A Guide to Zero Waste Shops in London

Zero Waste Shopping in London at The Source Bulk Foods, Chiswick

In 2018, the journal Science Advances revealed how approximately 90.5% of the plastic waste produced to date has never been recycled. This sobering fact, as well as thought-provoking footage shared online around the impact of plastic waste on marine life in our seas, helped to heighten the conversation around tackling plastic pollution.

The results of the plastic bag tax, launched in 2015, show how changing consumer behaviour is possible, but relies on us making conscious lifestyle decisions. Compared to the 2014 calendar year, between 2016 and 2017, the major supermarkets reportedly issued 83% fewer bags.

Looking to reduce your own plastic usage? In addition to saying no to single-use plastics and making sustainable swaps, London’s zero waste refill shops are a great way to reduce unnecessary plastic consumption on food and household items. Here’s where to find them and how they work.

Zero Waste Shops in London

Why refill? Sign explaining the reasons for going plastic packaging free

Unpackaged at Planet Organic – Various locations

Unpackaged has become a champion and inspiration for the zero waste lifestyle since 2006. Initially, founder Catherine Conway began Unpackaged as a market trader, before setting up shop in 2007 in Islington and later moving to Hackney in 2012. Although the store is now closed, Unpackaged has teamed up with Planet Organic to focus on “scaling up from niche ‘corner shop’ to mainstream supermarket”. Four Planet Organic outlets currently offer loose, packaging free goods under the Unpackaged brand: Muswell Hill, Torrington Place, Islington and Westbourne Grove.

The Source Bulk Foods – Battersea and Chiswick

Save plastic at The Source Bulk Foods in Chiswick

The Source Bulk Foods was founded by Aussie couple Patrick and Makayla in 2012 in Byron Bay. The brand believes in reducing food miles and offering high-quality packaging-free bulk foods at affordable prices. With over 40 stores in Australia, The Source Bulk Foods is the country’s largest specialised bulk food retailer. Lucky for us, the brand launched in Battersea and Chiswick in 2018. In the short time since they’ve been in the UK, their customers have helped to save over 5,000 kg of plastic waste.

Hetu – Wandsworth

Hetu, meaning ‘purpose’ in Hindi, sells vegan, unrefined and unprocessed whole foods and reusable items without unnecessary packaging. They say to be “on a mission to change the world with one of the most powerful tools at our disposal; our buying power.” The nearest station to Hetu is Clapham Junction.

Naked Larder – Herne Hill

For those in the South, Naked Larder allows you to pre-order and collect your packaging-free shopping using your own containers. As recycling is still energy intensive, Phili’s mission, founder of Naked Larder, is to try and reduce packaging as much as possible, especially for dry goods which can be difficult to buy without plastic in supermarkets.

Bulk Market – Hackney

Dry goods at Bulk Market in Hackney

Fed up with plastic, which is designed to last, being used for single-use disposable items, Ingrid Caldironi founded Bulk Market. After a successful pop-up in 2017, Bulk Market crowdfunded to open a permanent location in late 2018 at Bohemia Market in Hackney, a couple of minutes from Hackney Central overground. They are working hard to be able to provide wine and beer, in addition to their current stock of fresh veg, grains and pulses and household items.

As Nature Intended – Various locations

As Nature Intended has six locations across London: Balham, Chiswick, Ealing Green, Marble Arch, Spitalfields and Westfield in Stratford. The brand champions organic and natural produce and was created by Iceland founder, Sir Malcolm Walker, back in 2000. Rather than being wholly dedicated to zero-waste, As Nature Intended has bulk sections (though, not currently at their Stratfield store) where you can buy packaging-free.

Harmless – Wood Green

If you’re in the North, try Harmless in Wood Green. This shop which sources producers and suppliers that are both environmentally and socially conscious, is not just zero plastic, but also vegan. You can find Harmless just five minutes from Wood Green station at Blue House Yard, a temporary redevelopment that provides creatives and entrepreneurs studio and retail space. If you come with a list, you can explore Blue House Yard or even have a drink while Harmless prepares your order.

How to Buy Food in Bulk and Reduce Waste

Although many of these shops provide paper bags you can use and new glass jars to buy, most encourage you to bring your own containers, re-using whatever you have at home or sourcing second-hand containers from charity shops.

From glass jars to tins and pillow cases, as long as you can weigh your receptacle, they’re quite flexible with how you to choose to go no-waste. But remember that they aren’t responsible for any cross-contamination, so make sure your containers are thoroughly clean and dry. Once you’ve got your containers sorted, here’s what to do:

  1. Weigh and make a note of your empty container, or measure the liquid capacity using water. This is called to ‘tare’.
  2. Fill your container with your chosen bulk item.
  3. Re-weigh your filled container and subtract the empty item’s weight.
  4. Pay for your goods.

