Although we as a planet have always been aware of our waste output, in recent years the crippling truth and responsibility have become a reality for individuals. Consumers are becoming more educated about what products are made from and their impacts. In the media we are quick to highlight the high quantity of plastic items used at home, single-use plastic packaging in stores and the waste produced by fast fashion. Yet, because these things are such a regular part of our lives, it seems almost alien to consider a life without them.
Nevertheless, with the rise of awareness around these issues, the demand for waste free products has increased, with people opting for reusable water bottles, bags and packaging-free products. In Exeter a new store has opened on Fore Street called ‘ZERO’, where customers can fill their own jars with a range of ingredients and pay per weight. This simple concept allows people to reduce the waste they create from packaging while still getting their regular products.
Personally, I was intrigued when I heard about the store as it offers a new and easy way to reduce my waste. In previous months, I tackled changing my beauty products, opting for solid shampoos and quitting makeup wipes. I found these products easy to change as there were lots of options on the high-street, however this was not the case when I tried to switch out my kitchen items. Being conscious of waste often comes second to finding something that is cheap, edible and delicious, especially for students on a budget. Yet, with this new store open in Exeter I was determined to change my attitude. So, I washed out some used jars, created a list and set off for ZERO.
Upon arrival I was kindly greeted and immediately got chatting to the founder, Faye Jennings Mosquera. I learnt that for five years before ZERO, Faye made recycled interior pieces which increased her understanding of sustainability and reusing materials. This is clearly reflected in the store, alongside its accessible design. On top of the agenda to reduce waste, Faye emphasised that the store is centred around ethics and non-profit, stating “we have price matched about 95% of our food on the supermarkets, because affordability is vital”. This makes the store so incredible in my eyes, as it tears down the idea that being a conscious consumer is a more expensive lifestyle.
Faye is also adamant that the workers who create the products are all paid a fair UK wage, no matter where the ingredients are bought from. Furthermore, if all this wasn’t enough, Faye and her husband have also set up a scheme where for each Organicup (a reusable menstrual cup) a customer purchases from ZERO, they will donate one in person to a woman in poverty from Bogota, Santa Fe. This further shows that innovative thinking and ethics are at the centre of this business.
Fascinated by what I had learnt, I went around each section of the store. ZERO has a range of herbs and spices, flours, sugars and baking ingredients. In the middle there are dried fruits, snacks and chocolates, and near the back they even have food and cleaning liquids. To the front there are beauty products and reusable packaging. The process of taking ingredients is simple: weigh your empty jar, write this weight on the jar with a sharpie or onto a piece of paper, and then fill the jar with the substance of your choice.
Faye said ‘we really want to strive to show [that] you can have a sustainable store, you can be really transparent and it can work”. From my experience I do believe that they are already successfully achieving this goal by teaching others new ways to be considerate about waste and making it accessible for everyone. Filling my jars and paying for the products was not only easy and well-priced, but actually enjoyable. We are lucky that we live in city that is becoming more conscious about waste, especially with the creation of shops like ZERO. However, it is a shame that not everyone can access zero-waste stores and it is clear that until supermarkets start to make better changes or more stores like ZERO pop up, then consumers will be forced to continue to buy high-waste products. Nevertheless, I do believe as long as you try your best with the resources you have and are always looking for new ways to improve, then you can still make a positive difference with reducing waste.
Zero is based at 127 Fore Street, Exeter, EX4 3JQ.