Leicester will welcome its first ‘zero waste’ shop later this summer. NADA is the city’s new, pioneering, no-packaging store and is set to open in St Martins Square. It will stock and sell ethically and locally sourced products and produce, all with the benefit of no plastic! The idea behind the shop is to make waste-free living as easy and accessible as possible. 

The brains behind the idea for NADA, Lauren Welch, has always been conscious of the environment, from buying recyclable items, to ensuring she uses the right recycling bags. It was when the BBC documentary Blue Planet highlighted the damage of plastic that she really feels it brought the problem into the limelight. Taking it as an opportunity for her to make a difference, she explains:

“It affected everyone that saw it and it started the ‘Blue Planet effect.’ I googled how to reduce single-use plastic and came across the idea of ‘bulk buying’ which is very popular in America and Europe, but there wasn’t anywhere like that near me! So, I thought I’ll open a shop. Then the idea snowballed.”

Inspired by the idea of zero waste, she came across a small shop in Totnes, located within the heart of Devon, called ‘Earth, Food, Love’ whose success proved a demand for waste-free shopping.  However, the idea of waste-free living is admirable but is it achievable? Lauren expresses that nobody is perfect:

“I don’t profess to be a ‘zero waster’ in every sense but I’m just working towards a more plastic free and sustainable lifestyle. There are people out there that can fill a small Kilner jar with their entire years’ worth of plastic.”

“These are inspirational people and very dedicated. It’s extremely hard to eliminate all plastics from our lives and takes many years to do so. In its very nature, plastic is made to last and so getting rid of it completely is a time-consuming exercise. I’m not asking for people to throw away their Tupperware just because its plastic.”

“Use it and use it again. Use it until it can’t be used anymore and then replace it with a more sustainable material – from Nada! We as consumers need to step away from the throwaway culture. Living a zero-waste lifestyle is about being prepared.”

“Having your reusable coffee cup at the ready, your water bottle, bags, lunch box and not being embarrassed to use them. I remember being embarrassed by my grandparents at the market when I was about 7 for having their own bags. I didn’t understand why we couldn’t be ‘normal’ and take one of the traders’ bags! This is just the norm now. Everyone has a carrier bag of their own.” 

As well as ensuring the shop does not stock produce with any packaging, she is keen to ensure that there’s no intrinsic waste, the waste that is embedded in the production process or packaging before the item is displayed package-free on their shelves. Lauren explained to me the process:

“All of the companies we use are connected to the zero-waste idea.  Also, by buying in bulk this reduces the amount of packaging required. The larger bulk items are packaged in paper sacks and so can easily be reused or recycled.”

“Zero waste is also about thinking differently. Instead of buy, buy, buy. Think about if you need it. Can you borrow the item? Does it have to be brand new? Will the item last?” Is being green more expensive?” Lauren reassures us. 

“It’s not going to be massively more expensive but of course, I don’t have the buying power of the large supermarkets, so my margins are a little smaller. I’m hoping that this way of shopping will suit people on a ‘less food waste’ level too. You can come and purchase ‘just’ the right amount at NADA, thus saving money and excess food!”

There is definitely validation to these points as well! The average household throws away £470 of uneaten food a year! But does she think that we’re doing enough as a society to prevent waste?  

“No. I won’t get on my high horse about this, but the UK is lagging internationally and pledge to reduce plastic use by 2025! Plus, it’s just that, a pledge!  Whereas countries like Cuba and India are leading with way with full-on bans on single-use plastic bags and single-use plastics within very short time frames.”

“Governments must be firmer with the likes of McDonald’s who have just flatly refused to reduce their plastic. I recently learnt that McDonalds are the biggest producer of toys in the world. Toys! Outselling Mattel and so on with just happy meals! There needs to be pressure and accountability placed on these huge companies!” The idea here is not only will NADA help the environment, but it will help the average household save money.”

So what advice can they give to people wanting to make a change but aren’t sure where to start? “Come and see me!” exclaims Lauren! 

“I’ve got some great little starter kits and will be more than happy to be on hand for advice. very easy way to start would be refusing straws when drinking out, carrying a reusable water bottle and having a reusable coffee cup. You must hear it all the time but reducing the use of these items really would make a massive difference.”

If you want to find out more about reducing your packaging waste, come visit the new shop located within St Martins Square when it opens later on this July.

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