Zero Waste Shops: How to reduce your carbon footprint without increasing your food budget

Addressing the myth that they aren’t accessible for students

When you’re doing your weekly shopping in big Sainsburys, browsing the aisles and scouring for the cheapest, student-friendly options, do you stop and consider the amount of plastic involved? Probably not, because, except for some fruit and vegetables, there isn’t another option. Whilst supermarkets have made some effort at reducing plastic waste like charging for disposable bags, they have a long way to go before any real reduction in plastic is seen.

If you’ve spent what seems like hours making sure your bins are sorted into tins, glass, plastic and cardboard, you’ll know that most soft plastic can’t be recycled. So, those bags that your pasta, crisps and vegetables come in go to waste, contributing to the ever-pressing climate crisis.

In January 2021, the Guardian found that supermarkets were still putting 900,000 tonnes of plastic on the shelves, creating a massive carbon footprint that regular consumers, like most students, inevitably contribute to.

Whilst we cannot fix the climate crisis alone, there is an alternative to this plastic-filled nightmare: Zero-waste shops. Bristol students are privileged to live in one of the greenest cities in the UK with a surplus of zero-waste shops to visit. I recently started shopping at Scoop Away on Whiteladies Road and have since discovered the convenience and beauty of zero-waste shops.

Myths surrounding these shops are rife. Most people I have spoken to view them as expensive, limited and inaccessible, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. What I have found is that their prices are no different from the ordinary supermarket. Scoop Whole Foods offers a 10 per cent student discount which does add up.

If you have empty containers lying around you can bring them in or, if not, they have brown bags that you can fill and take back to reuse. The system is easy: you get a pen and a basket, take around your bags or pots, write the code of the product on the bag and fill it up with as much as you want. This means you can choose the exact amount you need, minimising food waste.

They have so many options and that really will fill up your food cupboard. From pasta to porridge, chocolate to dried fruit, flour, vegetable stock, vegan sausage mixture, every herb under the sun and so much more. All the items have an ingredient list to accommodate any allergies or intolerances.

I spoke to the owner, Rich Green, who helped to debunk some myths and emphasise why zero-waste shops are so important. When asked why he got into this line of work, Rich said: “I have always been into health and fitness and trying to cut down on plastic waste. I found myself driving to many different shops to try and buy everything I needed which seemed counterproductive.

“Therefore the concept of Scoop arrived attempting to be the sustainable alternative to supermarket shopping.” Rich believes in attracting more young people to the shop and feels that more students should shop there because it allows us to buy what we need and therefore can end up being cheaper if done properly.

I was curious to ask Rich what myths he felt needed debunking, to which he replied: “It is not expensive, and it is not just for the ‘hippy’ types. We offer prices very competitive with most supermarket prices when compared like for like.

We worked hard to create an easy solution to shopping zero waste with the design of our scoop bins, we maintain high cleanliness standards so when you walk into our shop it is bright and clean and easy to shop. Something that we believe is above the standards of a lot of other zero-waste shops.”

If you are interested in contributing to helping the climate crisis, shopping at zero-waste shops is one easy and fun way to do it. Most of their items are organic, with minimal ultra-processed foods. Therefore not only is it an environmentally friendly alternative, but a healthy one as well. So next time you find yourself walking down to Big Sainsburys walk up just a little bit and try Scoop Wholefoods or one of the other many zero waste shops in Bristol including: Preserve, Smaller Footprints, Zero Green, Eco Living and so many more.

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