July 13, 2018 Craig Lees

Shop Zero Interview

It is time for another eagerly anticipated Better Earth interview, this week we chat with the inspiring ladies at Shop Zero.

Visit Shop Zero online

How long has Shop Zero been around and why did you start the company?
Shop Zero has been in existence since August 2017, but our brick and mortar store only opened in February 2018 and our online store launched in May. Several years ago, I started living a more eco-friendly lifestyle, but after becoming a mother in 2016, my desire to live more mindfully intensified even more.  Last year, I got the motivation to go for it after finding out 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 a space with everything you need to reduce your plastic footprint. The recent claim that there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans by 2050 also made me pursue my life goal to inspire positive environmental change even more.

What are your goals for Shop Zero?
We would like to get involved with more organisations, create even more awareness and try to prevent and divert trash from landfills and oceans and help reduce the use of plastic. As a primary school teacher, I’ve always worked on hearts and minds, guiding children in becoming empowered, engaged and liberated human beings. Now I love educating all ages about our plastic pollution problem, but I’d love to do some more work with schools. We’d love to get involved with government going forward and we’d love to take Shop Zero to different provinces to help grow the movement in South Africa. Currently we are only offering our lifestyle products online, but we’re working on taking the whole brick and mortar offering online – food included.

Any advice for people wanting to start ‘green’ companies?
Take the risk! The world is full of wonderful ideas, but success only comes with action. I decided that 20 years from now I don’t want to regret not trying. Although I went through times of having doubts, I believed in myself and my desire to create my vision was stronger. There are ways to get capital. During my crowdfunding campaign last year, I was approached by a few investors and now I’m working with my amazing business partners, Elza and Abigail, who helped me bring Shop Zero to life. The world needs more green companies so take the leap of faith.

Have you noticed a growing trend in the public to move towards living more sustain-ably?
Absolutely! My crowdfunding campaign was a great way to test my idea debt-free by pre-selling it before investing in significant resources. People were very excited about this, zero waste, plastic-free lifestyle store that was coming to Cape Town. It was also great building a base of supporters and now meeting many of those contributors when they come to our store. We have many customers who are already on a journey to reduced waste coming to find us and stock up on our single-use plastic alternatives and our pantry essentials without any packaging. We also have many people who walk in where new parts of the world are opened making them think, “Oh wow, I didn’t realise I could make this small change or that small change.” We love introducing the community to all the resources to help them be successful in making the shift into a greener life.

What is your favourite Better Earth Product?
Difficult decision, but if I have to choose just one, I have to choose the Better Earth Natural Dishwashing Liquid. This is my all-time favourite earth friendly dishwashing liquid. It smells heavenly, foams beautifully and does a great job of cleaning with very little used at a time. It’s soft on the hands, but tough on dirt! We serve it in bulk in our store and our customers love refilling their jars or bottles with it. They also love the fact that they can buy as much or as little as needed.

How can ‘mainstream’ stores make it easier for consumers to use less packaging?
Although packaging can protect a product from damage, many consumers feel that products are over-packed. There is no need for peppers to be individually wrapped or avocados, butternut, bananas or clementines to be in plastic bags simply for a better deal. Grocery stores should do-away with single-use plastic barrier bags for produce to be weighed and should offer reusable alternatives in the produce section. Some branches of popular grocery stores in South Africa have already banned plastic bags and only have brown paper bags or reusable bags for sale. Stores should not offer straws at all. Not even ‘bioplastic’ ones, as these ones need to be composted and not sent to landfill as they won’t biodegrade in landfills. Bioplastics also contaminate plastic recycling streams and are not the answer to marine litter.

It makes good business sense for businesses to listen to their consumers’ demand of less packaging. Cutting raw materials can reduce packaging costs and making use of recycled material in packaging can all help towards reducing the size of an organisation’s carbon footprint. It may also improve consumer loyalty, as companies show their customers in this way that they care about the environment.

My advice for consumers would also be that the most important thing to remember is that a low waste lifestyle is not a destination, but a journey. It’s okay for people to feel overwhelmed, but it is very easy to start with one small change like taking your own reusable shopping bags along to the supermarket or refusing straws. Every single effort counts, makes such a big impact and gives so much back to protect what we all love.

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