Most of us have no choice but to shop at the big conventional supermarkets, but it’s good to buy even some goods from indie bakers, farmers’ markets or indie health shops. But if you have no choice than to shop at the big names, then just change what you buy, to send a message you want fresh food over processed junk that makes more profits for them. You’ll always find the basics (like bread) are at the far end of supermarkets and low-profit cereals (like porridge) not at eye-level (and there are never special offers on broccoli!)
Read up on food safety for people & pets (many human foods are unsafe around animal friends). Choose unscented cleaning/laundry for pregnancy/nursing, medical conditions, babies and pets (citrus oils are pet-toxic). Avoid xylitol (in some foods, toothpastes, gum) in homes with pets.
a thriving food co-operative in Manchester
Unicorn Grocery is a thriving co-operative supermarket, twice named Best Food Retailer at the BBC Food & Farming Awards. This shop is the size of a supermarket but owned by its staff, who really do know their onions! A real hub of the community, it even has volunteer cyclists who deliver orders to people who can’t get to the shop in person (disabled people, busy mothers or carers etc). It offers a wide range of 2500 foods, along with organic beers, wines and spirits – and eco-refillable beauty and household goods.
Nearly all fruits and vegetables is sold loose, and there is a range of dried goods in zero-waste dispensers, and you can borrow cloth bags if you forget your own. Most salads and olives are sold in reusable tubs, and there’s even a soup cup deposit scheme.
Unicorn Grocery offers regular price comparisons with big supermarkets, which it can do as it cuts out the middlemen, and sources nearly all locally-grown fruits and vegetables direct from the farm gate, rather than wholesalers, It’s also not under pressure to make huge profits for shareholders or executives – because they don’t have any!
Some items do cost a bit more. For instance, Unicorn Grocery’s bread is slow-risen, made from organic ingredients by real bakers (along with homemade vegan flapjacks and brownies). Most items are healthy, but this is a ‘food shop’. So it’s not like chain store health shops that sell more supplements, this store simply sells good quality food free from genetically modified ingredients or hidden sugar or salt. Two-thirds of produce is organic, including all their booze.
The company also offers a ‘Good Stuff’ apple logo on items that indicate their favourite products and suppliers. These are really special companies that Unicorn Grocery would love to see as nationwide brands, so they give them a bit of free marketing!
Although most food is local (flour, beans, peas and even quinoa from Suffolk), you won’t be short of ethnic foods. From organic Italian pestos to Fair Trade pickles from a women’s co-operative in Swaziland, there’s something for everyone’s taste. Then before you head home, pop to the freezer section for Lancashire’s biggest range of wheat-meats, raw sweet pies, dairy-free cheeses and vegan ice-creams.
England’s largest zero waste supermarket
The Clean Kilo (Birmingham) is England’s largest zero-waste supermarket. Situated in Bourneville, it uses a tare system to weigh food, without paying for containers. Beautifully fitted with natural hues and materials, there’s a deli, chilled plant milk dispensers and machines to make your own orange juice and peanut butter.
Most food is organic from local artisan producers, bought in bulk to build strong relationships and good income for small suppliers, and containers are exchanged to create a circular economy. This keeps money in the local area, and helps to reduce road traffic as no lorries are needed to deliver food to local people, which helps to reduce carbon emissions. Even the crisps arrive in packaging-free containers from nearby Staffordshire.
One Brummie who would have been super-happy that England’s first zero-waste supermarket is vegan was Benjamin Zephaniah. The black poet who ‘made the establishment uncomfortable’, he stuck to his principles and was one of the few to refuse an honour, due to not believing in the system (unlike some who don’t believe in the system, but then take the title!) A passionate vegan, he used his poetry to help all species, and will be sadly missed.
I’d find out what the cow was eating, and join it (when asked what he would eat if in a desert with no food, apart from a cow).
an eco-vegan supermarket in Brighton
Kindly (Brighton, East Sussex) is an all-vegan supermarket in this vibrant city. It also offers carbon-neutral delivery to local customers, through an online store. If you’re not at home, place a note to leave deliveries in a safe designated place (it’s best to be home if ordering chilled goods).
This supermarket focuses on organic, local and Fairtrade products to make it the most responsible place to shop if you live in the city. It even offers vegan sandwiches in compostable packaging (handmade in Brighton!). Everything is carefully selected by their team of experts – from food and drink to eco health and beauty items, even eco-nappies for babies. The founder is an Internet techy wizard who wished to use his success to put some good back into the world, and his aim is to ‘flip the supermarket model on its head’ and put planet before profits.
Unlike most indie health shops, this shop is big enough to do all your regular weekly shop in one go – from fresh fruit and vegetables and bread to meat and dairy alternatives, and everything inbetween. Step inside (away from the city bustle) and do your shop in peace, knowing your food choices are helping to create peace!
more indie supermarkets in Brighton
Roots & Hoots is owned by the same people who run Kindly, and sends out everything to local customers in packaging. The all-vegan range operates on a closed-loop carbon-neutral delivery and collection service, so you simply return the cotton bags, tins or glass bottles, they clean them and use them again. The range includes a wide range of food and drink, beauty and household items (with eco-household refills).
Hunglish is a nice little zero waste store in Brighton, which offers free local pickup or delivery (nationwide) of plastic-free daily essentials from food to beauty and household goods. The aim is to encourage each Brightonians to make one small substitute each week to save 52 bits of plastic each year. With a population of around 250,000, if everyone did this, it would mean over 13 million less plastic items to dispose of each year in the city alone!