Back in 2017 I visited the Open Market in Brighton, tightly grasping one of the very first Mintie Lunchboxes in my hand. We were totally shiny, brand new and just starting out on our adventures. I knew of the brilliant Wastenot Store as I had visited to refill my jars and even did a fermenting workshop with them back in the day. But today was different. I was showcasing Mintie for the first time.
Upon meeting the wonderful Debbie Hardy who runs Wastenot I was met with pure radiance and an openness that undoubtably helped with my nervous pitch. After a lovely chat she said YES to having Mintie in her store and we made our very first wholesale order. Needless to say this was a great day for us and I bounded back with a spring in my step down London Road that afternoon.
Debbie has been one of our loyal stockists ever since and I am proud to call a friend too. I am always in awe of all the inspirational people running zero-waste and refill stores locally and nationally. It is usually done by a small team and requires a lot of dedication, oodles of hard-work, a real passion for reducing plastic waste and lots of shouting loudly about the refill revolution that is taking place.
Thank you to Debbie who has agreed to tell us a bit more about her story and what it is like being the Founder and Director of Wastenot
When did you first start Wastenot and what was your motivation behind setting up? I’d been living as close to a zero waste life for a few years, and had to spend a lot of time researching and going through a fair bit of trial and error each time I needed something new. So I figured could put my hard work to use helping others, and make a business of it too!
How would you describe a typical day at Wastenot? Most days involve a lot of cleaning; zero waste shops are messy places! I like to break up my cleaning duties with cups of tea and chatting to customers. Offering advice and having a natter are two of my favourite things about my job.
We have seen a massive explosion of people opening refill stores locally, you were the first in Brighton - how does that make you feel seeing others do the same thing? Well, they do say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery! I think that the more people being able to buy unpackaged food is fantastic, shopping this way keeps us more in touch with our ingredients and helps to stop us shopping mindlessly.
What are the challenges you face as a small business with regard to going zero-waste? I have to do a fair bit of emailing and phone calls asking questions about packaging! There are still some foods for example that come packaged with plastic (such as pine nuts) so I will always buy the largest available quantity and either repurpose or recycle the plastic waste.
If someone is thinking about reducing their plastic waste or making steps to living a lower waste lifestyle what would be your top 3 life-hacks that they could do today? My first tip would be this; slow down. We have been tricked into thinking we always need the newest, the fastest, the biggest, and we need it yesterday. That’s just not true!
Secondly, look around your home. Look in your food cupboards, look in your bathroom cabinet. Pay attention to what you throw in the bin or recycling, and use all of this as your guide for areas you can reduce waste.
My third tip would be to start composting. Start a heap in your garden, or join a community compost group; if food waste were a country, it would be the third biggest emitter of greenhouse gas in the world.
Who is your heroine / hero in the zero-waste world? My absolute favourite is Sustainably Shelbi (aka YouTuber Shelbizleee) she is such a realist, and speaks very openly about practical sustainable solutions; there are no unattainable, picture-perfect jars of rubbish with her. Zero waste does have a beautiful aesthetic, but Shelbi points out that sometimes it’s the ugliest solution that is the most eco-friendly, and that is ok.
What are your most popular refill items? Washing up liquid and laundry detergent are probably high up the list of popular products. I would say that dried mango slices are also incredibly popular, and lately we can’t seem to have enough bakers yeast.
What was the hardest plastic-free swap you’ve had to make? I’ll let you in on a little secret; I still haven't given up crisps! Is that a very British problem? I have made them from scratch before and they were great, but I just can’t face life without my beloved Hula Hoops. A guilty pleasure is still allowed from time to time though right?
Whats the best bit of your day whilst in the store and why? My favourite part of the day is just after I’ve finished opening up. Having got the first set of tasks out the way is a really good feeling. I’m also partial to refilling the jars at the end of the day, it’s very satisfying.
Summer is here - what is your favourite plastic-free / low waste alternative? It’s got to be carrying a water bottle! Staying hydrated is important all year round, but it’s always good to have a drink on hand during the hot weather; it helps to stop you from being tempted to buy a bottled drink.
A huge thank you to Debbie for taking the time to answer our questions. If you’d like to visit the vibrant Wastenot Store you can find Debbie and her team in the Brighton Open Market. Debbie also has an online store which you can visit here.