The most overwhelming step for me when transitioning to a zero waste lifestyle was finding places to do my grocery shopping package-free. Supermarkets weren’t willing to accommodate my requests for “just put it straight into my container please” due to made-up “health and safety” excuses and frustratingly, all of the organic produce came wrapped in even more plastic packaging than the non-organic, or as I like to call it “agro-chemical sprayed” food.
So I did some research. I used the Bulk App. And I went exploring. After a few weeks, and a lot of Googling, I had found a handful of places where I knew I could get specific items. If you wanna know where I currently shop zero waste in London, read this blog post.
I now love my weekly trip to the Daylesford farm shop, which is only 6-7 mins walk away, for my organic meat, cheese and seasonal organic produce. The staff know me by name and are used to me bringing my own tins, jars and cloth bags. After nearly 4 years, they know the drill.
If I want grains, then it’s a stroll up to High St Kensington where Wholefoods has some organic British grown wheat berries and organic popcorn. For organic porridge oats and nuts, As Nature Intended is my go to, either on Edgware Road or in Balham. Organic sugar, salt, lentils and flour I buy from bulk at the E5 Bakehouse in East London. Organic olive oil is on tap in Battersea. You see, I’m quite literally, all over the place! Which I actually enjoy most of the time – it encourages me to explore parts of London I may never think to go to.
But there have been moments when I have wished for an all-in-one shop where I could buy organic produce, dry goods, wine, beer, oils, honey, vinegar and household cleaning refills all under one roof. Unpackaged, London’s first zero waste store, was the closest thing we’ve had, but sadly it closed shortly after I started my zero waste journey. I had the opportunity to visit a couple of times and loved how much I could gather in one location. A refill bottle of organic maple syrup was my first ever zero waste purchase and it came from Unpackaged.
But with more and more people embracing zero waste in the UK (finally!), there has been a serious void in the market for more zero-waste friendly shops waiting to be filled. I have long wished someone would follow in the footsteps of the many zero waste bulk stores I’ve witnessed opening up throughout France and Germany such as Original Unverpackt.
Turns out, wishes can come true!
There’s a new all-inclusive bulk store heading our way, Londoners! It’s called Bulk Market® and they have a crowdfunding campaign on Spacehive running at the moment. I pledged last week and cannot wait to visit once it opens in August later this year.
Hackney in East London will be the home of this waste-free market, where people can find everything needed to live a more sustainable life – from dry goods, to homemade pasta and natural ingredients for those who wanna give DIY beauty recipes a go. The products available will be sourced locally from social enterprises, cooperatives, community farms or made on site – all available to purchase from bulk or in reusable containers.
The space will have an apiary (a collection of beehives) supplying local honey made on site (something I am super excited about btw as I currently have to buy honey in glass jars with metal lids) as well as a plastic-free nut grinding machine where people can fill up their own jars on the spot. Ingrid Caldironi, CEO and all round awesome woman behind the project says “I am crazy about bees! These tiny cute hairy insects are so important for our food chain, and I think having bees on the site will help people realise the hard work involved in food production, and also reconnect with nature”.
There will also be a commercial-grade composting machine at the store to encourage people to drop off their compostable food waste. “People will even be able to bring in soiled pizza boxes to feed the composter. Once the compost is ready to use, people can pop down to collect it for free” explains Ingrid.
I absolutely love this idea. For a long time I’ve wanted London to adopt a similar composting scheme to the one in New York, where locals can save their food scraps in their freezer and simply take them down to the local farmer’s market at the weekend where they have drop off bins. Finally, Bulk Market® has come along and decided to start doing just that!
“We are working together with the Head of Waste Strategy in Hackney council to be part of the solution. There are plenty of case studies in Europe where local authorities work together with communities and independent retailers to tackle waste. It is not only doable, but has proven to be successful and it is what the future of retail looks like” Ingrid explains.
There will also be a recycled container-greenhouse for DIY classes. “Even the building materials will be diverted from landfills or up cycled” says Ingrid, who decided that neither the corporate world or policy makers were doing enough to tackle the waste problem so chose to take matters into her own hands. “People are so disconnected with food that they don’t even feel guilty when throwing it in the bin. And the same applies to the environment and the amount of disposable packaging we toss into landfills every year”.
Instead of the lifeless supermarket aisles filled with processed food-like products in single-use plastic packaging, Bulk Market® aims to reconnect people to the supply chain, help them understand where and how their food is grown and to reconnect them with nature. She says, “people will know how the food is made and where, all the way from field to table, and ultimately, to the bin. This idea came from my own needs. I wanted to support the right businesses and be able to shop without creating any waste, but there wasn’t anything like that in London. I’ve decided to take the leap”.
According to recent data published by Wrap UK, the average recycling rate in Britain is 43% meaning 57% of resources are going to waste either in landfills, incinerators or (most likely!) finding their way into the ocean.
Yesterday I watch the documentary Tapped and earlier this week I finally got around to watching Sky’s documentary, A Plastic Tide. Both highlight the hugely concerning health and environmental impacts of plastics (from production to end product) as well as showing just how ridiculous it is that we throw this energy and resource intentisive material “away” after only a few moments use. But both deliver a message of hope, starting with our individual actions. May I suggest embracing a zero waste lifestyle as a wonderful way to start?
(I would also highly recommend watching this short video by The Story of Stuff about bottled water: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Se12y9hSOM0&t=185s )