Someone asked, "What is ‘Zero Waste’ Living?"  

Here are some thoughts.

The perhaps misleading and sometimes misunderstood term 'zero waste' is far more complex than the literal words imply because it embraces an holistic philosophy that promotes sustainable living in the wider sense rather than to strive for a somewhat illusive goal of literally producing ‘zero waste.’  (Some do attempt to get close however!)

Producing waste is of course a consequence of living in our world but this approach challenges us to examine how we may habitually be creating excessive waste and to take personal responsibility for reducing it.

Essentially, zero waste living aims to drastically reduce all kinds of needless waste in our day to day living; buying enough to support our needs whilst mindful of avoiding excess - whether food, clothing or general retail shopping. It flies in the face of so-called ‘retail therapy’!

A zero-waste perspective, on the other hand, is rather more an invitation to a different approach; requiring a shift in our thinking which challenges the socially accepted wasteful and polluting excesses of our current world. Ideally, we move away from impulsive consumerism and purchase when in need, giving consideration to its quality and durability. We are more likely to then value what we have; consider mending rather than replacing; and when no longer useful, we can repurpose or re-home before we choose disposal. Recycling is a careful consideration, reserved as our last resort.

Zero-waste living at its heart is living with compassion and appreciation for the wider world in which we live. We are invited to tread more softly in the world - to share from the planet and help replenish. This involves gaining a wider understanding of how our food, clothing and ‘things’ in general are produced and by whom, which implies a wider ‘mindful’ shopping experience - certainly to reduce plastics, unnecessary packaging and waste, whilst also to consider the impact of their manufacture upon other people and the world around us.

Feeling overwhelmed and daunted?

Zero-waste living is perhaps best understood as an inspirational concept that we redefine for ourselves throughout our lives; acknowledging that each other’s choices are largely determined by our differing needs, finance, life transition and health. It is not an aspiration for perfection and neither is it an elevated position from which to judge others. It is rather a subtler, simplistic and yet hopefully an enriching way to live, that can demonstrate to others that every small change we each make will collectively make a significant difference and will help restore balance to our polluted world.

For me, it essentially means living more mindfully and simply and wherever possible to do least harm to the environment, animals or to other human beings.

So where do we start?

Our lives are so crammed full..with busy-ness and ‘stuff’ which appears to have taken ownership of us rather than serving our needs! Perhaps a good starting point is to take a step back and reassess what is important and to see how we can take back a sense of control by letting go of surplus - whether possessions or commitments.

Decluttering our lives, in every sense, fits hand in hand with zero-waste living. It offers us an opportunity to live more simply, purposefully and with space to breathe and discover enjoyment of what we have. 

The owners from the zero-waste shop in Totnes: ‘Earth.Food.Love’ emphasise the 5 principles of ‘Refuse. Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. Rot. (for consideration in that order) with helpful guidelines to drastically reduce waste that otherwise goes to landfill or recycling centres:

1. Refuse to be a part of the problem. Confidently refuse over-packaged products and single use plastics.

2. Reduce what you don’t need, simplify your life, donate unused items. Then reduce your carbon footprint in other areas too.

3. Reuse bags, jars, bottles, clothes; give everything a new lease of life.

4. Recycle what can’t be refused, reduced or reused.

5. Rot your organic materials, composting is nature’s natural process of recycling.

They also go on to say:

“Even with one small change YOU have the power to make a huge difference over the course of your lifetime and who knows who you will inspire along the way. Striving for zero waste isn’t about being perfect; it’s about taking responsibility for your own actions and looking at the bigger picture. Most importantly it’s about pledging to make conscious decisions in day-to-day life that will help to heal this planet and allow it to thrive, as it should.”

What is zero-waste shopping?

Essentially, it is one way of enabling people to live in a way that drastically reduces waste both in terms pf packaging and food. It is a return to a more traditional style of shopping which eliminates the use of single use plastics and excessive packaging. It encourages customers to consider the repercussions of ‘convenience’ shopping and the overstretched system of ‘recycling’, erroneously believed to be the remedy for plastic pollution. A wide range of dried whole foods, liquids and cleaning products are stored 'loose' in a range of dispensers for customers often to self serve and refill their own containers / bags with as much or as little as is needed. 

Na Smyth, The Severn Weigh. (Originally posted on facebook July 7th 2018)

Another Way... July 2020

For many reasons, we were unable to set up in town as a refill shop offering a self-serve zero waste shopping experience to customers. Following the COVID-19 outbreak, with so many shops having to adapt to social distancing, we realised that perhaps we could offer our community another way of shopping as close to the principles of zero-waste as possible primarily through click & collect and home delivery. The obvious key difference being that customers generally make orders through our website which are weighed out and packed by us but this of course must involve some form of packaging! 

Whilst we acknowledge that compromises may need to be made and packaging is inevitable, we aim to reduce all forms of plastic packaging where we can and will never package orders in single use plastic!

We purchase our food in paper bags where at all possible and re-use all forms of bulk packaging before recycling. Further, our customers' orders are always packed in PLASTIC FREE packaging - and so this will include recycled food grade paper bags or certified home compostable cellulose bags depending upon which food product is being packed.

* UPDATE: We have now introduced returnable glass jars for teas, hot chocolate, coffee and small orders of nuts etc plus amber bottles for our liquid refill products. We also sell organic cotton produce bags.

You can also simply pop in with a shopping list and bring your own containers for refilling and we will weigh out the contents for you. This is working well for customers who do not mind waiting or have just a few items they need. For larger orders, you might prefer to order online but please state that you want to bring in your own containers in the comments section at check-out and then bring them in to be filled - you can either wait while we weigh it out for you or come back later. Either way is fine by us!

Get in touch if you want to discuss various options - happy to help! Contact us here 

And so although we could not open in the high street as originally planned, we are now settled into our store in a beautifully tranquil field close to the River Severn. Why not arrange for a walk along the river and drop by afterwards to collect your order? 

We look forward to meeting you!