A breakdown of what makes our shop sustainable, inside and out.
I have a goal here at Earthian Zero Waste Shop to be a zero waste to landfill business. I've been working towards this since the shop was still in the planning stages and had hoped to reach that status by our first birthday. This goal is in the back of my mind whenever I look at new products or new suppliers to make sure that they are all aligned with our values.
Our birthday has passed and we didn't quite make that goal in our first year but I'm still pushing forward and hope to reach that status as soon as possible. I'm using the Carbon Trust Standard as my guide for what being a zero waste to landfill business means. Typically at least 99% of waste that the shop generates or that passes through the shop needs to be either reused, recycled, composted, or sent to energy recovery. The cost of accreditation and an official audit from the Carbon Trust is very high so we may never get a seal of approval but I'm still aiming for that 99% marker.
The shop is very close to reaching its goal and I've just taken another significant step forwards with regards to food packaging. I'm pleased to be putting out an update of where I am now with waste reduction at the shop and where it all goes. There are still some areas that need work but I'm getting there!
I work with a number of businesses who run a closed loop supply chain. A truly closed loop means that the packaging is sent back to the manufacturer to be sanitized and refilled and not just recycled. Packaging stays within the supply chain from factory to shop and back again. When you come to fill up your own containers, you know that there has been no waste generated to get that product from manufacture all the way to your home.
Cleaning and personal care liquids were the first closed loop system at the shop. I'm proud to stock two family run businesses - SESI and Miniml - who both deliver using their own fleets so that the empty tubs and containers can be picked up when the full ones are dropped off. This graphic from Miniml perfectly sums up the whole system.
SESI also supply our Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Coldpressed Rapeseed Oil using the same closed loop supply chain. They come from small suppliers who work in partnership with SESI to get the containers back to the start of their manufacture for reuse/refilling.
The other stock in the shop that is supplied on a closed loop system directly from the manufacturers are our Coffee Beans and Grounds from Forest Edge Roasting Company, and Oat Mylk from Toats Mylk. Both of these businesses are Hampshire based independents.
Recyclable or reusable packaging:
Most of our suppliers are specifically set up to distribute eco-friendly products and so their deliveries don't contain plastic packing materials. Wherever possible I save boxes and paper to pass on to customers. You can keep an eye on our social media as I regularly put notices up about boxes and packaging that are going spare! Or, if you're moving house I'll save them for you, just drop me a message to say you need some.
The majority of our food comes in paper sacks, these are 3 or 4 layers of paper so very strong and durable for holding between 20 and 25kg of produce but can be fully recycled. I also save them to pass on to anyone who could make use of them. If you'd like some we always have a few available to give out. They're great for allotments and gardens for winter storage or green waste. Anything that can be reused will be here at the shop!
Even with hours of research before getting in new products, I have been misled by suppliers a couple of times. Whenever I find excessive plastic packaging inside a delivery, I am disappointed but use it as a reason to get in touch with them and explain what we do and why it is important. I then don't use that supplier again and find a more sustainable alternative.
Despite all these efforts to reduce plastic packaging, we do still encounter it at the shop. Bulk dried fruit, nuts and some seeds need it for quality and protection in transit otherwise oils would seep into the paper and they would dry out. We also get odd bits of plastic from the backs of stickers, till rolls and similar unusual plastics passing through from business activities. These plastics are hard to recycle and neither our home nor commercial recycling bins will take it.
This is why I've started using a great company called Reworked. They supply us with a box which will take all kinds of clean, mixed plastics to be recycled at their specialist facility. When it's full, it is collected and I can order a new box to fill. They're a small company doing a great thing and I'm pleased that any remaining plastic from the shop is being properly processed and recycled.
Now that we have our recycling system with Reworked, we are about 90% there with our goal to being zero waste to landfill. I'll continue to monitor and audit the remaining waste streams to find different ways that we can avoid sending it to the waste bin. The commercial waste company that we use is aiming to send as little as possible to landfill which is reassuring but ideally, I would like to be able to recycle or reuse everything that comes in and out of the shop.
I hope that you found this quick tour of how I deal with waste here at the shop interesting. For me, this kind of transparency for the behind the scenes stuff is an important part of being an independent business owner. You know who I am, you know my motivations and you know that . Earthian Zero Waste Shop is sustainable, inside and out. While our processes continue to grow and adapt I know that I'll reach that goal of zero waste to landfill soon!