There’s something very soothing about shopping at a zero-waste store. Apart from the obvious lack of plastic, what’s also missing are the bright colours on the packaging that shriek “buy me” and “I’m better than all the rest”. Instead, large glass jars quietly say: “You want oats/lentils/almonds? Here they are”. No shrieking required.
In 2017 Bea Johnson, the founder of Zero Waste Home and the author of the book by the same name, toured South Africa, spreading the zero-waste word to an eager eco-conscious audience.
Since Johnson’s tour the idea of BYOB (Bring Your Own Bag) zero-waste shopping has grown in popularity in South Africa.
I retraced Johnson’s route, starting in Cape Town, and caught up with the owners of the crop of zero-waste shops that have sprung up in SA since her tour.
Paul Rubin opened NUDE FOODS in the East City in December 2017 and in August 2018 NUDE FOODS opened its second store, housed in an upcycled shipping container at the Montebello Centre in Newlands.
What drew you to open a zero-waste shop? My background is in business and marketing and my MBA dissertation was on “social enterprise as a sustainable business model for all businesses of the future – ie equally prioritising profit and positive social impact”. It took me a further 10 years to formulate a business idea that fitted both this model and my personal passion for health, wellness, wholefoods and clean living.
I am passionate about clean ingredients and real wholefoods as well as living chemical-free regarding the products we use on our bodies and in our homes. I was also becoming increasingly despondent that a store like NUDE FOODS didn’t exist in Cape Town or South Africa, and that an alternative option wasn’t available to shop more mindfully and plastic-free. So, with no food, retail or grocery experience, I decided to open my idea of a dream store.
Paul’s three tips for living a more eco-conscious life
Former Grade 5 teacher Janneke Blake left the profession after her son was born and, in August 2017, she established Shop Zero at markets and on Facebook. In February 2018, she opened her zero-waste, plastic-free lifestyle store in Woodstock, adjacent to the Old Biscuit Mill and Neighbourgoods Market.
What drew you to open a zero-waste shop? I was raised to consider my impact on the environment and taught from an early age that many of life’s treasures can never be replaced. We owe it to our children and future generations to understand the needs of our environment and care for it accordingly to ensure a long and beautiful existence. I learned about Kate Nelson, aka @plasticfreemermaid on Instagram in 2016 and made a concerted effort to start giving up plastics.
I got the motivation to open up my own plastic-free store after watching a Carte Blanche episode about Bea Johnson, the founder of the zero waste lifestyle movement, speaker and author of Zero Waste Home. That’s when I realised that there was a gap in the South African market for space with everything you need to reduce your footprint at one store.
Janneke’s three tips for living a more eco-conscious life
Josh Beaver, co-owner of The Daily Goods Store in Muizenberg, opted out of a high-stress lifestyle and opened his store, with business partner Calvin Dias, in January 2019.
What drew you to open a zero-waste shop? When I left school a couple of years ago, ago I found myself working in a very conventional, high-stress industry with long hours and long commutes. I found this way of living unsatisfying and unfulfilling; I resigned and went to live in the UK for a while. I spent time working on organic farms, learning about agriculture and my environment. Later, I volunteered on a permaculture farm and worked with a medicinal herbalist.
On my return from the UK, I wanted to start some sort of business where I didn’t depend on others for an income. I also wanted to know that whatever business I was involved with would be able to operate to my own environmental and ethical ethos. I wanted to provide people with what I was looking for personally: a mix of package-free, vegan and local things in the Southern Suburbs.
I met some awesome people already selling zero waste goods and offered to join them to help them grow their business. Later, I met Calvin Dias from The Hive in Muizenberg, who was their resident permaculture expert. He wanted to start an ethical/environmental market at The Hive and we decided to set up a zero waste shop together.