If you enjoy good food and want to do something good for the planet, these shops are almost like an adult version of pick ‘n’ mix, but with less refined sugar! As long as you come prepared, it’s an enjoyable and slow way to shop in London.

This article is part of A Year of Living Slower – 12 monthly experiments in living better, not faster. March’s theme is Slow Food.

Discover more about slow living and sustainability.

What is the Slow Food Movement?

What is Slow Food?

In the 1980s, the founder of the slow food movement, Carlo Petrini, began to notice how “the umbilical cord that had once connected the worlds of farmer and consumer was cut.” Petrini, from Bra in Northern Italy, lamented the loss of connection between consumers and producers with the introduction of large-scale supermarkets and fast food.

In 1986, two significant events took place which encouraged Petrini to found Slow Food, a not-for-profit grassroots organisation which champions traditional food preparation techniques and locally sourced ingredients.

The first event, which is often associated with the birth of the movement, was the planned opening of a McDonald’s restaurant in the Piazza di Spagna in the centre of Rome. While many protested outside the planned McDonald’s site, Petrini disagreed with this solution. Instead, he set about defending Italian culinary traditions by showing how they were at risk.

The second event was the selling of cheap wine made with methanol which led to the deaths of 19 people, in addition to multiple poisonings. According to The Independent, the cheap wine incident also supported Petrini’s drive to raise awareness. Italian wine exports fell by more than a third and demonstrated that protecting the country’s culinary heritage was not only important culturally, but also economically.

The Slow Food Manifesto and Beliefs

In 1989 Slow Food came to life when delegates from 15 countries from around the globe signed the initial manifesto. The manifesto promoted living a “better quality lifestyle”, finding pleasure in food and protecting local traditions:

“First of all, we can begin by cultivating taste, rather than impoverishing it, by stimulating progress, by encouraging international exchange programs, by endorsing worthwhile projects, by advocating historical food culture and by defending old-fashioned food traditions.”Slow Food Manifesto, 1989

Over time, the beliefs of the Slow Food organisation have been developed and refined. Today, Slow Food is guided by the principle that food systems should produce “good, clean and fair food for everyone”.

  • GOOD: quality, nourishing food that is full of flavour
  • CLEAN: food production that is not harmful to the environment
  • FAIR: prices that are affordable for consumers and fair conditions and income for producers

The time and potential cost implications of cooking from scratch using local ingredients have been contested in an opinion piece by Karla Fernandez for Feminist Wire. Fernandez suggests that the slow food movement can vilify all processed foods which have allowed both working women and men to spend less time in the kitchen. She alludes to the difference in processing, for example between frozen vegetables and a ready-meal.

While a trip to the farmers’ market may not be feasible or affordable for every weekly shop and some elements of processed food may be unavoidable (or even desirable), it’s still possible to make more sustainable and conscious decisions in supermarkets with some research.

Slow Food in the Digital Era

Since Petrini first shared his concerns over our accelerated pace of life in the 1980s, referencing industrialisation and the creation of the ‘machine’, our speed of living has arguably only increased.

In 2018, the conversation around the environmental costs of our food consumption habits peaked with the release of new research from the University of Oxford. The study advised that two seemingly similar food products in the same supermarket could have wildly different environmental impacts and as consumers, we’re not informed about the consequences of our purchasing choices due to lack of clear labelling. The research also increased discussion around the impact of reducing animal products in our diets as one of the most beneficial ways to support the planet on an individual level.

2018 also saw Collins Dictionary select ‘single-use’ as the word of the year, reflecting the increase in public discussion around plastic pollution. The plastic bag tax has seen a shift in consumer behaviour, encouraging shoppers to bring their own. This suggests that a similar effect could be possible for food packaging and levies on high environmental impact foods.

While we’re clearly at an environmental tipping point on the discussion around sustainability and how we make food purchases, we can also consider how the act of preparing and eating food has changed in the digital era.

The significance of meal times has arguably been devalued as we eat at our desks or accompanied by our smartphones, the latter breaking down conversations and distracting us from what’s on our plates.

Today, Slow Food deserves a further point in its list of GOOD, CLEAN and FAIR principles. A focus not just on selecting ingredients, but also how we use them – on slowing down to find joy in the meditative and creative process of cooking from scratch, and re-assigning value to the importance of connecting with and over the food we consume.

This article is part of A Year of Living Slower – 12 monthly experiments in living better, not faster. March’s theme is Slow Food.

A Year of Living Slower, March: Slow Food

Scandi inspired dining room decor

Welcome to the third month of A Year of Living Slower, a year-long challenge in living better, not faster. Each month, the experiment focuses on a different theme, encouraging us to make small, positive lifestyle changes, inspired by the slow living movement.

