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Zero waste shop plans - suggestions please!

 
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Not sure where to post this, so hopefully we can move it if neccessary.
I have the opportunity to provide a 'zero waste' shop within my little rural convenience store (Glendale Shop and Post Office, Skye UK, not California US).  Yes, they may be a dying breed, but we seem to be doing OK with a lot of hard work and supportive local customers.
Obviously in an ideal world we'd have no packaging at all, but in practice we need to transfer a step at a time as fast as people are happy with, otherwise we'd frighten off our happy customers and close down.
Zero Waste Scotland have made some funds available, but the timeframe is tight for applications.  I have till Wednesday to rescope my application.  At present I hope to offer a hot drinks and water refill with reuseable mugs, a weigh out area for dry goods like oats, pasta, cereals, a few liquids like vinegar and oils, and a scoop freezer for loose frozen like peas, chips, scampi, raspberries.  
In the ideal world customers would bring in their own containers for refill.  But in Glendale we also get a lot of visitors.  The Isle of Skye is a popular holiday destination, and my turnover almost doubles in the summer months (come in Spring - the weather's better and you miss the midges and crowds).  So what is the best thing to offer people who don't have their own containers?  It would be good to get away from plastic bags.  I'm thinking returnable containers, but we're not neccessarily open when people want to leave....
Any other comments on running or experience of these shops would also be helpful.  The nearest I've come is farmers markets, and that was ages ago since having my own shop I never have to go shopping.
Thanks!
 
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Soon a zero-waste shop will open in the next little town.
Up to now I would have to go to Munich to shop in one. What I did shop in the past (without having lots of containers because a) convenience and b)spontaneous visit) was:

+ cosmetics like shampoo bars, bamboo toothbrushes, toothpaste "pills"
+ cleaning supplies like dish brushes, tablets to replace window cleaner in a bottle
+ household supplies like metal straws, dishcloths

All of these can be put into the purse without the need of extra packaging or danger of spilling.
For loose produce like pasta or tea could you use paper bags or are they not strong enough?
 
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Don't know if I'm useful here at all, I'm a recycler, dumpster diver sort, I'd be using paper where I could (just fold it up to wrap stuff) and reused glass jars for liquids. I don't know about the UK, but here so many people have a pile of jars,that if you asked your local folks for used jars with lids, you'd have enough to give away to the tourists who don't have their own.

Paper doesn't have to be in bags to work, paper and string was classic historical packaging for things. Think gift wrapping techniques. I could easily wrap a pile of frozen peas.

And an utterly weird idea out of left field, baked tasty pastry shells that can carry things home and then be eaten!

I think it's very cool you are doing this, and I hope it goes well :D
 
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Would it be possible to off passing-through customers some sort of resuable tote they could purchase at very little expense? I shop at a store where you either bring your own bags and boxes, or you have to purchase bags (choice of paper or plastic *I know, but it's still legal here*) for 5 to 10 cents each. Reusable totes (with store logo) are a little more but still reasonably priced. Doesn't break anybody, but gets a message across.
 
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For all the dry products you can just use paper bags for people who don't have anything. Frozen is harder but possible waxed paper bags?
returnable containers are going to generate more waste than plastic bags would for non locals, since they will almost never be returned. you could look at compostable clamshells or something similar.
 
Nancy Reading
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I like the idea of glass jars. We're hoping to get a dishwasher for reuse of cups, so can use that for reuse, although they may need to be standard new lids, because I'd be slightly worried about getting these clean. But everyone has jamjars spare so good for bring your own.
I'm also considering sewn bags (flour sacks anyone?) and strong paper bags.  The weather isn't always our friend (driving rain and 40mph today is pretty typical at this time of year, so they do need to be pretty robust.  I'll have to test some samples.
 
Nancy Reading
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Apparently offering a discount to bring your owners is better than charging those who don't.  Certainly for paper bags - 10p off if you don't need it would be nice.
 
Leigh Tate
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Any chance you could partner with, say, local weavers and basket makers to sell shopping bags and baskets?
 
Skandi Rogers
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Paper bags will be fine, we sell potatoes in them up to 5kg at a time, they cope with getting damp as well, though they will not cope with landing in a puddle.
 
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Hard to do right now, but canning jars offer a nice set of standard sized containers that are known to be reusable.
Beer bottles with recyclable steel caps offer another option, not so much for beverages as for oils,  vinegar or even small grains.
Corks are another option for closing containers,  but I'm not sure about price.

A square yard of cloth could wrap all kinds of things and be closed by a twist of wire.

I recycle aluminum foil at my local scrap yard,  but for most people that probably isn't an option.

My mom talks about newspaper being used to wrap kinds of things,  but Kraft paper is probably as good or better.
 
