DUNDEE’S FIRST ZERO WASTE SHOP – AN INTERVIEW WITH THE LITTLE GREEN LARDER
With sustainability being a focus for us for the next few months, we met up with Jillian, owner of The Little Green Larder in Dundee. Jillian runs Dundee’s first completely zero waste shop and we wanted to learn more about how sustainability has been at the heart of the business from the beginning.
Tell us a little about you, your business and why you decided to set it up?
Hi, my name is Jillian and I own and run The Little Green Larder (TLGL), Dundee’s first completely zero waste shop. At The Little Green Larder we have a selection of over 300 refillable items including whole foods, dried foods, sweets, liquids, cleaning products and more. Customers bring their own containers to fill up, eliminating the use of single use plastic that is polluting our planet. Any products that do come packaged we ensure this is either compostable or easily recyclable. None of the products or packaging you buy from us should ever end up in landfill.
Before setting up TLGL I was a hair and makeup artist specialising in bridal work. As much as I loved working for myself and working with my brides I felt like I was creating too much waste through my job. At the same time I was trying
to shop more sustainably and really struggling as there weren’t any shops like mine in Dundee. I hoped that someone would open a sustainable shop however eventually I got tired of waiting and decide to open one myself.
Can you explain your three central principals?
Inclusivity. TLGL is an inclusive shop where everyone is welcome. We believe in providing equal opportunities and access to our products for every single person that comes to visit us. We respect and appreciate all of our customers and are always working towards ensuring our shop is a safe and inclusive place for all.
Sustainability – Sustainability is key here at TLGL, it is at the forefront of everything we do. As a business we send zero waste to landfill and ensure that any by-products are reused then recycled. We only work with other businesses and suppliers that have the same values as we do to ensure that we can be as sustainable as possible.
Community – We are so thankful for how much our local community has embraced us since opening TLGL. We aim to be more than just a shop, we want to be a hub for our community to learn and grow. We regularly fundraise for local charities and donate any excess food to local foodbanks and community fridges. We work with as many local suppliers as possible and love bringing the best of what our community has to over to our customers.
What have you learned about Dundee and it’s attitude towards sustainability?
On the whole there is a great attitude towards sustainability in Dundee. Daily we get so many positive customers visiting our shop saying how glad they are to be able to buy eco friendly products with us. We have customers of all ages who come in and tell us what they are doing to make a difference and reduce waste within their life.
Do you think Dundee City Council are making enough of an effort to be more sustainable?
This is a very tricky question to answer however I will say that in general I am sure most people and businesses can do more to be sustainable.
There are still houses and flats in Dundee that only have a general waste bin, meaning that they do not have easy access to recycling and food waste bins. I would love to see more recycle bins and dog waste bins in Dundee as it gives people the opportunity to reduce waste and keep our streets cleaner.
Why is it important to you that your products are environmentally conscious?
Our planet and the creatures on it are always at the forefront of our mind at TLGL. None of the products we sell have been tested on animals and we are constantly on the look out for products that will not damage the environment.
The world is such a mess, you only have to walk down the street or go to the beach to see rubbish that is littering our streets. I recently climbed my first Munro and found that someone had left a packet of sweets at the top of such a beautiful mountain. (Of course I picked it up and put it in a bin at the bottom). As a business we don’t want to contribute to this waste, we want to eliminate it and help as many people as we can work together to reduce waste.
Sustainability can be really vague and cover so many things, what does it mean to you?
Here at TLGL sustainability means that we put the planet at the forefront of what we do. We work with sustainable businesses to ensure that every single product we sell is as sustainable as it can be. We refuse to sell products in plastic as it is polluting our world, and where possible we sell as many of our products as we can loose. Any bi-product from our business we aim to find a use for. We give boxes and food sacks away for people who are moving homes or have allotments and ensure that we send no waste to landfill.
What does sustainability look like in your day to day life?
I have always aimed to be as sustainable as possible in my day to day life. Luckily opening TLGL has made this much easier for me. I use local and sustainable skincare, shower and beauty products and my home is a refill lovers dream with jars of pasta, lentils, sweets etc filling my kitchen. I cook from scratch as often as I can using fresh fruit and veg and refillable products from TLGL and make sure I always turn my leftovers into a new meal.
