How environmentally conscious is your business?
This week we talked to Sophie Rae of ripple, Cardiff's first zero waste store, about low impact living - and what businesses can do to be more sustainable.
At Penarth Management we're passionate about the environment and minimising our impact. It's why we help companies with their ISO 14001 environmental management systems... and it's why we backed ripple's Kickstarter campaign this summer.
Due to open this autumn, ripple promises to deliver refillable wholefoods, natural beauty products and ethical fashion. Following her very successful Kickstarter campaign, Sophie is now busy working behind the scenes to make her dream a reality.
Why is the idea of zero waste so important?
"Zero waste, as a term, can seem daunting to many, but for me it really means low impact. Unless we all decide to live off grid and sustain ourselves off the land, living zero waste just isn't a realistic lifestyle in our modern society. Instead, I try to live each day by leaving as light a footprint as possible.
The question isn't really if this way of shopping takes off, but when. As a society, we have to face the toll we've taken on our planet. It's no good burying our heads in the litter-strewn sand anymore. Plastic has no end life, and we're seeing the gut-wrenching signs of our addiction to disposable single-use products surface across the world."
What gave you the idea for the ripple project?
"My mission with ripple is to change the way Cardiff consumes, making the shift from shopping absentmindedly, to asking conscious questions. Where did this product come from? Was the worker paid a fair wage? Do I really need that much packaging?
I want people to understand that change doesn't come in grand gestures, but from small everyday changes. And that set backs happen often when you're on a path to changing life-long consumer habits. When I decided to make small sustainable changes, after discovering the shocking truth about plastic pollution, I did so incrementally. Each swap had to fit in with my lifestyle and where I was on my journey. But when I wanted to buy better, I found the products weren't readily available to the UK market.
I want ripple to be the shop that people can come to when they want to make those small changes, that help both people and planet."
Tell us about the ripple concept - how it will work and who it's for.
"As a zero-waste store, ripple will offer 120 refillable bulk wholefoods, alongside a range of natural beauty products, some unpackaged altogether and others in plastic alternatives, such as glass bottles, tins or recycled paper.
There will also be an ethical fashion collection, for consumers to be able to see that you really don't need to compromise on design, functionality or fabric, to ensure the worker who made your clothes is treated with dignity and care.
"When you know that a fifth of the average cost of a weekly shop is given to packaging, you understand why this way of shopping becomes so cost effective."
When it comes to food options, I will encourage everyone to bring their own containers. Every time you visit ripple, you will weigh each container empty, fill it with your chosen ingredient and then weigh it again; this way you only pay for the weight of the goods and not the disposable packaging. When you know that a fifth of the average cost of a weekly shop is given to packaging, you understand why this way of shopping becomes so cost effective."
What advice would you give to companies who are looking to manage their environmental impact better?
"Conscious consumers are smart and they can see through green washing. If you have an impact, I believe you have a responsibility to ensure it's a positive one. It's no good telling your customers you care about the planet but not acting on that statement.
"Running your business sustainably is no longer a question of who is leading the way, but who is left behind."
Whether you're a team of two or a global empire, it's better to start small and take positive steps that are true to your values, than promise the world and not deliver. Ethics and business rarely go together, but transparency is key to starting tricky conversations with your customers. Being vulnerable enough to ask them what they want to see from you, is a huge step; then be prepared for honest feedback.
In truth, running your business sustainably is no longer a question of who is leading the way, but who is left behind. As an entrepreneur I know which I'd rather show up in business as; and as a consumer, I know who I'd rather buy from."
Are you able to give us an update on when the ripple store will open - or where it will be located?
"Not yet I'm afraid, but I'm busy working behind-the-scenes and will share any news as soon as I can, across social media, so stay tuned!"
To find out about how Penarth Management can help your organisation with ISO certification, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 029 2070 3328.