A Sustainable Fit
How we’re creating a low impact shop from the very start.
Over the last year I have been listening to and learning from those who already run zero waste shops around the UK. The zero waste shop community is one of the most open, supportive and encouraging I’ve been fortunate to find myself part of and their advice has been invaluable. I started online in April 2019 and it was a joy to share my handmade, plastic-reducing items with everyone. My dream has always been to create the most sustainable, ethical and low waste shop I could, now I will be bringing this passion to the high street to support my local community.
Alongside my friend (and talented Winchester designer) Dan Bee, we are building a shop that has had every aspect thought of through the lens of sustainability and longevity. As we get started putting our ideas into the real world, I wanted to share a few of our favourite things about the shop build with you all.
It may seem like a small detail, but painting the shop is one of the most transformative things that we will do. To change the colour scheme, freshen and revitalise a shop that has been empty for some time will breathe life into it, so it was important that we do it right.
This is why we have chosen to use Auro, which is one of Ethical Consumers Best Buys for sustainable paint. Their paint is made using natural raw materials - the main ingredient is castor oil. It contains no acrylic, chemicals or solvents. Amazingly, due to the 100% natural ingredients it uses, any paint residue or chips are actually compostable! Auro manufacturing is certified as carbon neutral and their offices are run from a combination of solar panels on the roof and renewable energy supplied on the grid. They take sourcing ethical ingredients seriously as well, ensuring that farmers have signed a declaration against child labour and modern slavery.
They are the cornerstone of the shop and how it reduces packaging waste. Although it may seem counter-productive at first glance to see a wall of plastic, the dispensers are reusable for as long as the shop exists and products have to be stored and dispensed safely while on the shop floor. I’ve done a fair bit of research on the topic, and I have found a sustainable solution. Instead of using virgin plastic, I will be purchasing a relatively new range of gravity dispensers and scoop bins made from post-consumer recycled plastic instead.
If we are going to tackle the issue of waste, recycling has to be a part of the cleaning up process to put waste materials back into production and keep them out of the ocean. These recycled dispensers and scoop bins are fantastic. They're 100% food safe, BPA-free and the company making them also uses in-house facilities to recycle factory scraps and off-cuts helping to further reduce waste in the production stages.
I’ve switched electricity for the shop unit over to Bulb, which sources from 100% renewable energy. They use a combination of solar, wind and hydro power. They are also a responsible energy company as they are a certified B-Corporation, which means they have been independently tested on their ethical, social and environmental policies, and they are a living wage employer. We use Bulb for our energy at home too, including for our gas which they offset to make it 100% carbon neutral.
In order to save valuable resources during the opening phase, we are not using any paper advertising and will be limiting other types of physical marketing to only things that can be reused after the shop is open. This does rule out quite a lot of the traditional forms of marketing, such as leaflets, posters and banners for getting the word out about our new shop. As we move into a more digital age, it is getting easier to leave these things behind but could mean we forfeit having a presence on the high street.
We have some exciting plans on how to advertise in and around Winchester. I don’t want to reveal too much straight away, but your clue is it will not only be green – it will also be very clean!
Possibly one of my favourite things is our plan for the counter. We are going to be taking off the existing fabric cover and replacing it with panels of beautiful, reclaimed wood from the Southampton Wood Recycling Project. They are a volunteer led organisation, which not only supports sustainable action by preventing tonnes of wood from being wasted, they also train people in valuable woodworking skills and help those looking to return to work.
Some items in the shop, such as food storage bins, may need to be bought new to ensure we’re meeting the highest food safety and hygiene standards that we can. But, the shop is a very small start-up business, so any savings we can make from buying second hand furniture or equipment will not only help keep our costs low so that the business can thrive, but will also help keep more stuff out of landfill. I will be haunting Gumtree, freecycle, ebay and charity shops for the next few weeks. I'm delighted that I've already snapped up these gorgeous solid wood bar stools to rest our tired feet behind the counter!
This shop is a reflection of everything I feel is important; working with the local community, always choosing the sustainable option and giving your all in whatever you do. This is the reason I chose the company motto – Unburden Our World – because I’m ready to take responsibility for my footprints on the earth. I hope that you love the shop as much as I do and I can’t wait to open doors in this beautiful community.
In the meantime, take care and I’ll speak to you all soon.