I refuse to buy new clothes and give into fast fashion, my clothes are always pre loved from vintage stores, charity shops and clothes swaps. I love to upcycle furniture for my home and find unique vintage pieces.
Of course I recycle as much as I can, but I always try and avoid the need to recycle by not buying anything that comes in plastic or any wasteful products that may have a short life. If I have anything I don’t need anymore, (e.g. books, clothes etc) I will pass them onto a friend or donate them to a charity shop. If I do buy anything new I ensure that it is as sustainable as it can be and can either be donated, composted or recycled after use.
What barriers do you face when trying to make sustainable decisions for your business?
It has been surprising how easy it has been to make sustainable decisions for our business. I decided to only work with sustainable businesses and suppliers who have the same values as we do, so it makes it easy to bring in wonderful products that don’t damage our environment.
We do face some barriers when it comes to finding products without plastic as there are some products we would love to have however just really struggle to find them. It would be so easy to cave an bring in such products in plastic, however I refuse to. I just keep searching until I can find the products I am looking for without plastic.
What steps have you taken to break free from plastic within your business?
As we are a refill shop we buy a lot of our products in bulk. We can buy products such as rice, oats, pasta etc. in paper sacks. Once we have sold the contents we then reuse or give away the sacks for free to our customers for gardening etc.
As a business we are plastic free to our customers so we just refuse to buy in any products that are sold in plastic. We opt for products in cans and jars instead of plastic bags and when possible we sell our products loose. Customers can bring along their own bags, bottle and containers and can refill them with our vast product range.
We also work with lots of local businesses who will hand deliver their products to us reducing the need for packaging. We have worked with a variety of our local suppliers to implement a deposit return system meaning we can eliminate plastic and reduce waste.
Sometimes it can all be a little overwhelming to understand what all of this means, any hints or tips for those who have an existing business and want to start being more sustainable OR hints or tips for those starting their business and want to make sure sustainability is considered from the very beginning? What one thing can they start with?
When trying to make your business more sustainable a great place to start is to do a bin audit. Literally go through your rubbish bin at work and look at the type of waste you are creating.
Is there paper in your bin? Use it to make your daily to do list, write notes on it then put it in a recycle bin instead. Is there plastic in there? What type of plastic and why is it there. Do you buy products wrapped in plastic and can you find an alternative for this?
Perhaps your business is a food business and you have some food waste at the end of the day that is put in the food waste bin. Is this food still edible and if so what can you do to ensure it isn’t wasted? Why is there so much food leftover, have you ordered or made too much? At The Little Green Larder I use leftover fruit and veg to make cakes to sell in the shop, I donate any unsold food to the foodbank or community fridge, and sometimes we just give it away for free to homeless people who sit on the street outside our shop or customers at the end of the day. We would rather give something away for free than have it end up uneaten and wasted. We also monitor how much food we order to ensure we have as little food leftover as possible.
Get creative with your waste. At TLGL we try to re-use as much as we can. We use cardboard boxes that we get chocolates in to display paper bags in the shop and cut up cardboard to make price signs for our products. Any letters and envelopes are turned into to do lists and we flatten our packing paper from our deliveries to use when we post items to customers.
Businesses you admire for their sustainable practices and why?
There are so many amazing sustainable businesses out there, however the ones I want to mention are ones that we work with as I see first-hand the amazing difference they are making.
Our main supplier at the shop is Greencity Wholefoods based in Glasgow. As a business they do not sell any products that are tested on animals and their whole product range is vegetarian. They strive to find products that are as sustainable as possible and their values are in line with ours.
One of our most popular drinks that we sell is Bad Gal Boocha kombucha. We collect the empty glass bottles back from our customers and the amazing Heather collects them, sterilizes them then reuses them for more kombucha.
One of the very first local suppliers we found before TLGL even opened was Smelliez Soap. Amelia who runs Smellies is an inspirational young woman who is inspiring so many people to ditch plastic shower gel, soap and shampoo bottles and opt for bars of soap and shampoo bars instead. Her soap bars are wrapped in compostable packaging and we love working with her.
We would like to thank Jillian for getting involved and if you’ve not visited The Little Green Larder on 272 1AE Perth Road,
Dundee, DD2 1AE!
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Photographs by Illustrated by Kirsty