Naked Larder: south London's answer to reducing plastic waste
Naked Larder has been running for just over a year, providing an alternative system for buying package-free produce, using online ordering and pre-arranged collections. Here Francesca Nicol asks founder Phili Denning her story and insights into zero-waste living in London.
What originally drove you to set up Naked Larder?
From a very young age I’ve always loved and been fascinated by nature and our planet. Recently the drive for a career change seemed to be an ideal opportunity for me to focus on this passion and combine it with my very real concern for the rapidly declining health of our environment.
In addition, looking after a family who have always reduced and recycled as much as possible, it was very frustrating to see that our bin was still so full of packaging. Fruit, vegetables, and the small amounts of meat and fish that we eat, were fairly easy to source without packaging, but was the basic groceries and dry goods such as pasta, rice, cereal, nuts and so on, which were still hard to source packaging-free without greatly increasing costs.
So the concept of our home-based Naked Larder was born. Setting up Naked Larder was a small way I could help with the need for us to change our shopping habits. To provide a more sustainable way to shop and aid practices that reduce the huge volumes of packaging waste, in particular plastic waste, that are currently being created. Reducing the use of packaging, rather than recycling, is the key element.
What has been the biggest challenge so far in changing customer habits?
It is actually not that challenging as more and more people are ready for, and demanding, change. It’s great to see! I’m thoroughly enjoying helping to facilitate that change. Often people have limited budgets and lead busy lives. We’re up against the supermarket giants. The challenge is to create an alternative that is price-competitive and still convenient. Both aspects of which our alternative model at Naked Larder is ideally suited to.
What are your top tips for anyone looking to reduce waste in their daily lives?
1) Prepare yourself - cook as much as you can at home and take snacks/lunches etc. out with you when on the go, so you don’t need to buy overpacked snacks, take-outs, drinks, and so on. Make a coffee at home and put it in your reusable cup, take your own reusable cutlery, shopping bags, and so on out with you. It sounds onerous but once you get into the habit it becomes second nature. It also becomes quite rewarding and will, of course, save you lots of money.
2) Ask yourself if you really need something before making a purchase and if so, are there any low-waste alternative options?
3) Reuse as much as you can. You don’t need to go out and buy a new set of jars to store produce in while throwing away all your jam jars and old tupperware. Use what you have until you can’t possibly use it any longer. You can even wash out plastic bags you currently have to reuse them.
4) Refuse needless packaging and look for alternatives like zero-waste shops, refill stations, and buying in bulk.
What was the easiest swap to make?
To buy dry goods in large sacks, the majority of which are paper, and to offer refills for cleaning products.
And the hardest?
To find pasta in bulk. It’s the holy grail of zero-waste shops! If there’s anyone out there that can help, please get it touch.
Are there ways that people are creating waste, perhaps without realising?
Messages bombard us all the time trying to persuade us that we need to buy this product or that new item. It’s a web of overconsumption of just about everything. We need to reconsider what we need, how we use what we have, and what impact will come from what we buy. Do we need a hand cream, a foot cream, a face cream, and a body butter? Do we need to wash all our clothes every day, or think about when they are actually dirty and only do it then? Do we need a different cleaning product for every job, or could we use a few simple, non-harmful basics to do all the jobs? Do we have to buy something new or could we get it secondhand? There are lots of things or behavioural patterns that we just take for granted. The secret is to think outside the box and start to do things differently.
What steps would you like to see taken by government towards a reduced-waste Britain?
I’d like to see action taken to push responsibility for waste back to manufacturers and big companies who continue to produce wasteful items. Without that pressure it will be hard to ever move to a more circular economy, where ‘waste’ items are not waste because they get taken back into the system for reuse. I would also like to see stronger waste reduction policies introduced at local authority level to encourage businesses and consumers to reduce their waste.
What would you like to see shops and suppliers do to take responsibility?
Redesign products with circularity in mind: not take, use, dispose, but take, use, return to manufacturer for reuse or repurposing. It would also be good to see shops and suppliers putting pressure on their own suppliers to reduce waste.
What steps can people take in their workplaces to create a culture of waste-reduction?
Verbalise your concerns about waste wherever you are, at work, public places, and institutions. Ask for waste-free solutions, set up or join a plastic free initiative at your work, school or in your local community. Ask shops, cafes and so on to provide reusable options and, if not, why not? Keep talking about the issue everywhere!
Discover more plastic-free and zero-waste shopping locations across London in our guide here.