or containers with you for maximum impact. You also need to forgo the convenience of the typical corner shop / supermarket.
Will zero waste shopping become mainstream?
I think that right now shopping like this is still niche activity for people who are really forward in their sustainability agenda. Especially with the likes of supermarkets like Tesco and even Amazon sprouting their brightly lit shops on every second street corner. Ultra independent shops like 'Get Loose' in Hackney will remain trail blazers in this way of shopping and hopefully survive as the mainstream shops begin to realise how shoppers actually WANT to be more sustainable. I predict that these big shops will then start to offer more loose products shopping options - such as nuts / sweets / veg that you can buy by the kilo and use your own packaging.
Zero waste shops will also smarten up and also offer a wider range of household staples such as soap / washing up and cleaning products etc to ensure that customers don't have to go to too many different shops to fulfil their weekly shopping needs. At the same time, people will be making an effort to consciously slow down their lives and make time to shop more locally, slowly and at a variety of different specialist shops. The go go go life of pre-covid is fading away as people choose experience over convenience.
So, how was my first experience of Zero Waste shopping? well it was as good as i could imagine, i loved chatting to Jessica about the products, found out about new products i'd never heard about like Sunflower mince from Austria which can act as convincing vegan mince meat. There was also something magical about helping yourself to the produce, it put me one step closer to nature. It also made me feel like i was playing shop as a child or helping myself to a soft serve ice cream. I loved it, and i want to shop like this as much as possible. I also want to take my kids to shops like this and get them converted to this much more fulfilling and sustainable way of shopping.
Zero waste shops are still niche but i predict they will become more prevalent in the future. Many people don't shop like this now for a number of reasons but there are so many positive reasons to make the switch, even if its just for a small portion of your shopping. This article lists positives and negatives to shopping at Zero Waste shops. The main positives are that you are doing something positive for the environment and the economy and the negatives is that it could be more inconvenient and expensive. Its down to your priorities, but either way, i would give it ago.