Nancy Reading
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Skandi, Yes we have 5kg bags of potatoes too, I guess it's just a question of getting the right grade of paper bags.
William,  Thanks for the suggestions.  I quite like the idea of cloth bags.  Unless people use a container things could get messy!  It's mainly dry groceries, frozen and some liquids I'm looking at at the moment.  From a shop point of view a dual purpose container (to buy the goods in and then use at home) to sell would be good....
 
Nancy Reading
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Yippee!!
Just to give you all an update, thanks to Zero Waste Scotland I was successful in my zero waste shop application - this means I now have funds available to go ahead with my fantasy shop ideas.
I've made a start on the plumbing side - in order to provide reusable containers in the current Covid climate, I'm ordering a lovely dishwasher (which will wash bottles as well).  The drinking fountain and water bottle refill tap/sink has already arrived, and I think I have a handle on the hot water dispenser.  Everyone seemed to have put their prices up at the new year, so I've had to shop around a bit.
I'm certainly going to be extra busy this spring getting it all organised (not my strong point actually, I'm more of an ideas person!)
 
Skandi Rogers
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Nancy Reading wrote:Yippee!!
Just to give you all an update, thanks to Zero Waste Scotland I was successful in my zero waste shop application - this means I now have funds available to go ahead with my fantasy shop ideas.
I've made a start on the plumbing side - in order to provide reusable containers in the current Covid climate, I'm ordering a lovely dishwasher (which will wash bottles as well).  The drinking fountain and water bottle refill tap/sink has already arrived, and I think I have a handle on the hot water dispenser.  Everyone seemed to have put their prices up at the new year, so I've had to shop around a bit.
I'm certainly going to be extra busy this spring getting it all organised (not my strong point actually, I'm more of an ideas person!)



Really good news there, and you have time to get it sorted before restrictions are lifted, good luck! I should be showing the OH round the west of scotland in the next few years, maybe I'll add skye to the list :p Talisker is always a good draw
 
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Nancy Reading wrote:Yippee!!
Just to give you all an update, thanks to Zero Waste Scotland I was successful in my zero waste shop application - this means I now have funds available to go ahead with my fantasy shop ideas.
I've made a start on the plumbing side - in order to provide reusable containers in the current Covid climate, I'm ordering a lovely dishwasher (which will wash bottles as well).  The drinking fountain and water bottle refill tap/sink has already arrived, and I think I have a handle on the hot water dispenser.  Everyone seemed to have put their prices up at the new year, so I've had to shop around a bit.
I'm certainly going to be extra busy this spring getting it all organised (not my strong point actually, I'm more of an ideas person!)



Great news!

I'd like to suggest that you do what a local food co-op I was part of did: have a glass jar donation area. People go through a lot of glass jars full of various food items, and there was a spot outside the co-op to donate clean jars for re-use in the shop; they then sterilised them in a dishwasher and offered them in the shop on a wire rack for free. Lots of folks donated jars (and also sturdy plastic tubs) because they felt much better about these items having a second life vs. being recycled. The sort of people interested in zero waste tend to be more willing to do this sort of thing. The real advantage is that people feel involved (and happy!), and your only outlay on packaging is the cost of electricity and hot water.

Best of luck! Do keep everyone posted.
 
Nancy Reading
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M Broussard said

have a glass jar donation area.  

 Yes, Pearl suggested this as well, and I think it's a great idea!  I'm hoping people may also have spare mugs for hot drinks as well, although I'm struggling to find a good 'sip lid' to make these into travel mugs...

Skandi: we're open and busier than normal despite or because of the restrictions, even during what is normally off season here, thanks to our local customers who are mostly appreciating us even more just now!  My recommendation us to in May if you can.  The weather's better and it's not so busy or midgey.
 
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We have had a few "zero waste" type shops near me. I would, in theory, love to support them. In practice it was difficult because I'm a busy person and usually squeeze in a quick shop spontaneously when I ended up with a few spare minutes on the way home from work. It was impractical to carry tubs, jars etc... on foot to and from work on the off chance I might get a chance to pop in.

So think carefully about how you will support a spontaneous visitor, and encourage them. I felt fairly unwelcome the few times I tried to turn up without a container of my own.

These businesses also tend to do well if they are partnered with other essential groceries. For example, can you position yourself next to a really good butcher, or farmers market type place? You both benefit from the increases trade that the other draws in.
 
Anita Martin
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Great news and valuable tips in the last days! I am happy for you!

I like the idea of the glass jar contribution. We have a similar thing at our recycling center where there is - in normal times, anyway - a table where you can put down especially nice jars, jugs, mugs etc. instead of throwing them in the container (I guess the staff will eventually put them away if they are not taken).

Another idea for more local involvement: Our local supermarket had an event with the daycare facility of our village where the kids painted reusable bags (totes) and sold them at the entrance of the supermarket one day, with a bit of press coverage. Maybe something similar is feasible at your place?
 
