Bird mural by L7Matrix outside Zero Green, Bedminster
Urns of  cooking oils on sale at Zero Green
Bring a bottle and fill up from urns of cooking oils

It would be easy to dismiss a zero waste store as a hipster trend. Middle class yuppies selling overpriced grains to other middle class yuppies who are happy to buy expensive glass jars and have the time to weigh out their own herbs and spices to make sure their kitchens look tidy and clean and show off to their friends about how environmentally friendly they are. Zero Green is a beautiful store. On the outside, a graffiti bird by Brazilian artist L7matrix adorns the brickwork. Nothing screams hipster more than a bit of street art right? But this is Bristol and just down the road, a similar piece by the same artist can be seen on the wall of a flooring shop, right next to a very trendy parking meter. Inside, the shop is sleek and shiny. The store has just completed a refurb as part of it’s first anniversary celebrations. It does not look like your usual supermarket. Large dispensers are mounted on the wall to distribute grains and cereals. Jars line the shelves. It can be a shock to the system. You mean I have to pour out shampoo myself?! But that’s exactly what we need. We need to completely change our approach to buying, well, everything. Without shops like Zero Green, consumers will have no choice but to keep buying goods in plastic packaging, often buying more than they need only for it to go to waste.

Reusable snack pouches on sale at Zero Green
Flours and spices sold by the gram and Zero Green

Zero Green is the brainchild of Stacey and Lidia, friends who were inspired to action after being frustrated with the damage plastic was doing to the environment. Their products are sourced locally and come without packaging. Customers are asked to bring in jar and bags to fill with pasta, flour, and rice, laundry powder and shampoo, nuts, dried fruit, and sweets. These are weighed and priced accordingly.

But a refurb sounds wasteful I hear you say. Not here, old fitting were sold on and the fittings have been built from reclaimed timber from the Bristol Wood Recycling Project.

We caught up with Stacey and Lidia and asked them some questions.

Reusable products  
on sale at Zero Green
Reusable products
on sale at Zero Green

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in getting to where you are today?
My own mind! There was a huge element of fear to give up a well paid job and use all our savings to start a business most people had never heard of!

What has been your proudest moment so far?
Opening day, there were so many obstacles to get over before opening and to see people in our shop and loving what we had achieved was a complete joy.

A variety of teas and coffee on sale at Zero Green
A variety of teas and coffee on sale at Zero Green

What skills do you think have helped you succeed the most?

We both have a strong customer service background which has been a huge help as a huge part of this shop is talking to people and explaining what we do and why.Also we are both very different I am much more of a doer and have loads of ideas but am not creative enough to bring them to life, Lidia is very creative and make everything look as it does, she is also much more patient than me so will stick to tasks that I get frustrated by!

Do you have any strategies for keeping motivated?
Our customers keep us motivated, We also make sure we take time to switch of and have time away from each other and the shop and not feel to guilty about it,  there is a huge desire to spend 24/7 on and in the shop but that will quickly burn you out.

Locally-made soap   
on sale at Zero Green
Locally-made soap
on sale at Zero Green

What is the biggest lesson you have learned and what impact has it had on what you do going forward?
That sometimes passion is enough to succeed, we both had a reasonable business knowledge but the day we opened the shop we were probably about 50% ready. Also that when needed friends and family really step up and help. We have had loads of people make Zero Green what it is by supporting us and physically helping in the shop.

What do you think are the easiest and the hardest things for people to adopt for reducing plastic?
Easiest is to learn, there is so much information out there so much more than when we started so start reading, hardest is not to be overwhelmed it can seem like a overwhelming task but you just need to start with one or two items like your toothbrush or buying pasta at a zero waste shop then each time you run out of anything see if there is a plastic free alternative.

sweets on sale at Zero Green
You can even get your sugar fix

Did you envisage the anti-plastic/zero waste movement taking off as much as it has?
No. We hoped it would be enough to sustain the shop and we would be able to helper little bit of Bristol change but the change is huge and its everywhere which is amazing, We were in the right place at the right time with the right idea.

Was this a lifestyle you grew up with? If not, did you take incremental steps in making changes or was there a drastic overhaul?

Not really, I was a child of the early of the late 70’s/early 80’s and we had a greengrocer, bakery in the village I grew up in. We had milk delivered to the door in glass bottles but that was just normal. I then worked for Sainsburys for 17 years so the opposite of the world I live in now. Lidia grew up in Northern Spain so similarly had rural experience. Lidia got really interested in minimalism and moved to a Vegan diet about 6 month before the shop started so was ahead of me, I really just wanted to shop in a shop like Zero Green and it didn’t exist. I think we would both say its taken over our mindset you can not walk around or visit shops etc without seeing plastic everywhere.

You can find Zero Green at
12 North St, Bristol BS3 1HT

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