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Brighton Journal | 26th February 2020

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The Green Machine and Its Deception

The Green Machine and Its Deception
Nick Staunton
  • On 12th February 2020
  • http://www.brightonjournal.co.uk

Written by Bam Hyland 

Have you ever heard of ‘whitewashing’? It’s the literal description of painting walls, rooms or buildings white to give it a new beginning. A blank slate. A good ole clean. Well, ‘Greenwashing’ is whitewashing’s evil twin. Also known as the green sheen, its practice of misleading consumers into believing that the product marketing appears to be more environmentally friendly than it suggests. 

It’s another thoughtless snare in the boardroom to achieve sales. But this type of commerce has a particular bad taste. A portrayal of an untrue eco-friendly directive is seriously damaging for the environment and particularly sinister considering the subject matter. 

As I imagine the advertising team feeling conniving as they cackle about pulling the wool over concerned consumers eyes with their supposedly ‘eco’ product. I think about the duped shoppers, including myself, wanting to change how we shop to support our suffering climate are vulnerable to irrelevant claims. Greenwashing uses clean sounding buzzwords and fluffy language that offers to cure your climate anxiety through false truths. So watch out! 

As our beautiful planet is giving us all the warning signals of destruction and decline, for many, the urge to do our part and change shopping habits can sometimes feel daunting and overwhelming. Single use plastic is everywhere, handed to us on a non recyclable, non reusable, non biodegradable plastic platter. It’s absolutely disempowering to spend money on products that unnecessarily come wrapped in plastic, sit in plastic, made of plastic. How do I actually know if what I’m purchasing is personally or environmentally safe? Legitimate green producers and suppliers will use marketing that is practical, honest and transparent so let’s dive in to uncover signs that you are falling victim to greenwashing. 

A few things to look out for –
1) Misleading labels: A label which states that it’s ‘certified’ and ‘organic’ without any
information to support the claim, is likely untrue. Look for proof of claims.
2) Suggestive images: Just because there are some green leaves or happy looking
animals in a luscious field of flowers, does not mirror the truth. The reality could be,
and possibly is the very opposite. Genuine producers won’t only rely on nice pictures.
3) Hidden facts: The product states that they use ‘natural’ and ‘recyclable’ products yet
their employers are exploited in questionable conditions.
4) Irrelevant claims: The product lists nasty chemicals which they do not use such as
parabens, sulfates or dyes. This could be that many of them are illegal or simply not
relevant to the product anyway. So look at what they do use as opposed to what they
don’t.
Another great way to judge an item’s eco-friendliness is known as ‘cradle to grave analysis’,
otherwise known as ‘life-cycle analysis’. The thought behind this method is to follow its
environmental impact every step of the way from initial production to when it lands in your
shopping basket. It’s your right to know so ask questions and read the labels.

There is hope amongst the murky world of false claims alas. Low consumer confidence can
be uplifted. More and more we are seeing shops in Brighton such as HISBE, Hollingdean
Whole Foods, Harriet’s of Hove, the institution that is Infinity Foods and the newest edition to
the list is Store and Store Next Door in the Fiveways area. All these independent shops are
part of a countrywide zero waste movement that enables customers to bring their own
containers to refill on various ethically and uk based beauty, household and food products at
competitive prices.
It’s a good idea to become aware of your local producers and get to know the staff through
these shops. Read the labels. Be curious as to what it is you are paying for. Again, ask
questions, offer suggestions, perhaps you have products or solutions of your own to share.
The movement is in its relative infantile stage, we can all be a part of this growing
community.
Watch your recycling boxes getting less and less full up as you make the personal choice to
refuse the plastic punnet of grapes to buy the bunch instead. Choose not to buy tomatoes if
they are only drenched in wrapping, go to your local green grocer or farmers market. What’s
your toothbrush made of? Plastic right? Plastics and other non-recyclable materials will,
inevitably end up as landfill and also a major source of carbon emissions. Becoming
environmentally aware has a wonderful rippling effect of knowledge to be shared.
Consumer convenience isn’t a luxury anymore, it soothes our impatience that has far too
long been nurtured. We all have a part in the creation of this monster. If you truly want to
create environmental change, it’s worth recognising that every resource will have an
environmental impact unless it’s fully biodegradable, recycled, renewable and has limited
travel miles. Not every product can offer the perfect solution but there are so, so many that
come close.
While the sustainable market is still growing in the mainstream and finding its feet, it needs
us, the consumer to take the reigns. And be confident that you as an individual do have a
positive impact on the planet, and unfortunately a deeply negative impact. We all need to
step away from the addictive, reckless, fast retail from larger retailers and source your goods thoughtfully.
I was super lucky to get to speak to the wonderful founders and owners of Store and Store Next Door, Ceri and Heather. Here, they shed some expert light on the inspiration and evolution behind their beautifully stylish and welcoming shops.