Josh’s three tips for living a more eco-conscious life
Teacher, artist and eco-warrior Jade Kristie Khoury opened the first Low Impact Living waste-free grocery store in September 2017 in Glencairn. A second Low Impact Living grocer has just opened (July 2019) at GOOD Spaces in Upper Woodstock.
What drew you to open a zero-waste shop? I grew up in an unconventional environment where my sister and I were left to our own devices quite often. This allowed us to become very independent, creative and resourceful and design a life of our own making. In 2011, I read the book No Impact Man and that’s when I took my green living to the next level. I took pencil to paper and designed my ideal shop that would help people live a more waste-free life.
In 2017, I was asked to be one of three opening speakers for Bea Johnson, International Zero Waste guru and Author, at the Zero Waste Home SA tour that was having the opening in Cape Town. When space became available in Glencairn in the building where I had an office I took it as a pilot project for a zero-waste shop. It has grown into a fully-functioning waste-free grocery store with a cafe open seven days a week. I also offer Low Impact Living workshops, a kids programme called Earth Champs and consulting for homes, schools and businesses.
Jade’s three tips for living a more eco-conscious life
Fine Art graduate Carey Schoonraad opened Waste-Not Groceries in Port Elizabeth’s Richmond Hill in early March 2019.
What drew you to open a zero-waste shop? I stumbled upon the concept of zero waste about three years ago via a YouTube video, which started off a process of thinking about my personal consumption and working slowly to reduce my waste. Learning of NUDE FOODS in Cape Town really inspired the idea that if it was possible for such a store to work in South Africa, maybe I could make it work in PE. We are still in the beginning phases of a broad public awareness of the negative impact of single-use plastics on the environment. Old habits are still deeply entrenched and unquestioned by many.
Carey’s tips for a more eco-conscious lifestyle
DURBAN: GOOD SOURCE
Kim Drennan, along with her brother Phillip Botha and friends Nicole Benders, Jenny Thomson and Charlene Udal, opened the Hillcrest Good Source store in October 2018.
What drew you to open a zero-waste shop? We were so tired of moaning about the challenges and knew there must be other people struggling to buy their groceries plastic and waste-free, so we decided to start this great adventure together and opened Good Source. I used to work for a UK company that sold compactors and balers and then I brought them home to SA and sold them here. I then moved onto a waste removal business, removing both recyclables and non-recyclables from business parks and estates, this was in the Cape Town area.
When I moved to KZN, I carried on recycling at home but not as a business and I got involved in the food industry. I realised that recycling was not enough and began a zero-waste lifestyle challenge.
The five of us got together with a common interest, each with something unique and great to offer to the venture. My brother, Phil, has a love for the ocean, is driven to go zero waste and you will find him working at the shop whenever he has time off from his “day job”. Nicole Benders is passionate about all things good, food and a waste-free life, from water wastage minimisation to package-free food. Jenny Thomson has strong systems and financial background, love for people and all things plastic-free.
Charlene Udal is a branding guru, helping us grow and stay on track. She has become obsessed with the zero-waste lifestyle.
Our green dream is for more people to start making changes every day – we really can make a difference together.
Kim’s three tips for living a more eco-conscious life
Shayne Walters-Girout and her mother-in-law, Jody Walters-Girout, opened Azikho in Ballito in 2017. Although not an exclusively zero-waste shop their stock of plastic-free products is growing.
What drew you to open a zero-waste shop We both had a keen interest in gaining more knowledge on how to live a healthier, proactive and more sustainable lifestyle.
Azikho was originally opened as a natural and organic emporium. Over time, we became more aware of the desperate need to educate ourselves and others about decreasing our waste footprint. We also became aware of the need for packaging-free, natural products. Everything in our zero-waste store is zero waste to source, meaning there is no single-use plastic exchanged in our supply chain. We hope to grow this section of our store extensively in the future, so as to meet the needs of the conscious consumer and contribute to a better planet.