In January, the challenge explored the theme of sleep – something integral to our well-being. And in February, we focused on slow Sundays. We shared inspiration around where to enjoy a quieter Sunday in London and also asked four simple, slow and eco-conscious bloggers for their ideas.

The first two months of A Year of Living Slower have concentrated on self-care and slow living on an individual level. As we head towards spring, we take a more macro approach and turn our attention to the very heart of the slow living movement: slow food.

Embracing Slow Food

In March, we seek to understand the roots of the slow food movement, initiated by Carlo Petrini in Rome. We delve deeper into this topic and understand slow food from different angles, from supporting local producers and sustainability to finding joy in the process of cooking from scratch and being more present when eating.

This month’s challenge aims to help us consider our food choices, especially in a city setting. And on a personal level, it encourages us to slow down and enjoy our food, rather than eating on the go, or while scrolling on our smartphones.

Join in the conversation and share your photos using #AYearOfLivingSlower on Instagram.

Quiet London: 7 Places to Spend a Slow Sunday in the City

Flat lay with cotton flowers and Quiet London book

London is an exciting and buzzing metropolis and deserves such a description. Yet, there are times when city life feels overwhelming. For those times, there are a whole host of relatively quiet spots that allow you to enjoy a slower pace of life come Sunday.

Where to Spend a Slow Sunday

1. Victoria Park Market

Victoria Park Market is a popular produce market that takes place every Sunday from 10am to 4pm in one of East London’s prettiest parks. Enjoy a street food snack for your Sunday morning walk around the park or down the canal, or pick up some seasonal fruit and veg, fresh bread and artisan cheese for later.

2. Kew Gardens

Whatever the season, a slow Sunday at The Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew is always a day well spent. With world-famous glasshouses and beautifully kept woods, grounds and gardens, there is so much botany to enjoy both inside and out. Or, simply bring a blanket and find a quiet spot to read and relax.

The roof of the Palm House, Kew Gardens

3. Holland Park

Holland Park is a 54-acre park with gardens, patches of woodland and sports facilities. With relaxing waterfalls and even a few wandering peacocks, The Kyoto Garden donated by the Chamber of Commerce of Kyoto in 1991, is a real highlight.

4. Barbican Conservatory

The Barbican Conservatory opened in 1984 and is home to over 2,000 species of plants. A lush oasis in East London, the Barbican Centre’s giant greenhouse is open on selected Sundays for those in need of some urban escapism.

5. Richmond Park

From a scenic riverside to good restaurants, there
are many reasons to spend a slow Sunday in Richmond. Yet, without a doubt, one of the most popular weekend jaunts in this area is Richmond Park. As the largest royal park in London, there is plenty of space to run, cycle, walk or amble and get some fresh air.

6. Petersham Nurseries

Down a track road in Richmond, Petersham Nurseries is about as far away from Central London life as it gets. Created by the Boglione family, this plant nursery-meets-restaurant-cafe-meets-lifestyle boutique charms visitors with its laidback rustic-luxe aesthetic. Enjoy a leisurely lunch among the plants with menus that are inspired by slow food and sustainability.

Plants at Petersham Nurseries

7. Columbia Road Market

This popular flower market is one of the busier locations on this list. The affordable prices and variety of fresh blooms and houseplants available continue to attract crowds each Sunday morning.

For a slower experience, visit Columbia Road as early as possible (the market starts at 8am), or try Conservatory Archives on Hackney Road instead. This London plant shop is the definition of an urban jungle and only about a 10 minute walk from the market.

These spots in London prove that there are places to find escapism and quiet without leaving the capital. If you’re looking for more inspiration, we asked four London-based simple, slow and eco living bloggers how they spend a slow Sunday in London.

This article is part of A Year of Living Slower – 12 monthly experiments in living better, not faster. February’s theme is Slow Sundays

4 Bloggers and Instagrammers Share Their Favourite Way to Spend a Slow Sunday in London

4 Bloggers share their ideal Slow Sunday in London

Focusing on everything from slow to intentional and sustainable living, these London-based bloggers and Instagrammers share the Slow Living LDN. passion for enjoying the quieter side of the capital. As part of A Year of Living Slower, they reveal their favourite places to spend a Slow Sunday in London.

The Eco Everyday

Carly is an editor who is passionate about independent brands and pursuing a more sustainable lifestyle. Her photos are a beautifully curated mix of London and countryside spots in natural tones. Carly’s brown coat is becoming iconic in her Instagram feed, giving her a signature style when she features in front of the camera.

The Eco Everyday’s Slow Sunday in London: Notting Hill

Carly from The Eco Everyday

Having lived in East London for many years (I met my husband, got engaged and got married to him on the same road from Dalston to Shoreditch), it’s sometimes nice to go on an adventure and explore a different area at the weekend. 