What made you guys want to open Store in the first place?

Opening Store was a combination of many factors but the main one was getting sick of
having no choice but to buy food in plastic when we did our weekly supermarket shop. Food
shopping in this way had become a depressing, soulless experience. Particularly with the
growth of awareness about what damage plastic was doing to the planet. We wanted an
alternative. When we discovered the Zero Waste movement, we thought, this is it! We are lucky in Fiveways as we have a nearby greengrocers, butchers and bakery within five minutes walk of each other. When we opened Store we saw ourselves as a complement to what was already on offer from the existing independent traders and, actually, our customer feedback has confirmed this time and time again! 

Was this where the seeds of Store grew inspiration? 

The initial idea for opening Store came from Ceri. Heather could only imagine 80s style Scoop n Weigh shops until she visited one of the original Zero Waste shops ‘Food, Love, Earth’ in Totnes and suddenly the penny dropped and they decided to go for it. 

From the success of Store, you’ve now opened a sister shop called Store Next Door. Could you tell me about the differences between the two? 

Store houses all the food and drink products, mostly loose and unpackaged. All the basics such as rice, pasta, cereal, baking ingredients, dried fruit, nuts, seeds, herbs, spices etc can be found here, alongside oils and vinegars, vegan cheese, local honey, Old tree Kombucha (on tap) and our famous nut butter machines. In Store Next Door we have household cleaning liquids, laundry products and like-for-like swaps for household items such as conventional sponges, scrubbers, throw away cleaning wipes, microfibre ‘eco’ cloths etc. We offer replacement products for all of these, ones that are produced sustainably from natural materials which will biodegrade. We also offer refills for hair, body and face care as well as gorgeous, natural off the shelf ranges, many of which are locally produced. In addition to this we aim to increase our range of homeware/utility items for anyone wanting to rid plastic from their lives one step at a time. 

Are you surprised at the positivity that both Store and Store Next Door has received? 

We have been bowled over by how positively we have been received in the community. Customers have, time and time again, thanked us for opening our shop in their area! We feel very supported by our customer base and we would never have had the confidence to branch out with Store Next Door if we hadn’t felt so supported. 

Greenwashing is a reality of consumer retail. Do you have any advice to customers who want to shop ethically on what to look out for or avoid when shopping? 

Shopping ethically should be straight forward but, as more suppliers jump on the Zero Waste band wagon, customers (and of course retailers!) need to do their research. Don’t be duped by ‘green’ branding, always read the ingredients carefully. For example, some bodycare products claim to be ‘organic’ but perhaps only a very small percentage of the ingredients are in fact organic. Shop as locally as you can and buy local produce, this is the best way to check accountability of suppliers and cut carbon footprint. Also, shopping ethically means different things to different people. For some, the organic aspect is important, others it’s fair trade or plastic free or animal rights (palm oil etc), sustainability, carbon neutral, circular economy etc etc. We now have a whole new and emerging vocabulary as ‘shopping ethically’ continues to evolve as a concept. 

Is it true that you need to pay that little extra when you are consciously shopping, or is that a myth? 

We check our prices against supermarkets, shops of comparable size and ethos and online shops. I would say we are competitively priced but can’t compete with large supermarkets on some items. Choosing organic will usually cost more than non-organic of course but that choice supports a non intensive way of farming, better animal welfare, respect for the growers etc etc. In Store and SND we offer more budget choices alongside products that will cost more without compromising our ethos. Bulk buying means we can offer competitive prices and of course the customer isn’t paying for packaging. 

Are all your suppliers local or UK based? 

All of our suppliers except one are UK based yes. Having said that, the UK based wholesalers that we use stock some products that are made or grown abroad so it is slightly a grey area. However, outside of these suppliers, I would say that we stock a significant number very local products in both Store (honey, vegan cheese, jams and chutney, brownies, granola, vegan fudge etc) and in SND we have a skincare range, stainless steel lunch boxes and essential oils sourced from local companies. We also feature local artists and makers in SND, offering a space for them to showcase their work on a rotation basis. 

Do you plan to hold any workshops in your shops? 

We are currently planning to hold a ‘make your own’ cleaning products workshop hosted by the Green Cleaner. This will take place in mid March. Exact date TBC. 

I see that you have some ‘circular’ suppliers to your shops. Can you tell me what this means? 

‘Circular’ simply means that the supplier will take back empty containers of their products, wash them out, refill and return then repeat. Recycling just isn’t enough now, reuse is, by far, more preferable. All of our household and laundry products are circular as well as many of our smaller suppliers who are very happy to take back empty containers to be refilled. 

Both Store and Store Next Door are open Monday to Saturday 9-5.30 and Sunday 11-4. 

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