Earlier this year saw the launch of Earth.Love.Food, a 100% organic store in Totnes, Devon, which operates a blanket ‘no packaging’ policy.
Founded by Richard and Nicola Eckersley, the idea is that customers bring any container from home, weigh it on one of the scales dotted around the shop, go and fill up, reweigh it and the system deducts the original weight. The shop also offers customers compostable paper bags.
“It’s really simple and empowers people to refill rather than get new plastic bags over and over again,” says Richard. “Everything in the store is based on sustainability and reusing over buying new. Also, everything in the shop is organic – it doesn’t come through the door unless it’s organic. That is part of our ethos along with no packaging.”
The shop offers over 220 dry food products including flours, beans, grains, pulses, rices, cereals, seaweeds and seeds, as well as a herbs and spices wall. It also has two nut machines where people can grind their own peanut, almond or cashew butters (Tuesdays being designated ‘cashewsdays’). There is also a small non-food section with personal care and household products.
“We have four or five different suppliers,” says Richard, “including Infinity Foods and Essential, and we get everything in 25kg sacks, generally paper sacks. The customers can leave with zero waste.”
Ultimately the main goal is to stop plastic going into the oceans in the first place and having it polluting our environment
Explaining what prompted the launch of the store, Richard says: “We were living in Manchester and were furious at the accumulation of packaging we would get week in week out. Then we came across this zero waste store in Germany [Unperfekthaus] and it was amazing. We thought ‘why is there not more of this is the UK?’. After doing a bit of research we found that there were no packaging-free shops in the UK, so we decided to move to Totnes and open one.”
Richard says the response to the shop has been extremely positive. “It’s been amazing. People have taken to it like ducks to water, as we thought they would because Totnes is one of the most forward-thinking towns in the UK – it’s second nature for everything to be organic in this town.”
As to whether the plastic-free concept will take off in the UK, Richard says: “I think it definitely needs to become more mainstream and I think it eventually will, but whether it will work in supermarkets, who knows? Ultimately the main goal is to stop plastic going into the oceans in the first place and having it polluting our environment.”
Rather than opening further stores, Richard and Nicola plan to eventually move to bigger premises. “We would like to have more space for people to refill everything from soaps to sun cream to coconut oil – that is the goal in the next five to ten years. It will be like a refill supermarket where everything will be refill and everything will be organic – that’s our aim.”
A member of 1% for the Planet, Earth.Food.Love gets its power from green energy company Ecotricity.