Mathew Reynolds – owner of The Bare Alternative
My journey to starting Sheffield’s latest zero waste shop, which opened on 327 Abbeydale Road last November, began about a year ago when I became more aware of my personal impact on the world as the result of watching several compelling documentaries that left a real impression of how the human race is negatively impacting the environment.
I was excited to find out about zero waste shops opening and learning other ways in which I could start to live a less impactful lifestyle. Come summer of 2018 I was contemplating where my career was heading and decided that I would start researching if it was possible to open my own zero waste shop. A short while later I had the funding I needed and found the perfect location for the shop.
I do think people are now starting to take a greener approach in their personal lifestyles and businesses such as zero waste shops would not have survived even five years ago. Recent media coverage of topics such as plastic pollution has helped in highlighting these issues to many, but it can be hard to implement changes in the workplace due to existing practices to challenge the way things get done.
However, I believe it is important for businesses to take charge of creating change and it can be as simple as just a matter of taking a step back, looking at areas which currently create the most waste and exploring ways to reduce that waste or if needed switching to a different system and/or introducing new equipment. For example, larger organisations which have canteens for employees, and potentially even business that cater for their customers, need to look towards sustainable practices such as providing reusable crockery, cutlery, etc and avoiding the potential ‘greenwash’ of biodegradable single-use items, which can actually be as problematic as any other single-use item where the correct waste management system is not in place.
Other ways that businesses can promote green habits is by looking at improving current practices or making simple swaps in a similar way to changing personal habits. For example, a business which ships large numbers of packages can look to switch to using paper sticky tape and packing rather than traditional plastic Sellotape and air pockets which can have a massive reduction in the waste created.
Businesses could also include simple ways to encourage more eco-friendly behaviour in their employees which extends outside the workplace into everyday routines, such as only boiling the right amount of water needed for a hot drink or walking/cycling to work to encourage healthier lifestyles.
Despite been known as a green city, Sheffield has seen its fair share of bad press between the tree-cutting fiasco of last year and waste disposal practices so there is work to be done. It would be great to see the council take initiative on providing facilities to promote green activities including more cycle lanes, free parking spaces with charging for electric cars (powered by clean energy sources) or schemes to make solar panels more affordable for local residents and businesses.