Shayne’s 3 tips for living a more eco-conscious life
The Refill Den
Born and raised in Durban, sisters Vanessa Law and Megan Simpson opened the Refill Den on Adelaide Tambo in December 2018.
What drew you to open a zero-waste shop?
Megan: I spent a couple of years in London, working in coffee shops and becoming more aware of the amount of waste just one shop could generate at the end of each day. Just before leaving London to return to Durban, zero-waste stores started opening around London. It was such a relief to hear that people were realising that plastic packaging had become a big problem for our planet, even though we couldn’t shop at them. When I got back to Durban I started trying to make my own personal care products, avoiding excessive packaging.
Vanessa: I suggested that we open our own little eco-conscious store where Durbanites could come to minimise waste in their own homes. It is not easy to go completely plastic-free but keeping our unrecyclable cleaned waste to stuff tightly into plastic bottles to make eco-bricks is a good way to keep conscious of the waste we are accountable for.
Megan and Vanessa’s 3 tips for more eco-conscious living
Interior designer Leanné Hendricks opened the House of Bravo at Florida Fields in June 2019.
What drew you to open a Zero Waste shop? A big wake-up call for me was when I realised how much waste we were creating as a family and being a mom who always worries about what is nutritionally best, I realised that I needed to create a platform not only for my own family but for like-minded individuals who are on the same journey and bring even more awareness to the zero-waste movement. My green dream is to restore community disconnect and create an environment whereby people get to interact with us on a daily basis and meet others.
We will be holding workshops on many topics like Zero Waste and how to create a sustainable lifestyle. Basic skill development and community are two very important factors that we need to rethink and reintroduce into our lives and community and therefore we are creating a platform for this.
Leanné’s three tips for living a more eco-conscious life
Sam Moleta and her husband Dom, founders of The Refillery, opened their Fourways store at Cedar Square Shopping Centre in April 2019.
What drew you to open a zero waste store?
Samantha: Dom and I met in France while working in the super-yacht industry. We were lucky enough to see some of the most remote spots in the world and, sadly we saw the destruction and devastation caused by rubbish. The beaches were riddled with plastic and it floated past us in the sea. We attempted “Plastic-Free July” in 2018 and eliminated plastic bags, cups, straws, cling wrap and water bottles for the month and decided that that was our new normal. We wanted to see how we could continue to decrease our plastic consumption and saw that there was a gap in the market for convenient, accessible and stylish plastic-free shopping, and The Refillery was born.
Samantha’s three tips for living a more eco-conscious life
Mich Yunnie is a qualified CA with a passion for sustainability. In early June she opened The SEK Collective at the Real Mackay Building in Randburg.
What drew you to open a Zero Waste shop? My initial mission was to start an online platform that would sell only goods that met our three overarching pillars: Sustainable, Ethical, Kind (hence the SEK Collective). This would include, for example, goods made from recycled materials, or products made by previously disadvantaged people who had been taught a skill and needed a platform to showcase these and reach the correct market, or items sold by companies that donate to green or other worthy causes.
Along the way, I became acutely aware of the extreme devastation plastic is causing our planet, and decided that it would be more important, right now, to focus efforts on bricks and mortar store, that could directly assist people in reducing their everyday single-use plastic waste. As well as raising awareness as to why we need to change, and showcase how attainable lower impact living can be.
Mich’s three tips for living a more eco-conscious life
In other news...
South Africa is in a very real battle. A political fight where terms such as truth and democracy can seem more of a suggestion as opposed to a necessity.
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And on the other side are those who believe in the ethos of a country whose constitution was once declared the most progressive in the world. The hope that truth, justice and accountability in politics, business and society is not simply fairy tale dust sprinkled in great electoral speeches; but rather a cause that needs to be intentionally acted upon every day.
However, it would be an offensive oversight not to acknowledge that right there on the front lines, alongside whistleblowers and civil society, stand the journalists. Armed with only their determination to inform society and defend the truth, caught in the crossfire of shots fired from both sides.
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