Inspired by zero-waste grocery stores in cities like Berlin, Ottawa, Austin and New York, a British family of three opened their own in their hometown of Devon. Before they opened Earth.Food.Love, the couple used to go all the way to the city center to get rid of their waste. Tired of commuting back and forth to maintain their green lifestyle, they decided to open a zero-waste grocery store last November.
The idea behind Earth.Food.Love is to provide organic, bulk-buy, plant-based wholefoods – all of which produces as little waste as possible. Everything at Earth.Food.Love – including liquids and nut butters – is sold loose. They invite customers to bring their own jars / containers and fill them at the shop, making for an experience that not only eliminates manufacturer’s excess packaging, but also allows customers to determine exactly how much they need of a product. Those who do not have containers are offered FSC-accredited wood pulp compostable paper bags.
Before Earth.Food.Love, Nicola Eckersley taught English to foreign students and her husband, Richard, played football. Now, the duo juggle tasks between them. During the day, Richard works in the shop full time while Nicola stays home with their daughter Willow; in the evenings, Nicola handles the administrative side of things, including answering emails and placing orders. Only recently have they begun to experiment with an extra hand: “We have just this week taken on a part-time employee to help on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays,” she tells progrss. The couple think the store can provide for their family comfortably. “We do live very simple, minimal lives too, which helps,” she adds.
According to the couple, the shop comes at the right time: “Everything happens at just the right time. We needed life experience first, it shaped who we are and lead us down this path of environmentalism,” she explains.
Nicola likes to think that the shop is not only a reflection of the community by itself, but also on their own personal lives. “Everything is organic and vegan, because we only eat organic, plant-based foods and we are very passionate about this,” she says. According to her, they are lucky to be part of a community that shares their organic lifestyle, making it easy for them to understand and relate to their market.
Nicola explains that their prices reflect the current market. “When the wholesaler drops the price, we drop ours and alternatively if the price rises due to droughts in Bolivia for example, we also raise our prices,” she says. “We have complete transparency with our customers. There are never any ‘sales’ or ‘special offers’ as we always offer the lowest price we can.”
As part of their mission to constantly evolve, the couple are always on the lookout for new products. In the coming few weeks, they will be adding seaweed, nutritional yeast and vegetable stock to their shelves. Eventually, the couple wants to grow their own produce as well, as this could save on the little packaging that they use when purchasing produce like kale and blueberries. “Being self sustaining is our dream.”
Earth.Food.Love partners with green electricity company Ecotricity, which powers them up with clean, green, renewable energy. They’re also a part of the 1% For The Planet, an international organization that has members all around the world contributing at least 1% of their annual sales to environmental causes; they say they have given more than $150 million back to the environment. The UK’s first zero-waste grocery store doesn’t turn a blind eye towards its local economy; the store also supports the Totnes Pound, an alternative local currency in Totnes, a town in Devon, that is often used in local purchases with the aim of supporting the town’s local economy.
As part of their knowledge-sharing philosophy, the couple is currently working on a downloadable PDF guide that will provide people with everything they need to know to set up a zero-waste shop of their own. “Its our dream to see them in every town, and we hope our experience and knowledge can guide people to do the same.”
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