I remember back when I heard about the first package-free store. Unpackaged opened in London in 2010 and was a internet sensation the moment it opened (ok maybe only among us zero-wasters). The only downside – it was all the way over in England.
Well since then, lots of things have changed. The bulk departments of our local stores are growing, the Soap Dispensary opened in Vancouver offering bulk cleaners, soaps, and toothpastes, and our farmer’s market began to stay open every week year round. All these things make it much much easier to live zero waste, but I still had my eye on that first zero waste store.
When Grant and I started planning a trip to the UK, I knew Unpackaged had to be on our list of tourist attractions. In perfect serendipity, the store ended up being just a 5 minute walk from the place we were staying.
The most exciting part of Unpackaged is the bulk yogurt, something I have been unable to find in Vancouver. Second most exciting are bulk oils and vinegar which are sometimes available but not easy to come by. And now that we’re here, the achievements of Unpackaged are especially notable because, from what we’ve seen in London supermarkets, it’s pretty darn hard to live zero waste here. I’m talking 2 or 3 choices of package-free fruits and veggies and everything else wrapped in plastic. They do seem to have fantastic recycling with public bins everywhere and food scraps pick up at homes, but the key to reducing waste is catching it at the source, and it’s not easy here.
So kudos to Unpackaged not only for doing what you’re doing, but for doing it in a country where pretty much no one else is!
Sometimes it’s the little things that make my zero waste day. For example, a little while ago I finally ordered this tape from Life Without Plastic.
I got some paper tape for sealing boxes and re-purposed envelopes and biodegradable, transparent, cellulose tape for gifts and other stuff (yes, I got a couple glass straws in there too). It’s funny that I’d get so excited about something as simple as tape, but it was driving me nuts that every time I had to stick a mailing label on a package or seal an envelope I was using something that was unrecyclable and non-biodegradable.
The arrival of the tape alone was a small thing that made me happy. But even better was the fact that when the package arrived, it looked like this:
How refreshing! Not a piece of bubble wrap or a packing peanut to be found. And I didn’t have to write some long winded letter to ask them not to include those things, they just do it. These little details make a big difference. Why can’t more companies be like this?
My most recent “find” was this past weekend in Powell River, BC. When we pulled into town, we noticed Ecossentials first thing what with its “get unpackaged” and “refillable cleaners” window signage, but it was Sunday, so we satisfied ourselves with pressing our noses up against the glass.
The next day, we headed there before leaving town. Ecossentials sells bulk food and cleaning supplies as well as food tins, glass straws, ethical toys, lunch kits, and even an electricity-free espresso maker.. . all with nary a plastic bag to be seen. It’s our kind of place.
In the dry goods section, they have neat stacks of cotton bags you can buy if you forget your own. In the back, they have shampoo, liquid soap, and laundry soap on tap. They even do door to door delivery with reused containers.
Even better, Melissa, the owner, had seen our film the night before and offered to sell our movie in her store. How awesome is that!?
I could go on and on, but Grant got a new iphone plugin that he was itching to use, so maybe I’ll just let you see it for yourself:
PS – she mentions Pebble in the Pond in the video – they have great information of plastic reduction here
If you’ve seen our movie, you’ll know that there are hundreds of thousands of baby albatross dying on Midway Island each year filled up with our plastic; plastic that is floating in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
The gorgeous footage of the albatross in our film was shot by Jan Vozenilek. He, Chris Jordan, and a team of passionate people have been documenting the lifecycle of the albatross on Midway as part of Journey to Midway. They are about to embark on another leg of their project and plan to be on Midway Atoll when hundreds of thousands of fluffy baby albatrosses are nesting with their parents. In addition to Chris Jordan’s ongoing photographic work on the island, the team is collaborating in the creation of a documentary film about their experience, that that they “hope will bring a message of beauty and renewal to an audience of millions of people around the world”.
In their own words, their film “will be a powerful visual journey into the heart of Midway’s astonishingly symbolic environmental tragedy. Through our journey we hope to rediscover—in the grandeur of the magnificent albatross and it’s far-reaching travels, and in the unbroken primal cycle of mating, brooding, nurturing and fledging despite the albatross colony’s encounters with plastic—that by turning toward flowing life in all its beauty and resilience, we find a path toward acceptance and inspiration. Our story will be framed in gorgeous state-of-the-art high-resolution digital cinematography, in one of the world’s most beautiful island landscapes. The viewer will enter a paradoxical world of horror and beauty, destruction and renewal, and emerge with their worldview shifted.”
I have met both Jan and Chris personally, and I know that they are humbly dedicated to preventing plastic pollution and to getting the story of Midway out there. If the images of the albatross touched you, and made you take a second look at your everyday waste, please consider supporting these guys. You could:
Donate to their project. Midway is very remote. It costs a lot to get there, and these guys are volunteering their time to do this very important project. They are still short of trip expense funds by a few thousand dollars. Any donations you make will cover room and board on the island which directly supports the Fish and Wildlife Service in preserving Midway’s Marine Sanctuary.
For larger tax-deductible donations, here is the link to their 501c3, Planetwork NGO: https://www.planetwork.net/transaction/index.html
Important: Please specify “NextNow Collaboratory/Trash Island/Midway Journey” in your inquiry and/or in the memo line of your cheque
Please join now in supporting the MIDWAY project. And check out their latest trailer below.
I ride the BC Ferries quite often. Grant’s family lives on the island, and my family has a cabin over there. Inevitably, Grant and I are too disorganized to pack some food, and we end up eating on the ferry. It’s actually not so bad. I appreciate the fact that you can get breakfast on a real plate and eat it with real cutlery. They also serve a pretty mean burger and clam chowder.
But here’s the thing that gets me. Despite the “real plate” options, there is a ton of packaging. The cooler is stocked with a lot of pre-packaged food – salads in clamshells, cheesecake with a plastic ramekin of berry sauce, plastic wrapped sandwiches. You have to be vigilant and strategic to avoid waste. Continue reading →