Nancy Reading
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Michael Cox said

   think carefully about how you will support a spontaneous visitor, and encourage them.


This is something I do need to get right for "visitors" (tourists) albeit they mainly come in for stamps, snacks and drinks rather than real stuff!

Unfortunately/fortunately we are the only shop round here - the next nearest is 9 miles away, and the nearest butcher/vegetable shop c. 30 miles.  We are the ultimate convenience store and really stock everything from candles to frozen peas, via dog food and baked beans.  You'd be surprised what I get asked for! But if more than one person ask (or if it is a local), I will do my best in 500 sq ft!

Anita Martin said

 the kids painted reusable bags (totes) and sold them at the entrance of the supermarket one day  


I really like this idea thanks! Although it may have to wait a few months, our pre-school group is still moribund due to Covid restrictions.
 
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There is a zero waste store in my town, and they accept donations of empty containers, so customers that do not have them can still pick something up.
 
Anita Martin
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Yesterday I had a zoom meeting with the members of our environmental group. One of them mentioned that he and his wife will provide spice mixes to the new zero waste shop that is going to open in a few weeks in the next town.

They sell their homemade spice mixes (they grow the chili peppers and herbs themselves) in shops around here (packaged) and the way of selling it out of a big container will be a first.

I am sure you have looked for local providers for your shop as well? I think this makes the products more appealing if they have a local touch. I guess there are people out there making tea blends, soaps etc. Of course they would have to do the paperwork to be able to sell but if they are already selling this should not be an issue anymore.
 
Nancy Reading
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Anita,
Great idea!  We probably don't have the turnover for spice mixes, although I am hoping to do basic herbs and spices...We do have someone locally who makes soaps, maybe thry can make a "Glendale blend" shop soap for us....
 
Anita Martin
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In the last days I have learned that we are not only going to have the new zero waste shop in the next little town (which I can reach by bike) but also in the next biggest town south to us which I can easily reach by a 10 minutes train ride and where I often shop (in normal times).

That is really good news!

The interview with the two founders was interesting. They said that they are in contact with the small town zero waste shop's owners and they plan to bundle some procedures like ordering from big retailers. This absolutely makes sense as it would be sad if they were fighting each other as competitors.

The next-little-town-shop will open directly across the established small organic shop (groceries and other supplies). That might be a bigger competition but hopefully the new shop will also draw new customers to that area. I know from friends that they take rather long trips just to shop at a zero waste shop. So hopefully this new shop will also induce customers to cross the street and shop for cosmetics, cleaning supplies, tofu, meat, sweets, spreads, bread etc. that only the organic shops offers.

So as a conclusion:
If you haven't done yet, get in touch with the existing shops so see if you can get some synergies and make sure you are all benefitting from each other.
 
Nancy Reading
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Hi Anita,
That's really good news for you. It'll make your train ride even more worth while, and attract extra customers to the organic shop no doubt.
I'm fairly aware of what our local shops are doing.  I'm a bit surprised that yours are able to combine ordering, but I am fairly unusual in that all my suppliers come to me, or deliver by courier, so my transport costs are minimal.  I could almost do without a car for shop purposes at all (just for collecting papers on a Saturday to give us more time to put inserts in them, and doing deliveries to customers).
Most of the shops 'locally' are like us in that the zero waste bit will be an add on the the modern norm shop with prepacked goods.  One is a recent start up and is dedicated zero waste which is nice.  Rankins at Uig, is a bit bigger than us and they have been doing a bit more than us previously.  They are going to offer wholesale for some household refillables, which may be more convenient, and also will add goods on for us to their wholesaler which may give me some more options there....
It's taking me more time than I had hoped to get things going, but hopefully things will come together very quickly once we start making progress.  Trouble is I can't reclaim any money until the equipment is installed, so I hope the cashflow holds out!
 
Anita Martin
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Nancy Reading wrote:I'm a bit surprised that yours are able to combine ordering, but I am fairly unusual in that all my suppliers come to me, or deliver by courier, so my transport costs are minimal.  I could almost do without a car for shop purposes at all (just for collecting papers on a Saturday to give us more time to put inserts in them, and doing deliveries to customers).


Hm, I am not sure if it is to cut transport costs or to get the minimum amount for ordered goods delivered. It might be that you can only order large quantities of some goods which won't store so well so it is useful to share with another shop.
 
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Michael Cox wrote:We have had a few "zero waste" type shops near me. I would, in theory, love to support them. In practice it was difficult because I'm a busy person and usually squeeze in a quick shop spontaneously when I ended up with a few spare minutes on the way home from work. It was impractical to carry tubs, jars etc... on foot to and from work on the off chance I might get a chance to pop in.

So think carefully about how you will support a spontaneous visitor, and encourage them. I felt fairly unwelcome the few times I tried to turn up without a container of my own.

