What can other businesses learn from the zero waste shop model? We take a look at Zero Green in Bristol for some ideas.
Working with suppliers to create change.
In the world of sustainability, we always talk about inspiring the supply chain and bringing suppliers with us on the journey, to create greater impact. With the current focus on single-use plastic packaging, there has certainly been lots of calls from individuals and businesses to reduce plastics which forces businesses to look at their supply chain.
This has led to some knee jerk reactions switching to materials like compostable plastics (which don’t have a clear waste stream) or some ridiculous acts of greenwash where plastic straws and lids have been swapped for plastic lids, which are actually more plastic by weight (Starbucks)! All of which do not tackle the issues of littering or marine pollution because compostables and lids can still wash down storm drains and enter the oceans where they will remain for marine life to eat.
Case Study: Zero Green
There are many other organisations who are genuinely working with their supply chain to reduce packaging and waste. A particularly inspiring example is Zero Green, a zero waste shop in Bedminster, Bristol who is living up to its name.
They, and many other zero waste shops, have worked with their dried goods suppliers to change the bulk bags from clear plastic to paper and hessian. Some goods still come in woven polypropylene bags but the suppliers collect these back as they can recycle them, due to high volumes.
Where Zero Green offer refills of cleaning products, they have found independent local suppliers who were able to refill their own barrels removing that waste stream completely. This is something that the national/international brands don’t do.
Cleaning liquids delivered in containers that are refilled by suppliers.
In looking for suppliers of packaging-free sweets, toothpaste and shampoos, they have found small-scale, local suppliers who have greater flexibility in their packaging and delivery. Some deliver chocolates directly to the store or send toothy tabs (toothpaste alternatives) in the post in envelopes.
Rather than pre-packaging up peanut butter or vegan mylk, the store makes daily batches throughout the day which people can fill their own containers with.
In seeking to be truly zero-waste the shop discourages customers from even using paper bags (no plastic bags insight) by charging for them and providing a packaging library. This is simply a rack of pre-loved and used reusable containers including plastic boxes, bags, bottles and jars dropped off by customers, that people can use free of charge with the option of returning.
Additional social and environmental benefits
Clearly, the measures that the store has gone to have many other social and environmental benefits:
The Insight and Inspiration for other businesses
Clearly for many businesses e.g. online businesses these measures may seem harder to achieve. However, what they prompt is a way of looking at your supply chain and customers and questioning our make-use-dispose model of selling and consuming. So these are some questions to consider and conversations to have with your supply chain:
Some of these concepts may seem achievable for your individual business so think about collaboration. The below schemes highlight the power of collaboration to make reuse and reduce more viable: