There are a few stand-out moments from my time at Stella McCartney; Lily Allen wearing a dress (my favourite from that season’s collection) that I chose and sent to her stylist for a TV appearance, and being at the PETA event when Pamela Anderson famously stood in the store window naked are definitely up there. One of my other highlights was working on the launch of Stella Care; an organic skincare range that I think was before its time.
When it launched, little did I (or the average consumer) know about harmful parabens, petrochemicals, or just how much lipstick we consumed in a year (if I remember rightly, it’s something like 2kg… imagine two whole kilograms of chemicals being ingested without you even knowing!) Don’t get me wrong, there was a movement for more environmentally-friendly beauty products – with the likes of The Body Shop leading the way – but we hadn’t reached today’s levels of conscious consumerism.
Now, it goes without saying that we all expect our beauty products not to harm or test on animals, but it’s great to see just how far we’re willing to go to make sure that we start to undo some of the bad that we’ve inflicted on the planet.
This is where I start my blog post with the caveat that I am certainly not perfect – and definitely someone that is late to this party – but better late than never, aye?!
The media has always had a negative impact on the reputation of environmental campaigners; either branding them “hippies” or, even worse, not recognising the true impact of how we live and the effect it’s having on the planet. I guess, like many, I just hadn’t always considered the bigger picture; in my eyes, we were all innocent consumers just buying whatever products were stocked on the shelves. But, finally, the message is getting through and now we all understand that not only have we ruined so much of the world already, but we have to all work together to reverse the impact humankind is having. Everyone’s favourite poster-boy for the environment, David Attenborough, is leading the charge and getting through to people just like me who certainly hadn’t gone out with the intention of impacting the planet so negatively, but equally hadn’t even considered that their shampoo and conditioner were part of the problem.
When you look at your life; your house, your car, the things you consume, it seems an impossible task to change everything overnight and start living in a greener, cleaner way. However, there are so many amazing brands and businesses who are making it easier to implement small changes every day, and I’ve now started to make better decisions about the things I buy because of them. What I have realised is that, rather than a life overhaul, it’s more realistic to take baby-steps and change the small things. So, here’s my pick of zero waste heroes who are helping us all change the way we live…
I first found Fill at The Farm in Stratford-upon-Avon (if you haven’t been, you must… it’s a gorgeous, family-run farm and farmshop that celebrates local, artisan producers. If you’ve been to Daylesford, it’s that kind of vibe but a super-cute version!) Anyway, back to Fill… also family-run, this is a range of refillable eco laundry and cleaning products. On your first visit you buy and fill cute glass bottles, and then just return to the ‘Fill’ station every time you need a top-up. It definitely has a nostalgic feel to it; a bit like a kid playing ‘shop’, but I absolutely love the products.
Now, I have to hold my hands up when it comes to using baby wipes to take my make-up off, but before you blame me for any fatbergs, I never flush them… they always get binned. I’ve tried to kick the habit many a time but always end up going back to my trusty Simple wipes. However, when I saw Vesta Living, I knew that I needed to start making a move to reusable wipes. A Birmingham-based brand, they’re actually by a fab girl called Bryony who I used to work with, and they’re changing consumer habits one day at a time. She ethically produces reusable cotton facial wipes, baby wipes, and cleaning wipes; and, even better, she has won social enterprise grants that mean she’s now looking at setting up production in the UK, employing survivors of abuse. Go Bryony!
Another great start-up helping to make us better consumers is Fulfilled; vegan shampoo, conditioner and body wash that come in gorgeous 500ml bottles that can last 3-4 months. After which, you purchase a refill pouch that is delivered straight to your door. Each product is made from natural ingredients, free from palm oil, parabens and sulphates… plus they’re cruelty free, so aren’t just good for you, but also the environment. The business was launched earlier this year by a super-cool girl called Elizabeth, who I went to uni with, so I’m encouraging everyone to support her new venture!
The Little Soap Company
Another great cruelty-free company is The Little Soap Company, which is based in the Cotswolds and making some serious noise in the cosmetics industry. I met the founder, Emma Heathcote-James, at a dinner and have followed the business ever since. She went from hand-making soap on her Aga and selling at farmer’s markets, to now a business that produces 350+ handmade bars a day and tens of thousands of bars on machines for the Everyday range. It was the first organic, cruelty-free soap bar to hit supermarket shelves and is sold in the likes of Waitrose, Tesco, Sainsburys and Boots. The bars smell great and, even better, Emma is a total babe!
The Clean Kilo
I couldn’t talk about the zero-waste revolution without mentioning The Clean Kilo… a Brummie business that we should all get behind! It is the UK’s largest zero-waste supermarket, run by a super-cute couple called Jeanette Wong and Tom Pell. Their ethos is, quite simply, to sell plastic-free products, source as local as possible and reduce food waste. They sell most things you’d see in a mainstream supermarket but with bulk dispensers and plastic-free packaging. Going back to the little girl playing ‘shop’ this is a dream shopping experience, and you know that you’re not just helping to save the planet but also support smaller producers, rather than the mass distributors that bigger supermarkets favour. Their Digbeth store has been open since June 2018 and they’ve just launched a second store in Bournville too!
There are so many amazing businesses leading the charge, just like these businesses that I’ve mentioned. The main thing is not to get overwhelmed trying to change everything about the way you live but, instead, looking for these start-ups and scale-ups that can help change one thing at a time.
The big opportunity now lies with established brands and seeing how they’ll adapt their production and selling techniques to keep up with this plastic-free trend, which certainly isn’t going away. The likes of Waitrose are starting to adopt plastic and packaging-free fresh produce areas, and make-up brands like MAC continue championing their own recycling initiatives.
However, there is so much more that can be done and when it comes to something like the beauty industry, there is going to be a real challenge to change the way people consume the higher value, better-known brands. Creating the perfect Insta flatlay, featuring zero-waste products, might be the first step but how are we going to get these consumers to actually go into places like The Clean Kilo and purchase eco-friendly products? I actually think this is where the high street needs to change how it sells products; people still want to go into sexy-looking stores and have the same high end experience, so now these designer brands have to explore ways to better package their products and reduce their use of plastics. Will we start to see a Sephora-style store open that’s full of Fill-style dispensers of designer cosmetics? Who knows, but it’s an industry that’s trying to make waves in this arena, and we all need to keep supporting the brands who are actually making a change to theirs – and our – impact on the environment.