These businesses also tend to do well if they are partnered with other essential groceries. For example, can you position yourself next to a really good butcher, or farmers market type place? You both benefit from the increases trade that the other draws in.



The "Unverpackt" store near me sells cotton drawstring bags and various sizes of jars if you don't have your own*.  In either case you weigh the empty and mark the weight with a marker or grease pencil.

*at a kind of exorbitant price, but I consider it my "remember the bag next time" tax.  If you have those, plus the option of free donated glass jars, I think that would keep people happy.
 
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I like Pearl's idea of edible containers Straw baskets would be a good idea.

Someone mentioned cork. I believe that the cork industry is highly destructive and and unsustainable. Monoculture plantations and  and invading forests, slashing  and such. Correct me if I'm wrong.
 
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Cork absolutely does NOT have to be done that way. It's one of those things that works fine on a small, sustainable scale too.


 
Nancy Reading
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A quick look at cork sustainability indicates a definate maybe!  If managed well it a super sustainable material, if managed poorly it is like many monoculture plantations.  I found body shop gave a bit of balance, but haven't dug further.
I'm definately going to provide reusable containers, possibky some free or with a discount for using your own, and some nice reuasable containers, glass probably, although I'll probably try and source some beter quality plastic for0f the freezer.
 
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To provide yourself regular clients, I would open a list of those willing to receive food parcels of fruits and vegetables from farmers, which people could sign up for and apply for as needed. This could work as a loyalty program. What do you think about it?
 
Nancy Reading
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Gabriela,
Vegetable boxes would be a lovely idea, but in my location we don't have enough people growing vegetables to give a good selection year round.  It is a very short growing season, although good gardeners with protection can manage tomatoes for example, for a couple of months in late summer.  
Last year, due to the lock down we were lucky: small producers that had already prepared to sell either to tourists direct or the restaurants brought in lovely fresh produce over the summer.  I wish I could get that quality normally, but the season here is too short.  Even so there isn't really enough to justify a delivery round, but it did brighten our lockdown summer!  I sold them sale or return, with just a tiny mark up and let anyone bring in their surplus. Apart from fresh leaves (which don't have a good shelf life) and radishes (which not many people actually like) there was little left over!
We also for a change had as many local eggs as I could sell.  The flocks need to be registerdd for me to sell them. Usually they go to the restaurants, and there is not enough registered eggs to go round.  This year I came to an arrangement whereby over the winter period we'd take as many as we could (when all the restaurants are closed so they won't take them) as long as we can still have some in summer season too!  
Hopefully both schemes will work well this summer too, but my customers expect and deserve year round produce regardless of it's provenance too.  I know almost all of my local customers by name, where they live and their dogs' names.  We really are a fragile community and need the shop to be viable which does involve some compromise.
 
Nancy Reading
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Quick update on the Zero waste shop.
The dispensers have come but I'm still waiting on the shelving (which was promised yesterday)  and the freezer (which was promised a week ago).  This is typical of living on Skye!  Deliveries are quoted as if we were in the central belt (Edinburgh/Glasgow) and typically will take a day or too more.  I think it's time to chase up the freezer though!
I put my first reclaim in, but will need to wait until our next bank statement comes in a months time before I have the evidence that the credit card was paid off.  Hopefully the cashflow will start improving soon!
 
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I worked at my local co-op and they had a "basket" of reusable bags that folk would essentially donate bc they no longer wanted them I suppose or upgraded their bags. Heck I even threw a few in there to cut down on my hoard of them.

I think the idea though from the signage though was that one should bring it back after it had been used, more like a borrowed bag. I can't say I ever saw anyone bring one back. But it was a way to use up a bag-o-bags

Another possibility if you've got some sewers around is to make and sell some simple bags. I'm thinking about some up-cycled jean legs with a strap on it or small drawstring bags for dry goods. Any of those bags could end up being multi use for a tourist coming through too.

Best of luck with your little shop!
 
Nancy Reading
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S Ydok said


they had a "basket" of reusable bags  



I keep the boxes that biscuits and other goods come in and make them available to customers at the check-out.  Most of my local customers have their own 'bag for life' and I sell some jute ones with the shop logo on.  They sell quite well in summer to visitors as gifts or useful souvenirs.




make and sell some simple bags.



I am hoping to do this in a few weeks time.  I have got hold of some plastic coated fabric (I know it's not ideal, but it is pretty practical and reuseable/washable) to make some bags for the frozen goods.  I want to do some plain fabric ones for loose veg (which we offer paper bags with) and the loose dry goods.  I am thinking of selling these though to cover my time and fabric costs.

I've already had a fair quantity of jars donated.  I'm hoping for some larger plastic pots, and I need to go up in my own attic and bring down some containers from there.  I guess this is the time that they'll 'come in'.
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