Across the city, the many pretty streets in and around Notting Hill can have a quiet, sleepy feel that are perfect for a slow-paced Sunday (especially if you steer away from the crowds on busy Portobello Market).

There’s so many great independent shops to visit, not to mention vintage and charity treasure troves. Some of my favourites include: Summerill & Bishop for beautiful tableware (including delicate recycled glass bottles); Wolf & Badger for indie brands and natural skincare (I love By Sarah London); and Rellik (so many memories as I used to go hunting for vintage dresses there regularly in my teens). And if you want an Instagrammable vegan-friendly brunch, Farmacy’s ‘Earth Bowls’ are worth the trek across town for alone. 

Follow The Eco Everyday: @theecoeverday

Bryony Weston

Like Slow Living LDN., Bryony is an advocate of slow living in the city. She is particularly passionate about pursuing a low impact lifestyle and often shares inspiration on how to live more sustainably in daily life. Bryony’s extremely lovable English Bulldog, Muffin, is also a star of her feed.

Bryony’s Slow Sunday in London: Victoria Park Market

Bryony Weston's Slow Sunday in London

Sunday is my favourite day of the week. It always starts with a dog walk, which at this time of year is pretty chilly. My husband and I layer up, grab our reusable mugs and the three of us venture to our local cafe for a coffee. We then walk to Victoria Park market via the canals for lunch or a snack and to buy some groceries and treats for later. When we arrive home it’s time for a cosy movie or a jigsaw puzzle which we do whilst chatting and listening to our teenage favourites playlist- got to have balance!

Before bed I love to have a bubble bath; there’s something medicinal about soaking in hot water with a lovely candle burning and the only task left to do being to fall asleep.

Follow Bryony: @bryony_weston

Changing Pages

On her blog and accompanying Instagram page, Angie shares inspiration on where to enjoy London’s quieter spots, in addition to well-being (particularly how to find calm), culture, travel and of course, brilliant books. Changing Pages’ feed is packed with beautiful shots of places to visit in the capital.

Changing Pages’ Slow Sunday in London: Holland Park

Changing Pages, Slow Sundays flatlay

Mostly my Sundays will start with church, which is a lovely reflective way to set the tone for the day.  Afterwards, the essential ingredients for a delicious slow Sunday are fresh air, exercise, coffee, reading and some gentle wandering.  Holland Park and the surrounding area meets all of these requirements.  

Positioned between Kensington High Street and Notting Hill Gate, Holland Park is easily accessible, but often so much quieter than neighbouring Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park.  A meandering walk through the secluded wooded areas, and you are quickly transported away from the busy London streets. The tranquil Japanese inspired Kyoto Garden is a lovely place to sit with a book, and the pretty orangery is perfect for coffee and cake and people watching.

Nearby, Leighton House Museum, is truly one of London’s hidden gems. Tucked away in a residential street, it is the former home and studios of the painter Lord Fredrick Leighton and always feels wonderfully undiscovered.  The entrance hall is a vision of turquoise and blue mosaic from floor to ceiling, and the building often houses fascinating exhibitions. It’s a beautiful place in which to wander and soak up some culture before heading back to Notting Hill or Kensington High street where lunch and supper options are plentiful.

Follow Changing Pages: @changing_pages and changing-pages.com

My Simple London

Ruth lives in South East London and posts about slow, simple, quiet and sustainable living both on her blog and Instagram feed. She shares muted, calming flatlays and interiors and is currently undertaking a 365 day challenge to slow down, simplify and focus on the smaller things in life.

My Simple London’s Slow Sunday in London: Blackheath and Greenwich

Slow weekends in London are amazing, especially here in the South East. We love to go up to Blackheath, sometimes we go to the farmers’ market to pick up fresh bread and cheese to eat on the Heath, or we pop into a few charity shops before having a cuppa and a treat in Gail’s bakery

Then, we head across the Heath into Greenwich Park for a wander. We always stop to take in the stunning views of Greenwich and beyond. The boys love to have a kick around with a football while I sit on the bench to read my book. When we arrive at the other side of the park, we all enjoy a little browse in the bookshop then a wander around Greenwich market. On our way home we may be persuaded to pop in the Maritime museum or to buy an ice-cream! 

I am so grateful for days like this and for living in this wonderful pocket of South East London.

Follow My Simple London: @mysimplelondon and mysimplelondon.com

Thank you to all of our contributors for their photos and thoughts. From Victoria Park Market to Greenwich, there’s so much inspiration here for a Sunday well-spent in the city.

This article is part of A Year of Living Slower – 12 monthly experiments and mini challenges in living better, not faster. February’s theme is Slow Sundays and aims to put the self-care back into the traditional day of rest.