Saving the planet one store at a time with Waitrose Unpacked
How Waitrose are helping the environment with their Plastic-Free Trial
Time for yet another green living article! Yes, I know, we were going to talk about investing and properties (and don’t worry – we still will!), but I had a trip to Oxford this Saturday, and I just couldn’t help myself but write a post about it. I read about Waitrose’s Unpacked project on BBC News, and I simply had to go and see it for myself. Sadly, I was too busy for most of the month, and it took me a couple of weeks to figure out how to squeeze the trip in my schedule. And, when I finally managed to scrape together a couple of free hours, I excitedly hopped into my car and promptly headed straight for Oxford, along with my daughter. In this post, I’ll tell you about our trip and give you my thoughts on the project.
Why my focus on Green Living
As I’ve already outlined in my previous posts, the focus of my blog is effective living. Living effectively is a very broad definition, encompassing everything between eco-friendliness and self-sufficiency to confidence, self-discipline and even finance and investing advice. Yes, the term isn’t all that popular (and sadly, doesn’t get all that many clicks), but it is the best way for me to describe my personal life goals. I simply want to lead a lifestyle that fills me with pride, and, knowing the things that I do, this is simply impossible without being eco-conscious and taking care of the environment. Ever since I started introducing green changes into my life, I’ve also felt that it’s my responsibility to help others see the impact of their actions. Yes, I know how that sounds, and no, I’m not trying to drag you into a cult.
As Plato puts it – “Human behaviour flows from three main sources: desire, emotion, and knowledge.”
Once I started looking at the bigger picture and realised that we need to start taking action, I immediately began work on both this blog website, along with my eBooks and my eco-friendly store – Eco Bravo. My goal is very simple – I want to encourage as many people as I can to turn a greener leaf.
The Waitrose Unpacked Initiative
The entire idea behind the unpacked project is to get people used to more sensible methods of packaging. The shop has, by their own words, unpacked 160 varieties of fruit and veggies, gotten rid of the plastic from their flowers and added 48 products to refill (ranging from pasta and grains to frozen fruits, coffee, alcoholic beverages and even cleaning products). All in all, that’s a fantastic initiative, and I really hope other stores across the UK follow suit (I’m looking at you, Tesco!).
They hope to achieve their goal by encouraging clients to bring along “their own reusable shopping bags and containers”. So far, so good, but what if you don’t have any reusable shopping bags or containers at home? Well, they’ve thought of that as well! The store is not only selling reusable grocery bags but also providing their members with a borrowing option.
When I read about all of that, I was thrilled. A store, offering high-quality fruits and veggies, that’s also running a green living initiative for 11 whole weeks? Sign me up! Naturally, I just had to drop by and see it for myself.
Our trip to Waitrose
Waitrose has a couple of stores across Oxford and they’re only a tad more expensive than the ones that most of us already use (like Tesco, for example). They allow you to pick and choose your fruits and veggies (and just about everything else they sell), providing clients with something that we all desperately need – healthy and organic choices.
Sadly, while London does have quite a few organic stores, we’re still somewhat lacking in the supermarket eco-friendly packaging department. Green stores are great and all, but most people would rather go for the more affordable supermarket chains.
We absolutely need more eco-friendly, organic fruit distributors in London! So, my Waitrose trip allowed me to hit two birds with one stone – not only did I get to see their Unpacked initiative in action, but I also managed to restock my fridge with fresh berries that should last me for a couple of days.
So, despite all of the green living ads online and large posters in-store, we still saw a lot of plastic. Most of the consumers seemed to have missed the eco-friendliness memo opting for the throw-away alternatives. We only managed to spot a couple of visitors with reusable containers. Waitrose did, however, have plenty of stands, offering 100% plastic-free products. There were also a lot of paper bags (less-than-ideal, but still bio-degradable), compostable bags and reusable bottles.
I had a quick chat with a cashier, who told me that they’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback so far and that they’ll stick to the idea for the whole 11 weeks. They’re committed to the cause, I’ll give them that!
All in all, the idea was great. I’d definitely give them an A for effort. It’s an excellent initiative and they really pulled through. At the end of the day, you just can’t expect everyone to embrace green living overnight. And let’s not forget that they are a business, and they need to care about sales (especially if they want to convince the higher-ups to repeat the initiative in the future). Plastics are, after all, a lot more convenient and easier to use. If you bring your own bags, not only do you need to pack them at home before you leave, but you’ll also need to clean and wash them after you get back. Naturally, most people don’t want to bother with that and just take the plastics whenever they can.
The final verdict
Is this project a good thing? Absolutely. As I said above, we definitely need more initiatives of this kind. We all need to take a good look around and realise the impact that we’ve had on the environment. And, since most people don’t like thinking about the consequences of their actions, they need to be gently nudged in the right direction. Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of nudging myself, and I admit that it can get tiresome at times. Their way of tackling the plastic issue by renting out reusable containers is admirable and much safer than just selling throw-away ones, but, at the end of the day, it’s still plastic.
Hopefully, once the consumers are ready to fully embrace eco-friendliness, they can change over to glass, stainless steel or bamboo. Sure, glass can break, but, as long as you’re careful, it will last you for a while.
All in all, the initiative was a brilliant move in my opinion. It’s amazing how one simple innovation can not only change the course of an entire chain for the better, but also put them miles ahead of the competition. Well done, Waitrose! I can’t wait for London to get its own Unpacked initiative!
Wrapping it up
In closing, I’d like to remind you that we only have one world. If things get too toxic, we can’t just pack up and leave, and neither can our kids or grandkids. Maybe in the future, we’d have the technology to move somewhere else, but we need to make sure that humanity survives that long. And without protecting the environment, that’s highly unlikely to happen. Besides, our planet is wonderful. Why would you want to leave it for anything else?
So, if you ever see a green initiative, even one that isn’t as amazing as you’d like, I wholeheartedly suggest that you support it. Pay it a visit, buy some products, chat with the employees and see what’s what. The more successful these types of projects are (usually measured in “sales” and “engagement”), the more of them we’re going to see in the near future. By attending them, you’re actually contributing to a greener future!
Well, that about wraps it up for today! Thank you all for reading this post, and I’ll see you next time when we’ll be back to our scheduled Property Investment program. After we’re done covering that, I’ll give you a quick write-up on the eco-friendly stores in London that I’ve personally shopped from, just in case this post made you think that there aren’t any.
Meanwhile, if you’ve got any thoughts or comments about the Waitrose Unpacked initiative, or, if you’ve attended similar events in the past, don’t hesitate to drop me a line in the comments below!