By Zoe Peck
In a promising trend, more Leeds business owners than ever are applying measures that aim to reduce their food and plastic waste to zero, with one store seeing its customer numbers double in a year.
This includes Ecotopia in Central Arcade, offering food and eco-friendly cosmetics without the option of single-use plastic bags. Customers are encouraged to bring their own containers, use paper bags, or help themselves to containers donated by other customers free of charge. Their products include soap, washable sanitary pads, deodorant sticks and toothpaste – all with compostable packaging.
Co-Owner Samantha Newton explains the store’s inspiration. “Quite simply it was the plastic crisis we face as a planet,” she says. “And because we are both mums, we worried greatly for our children’s futures. We quickly realised the choices were very limited when trying to buy without the plastic packaging, so we decided to dive in head first and provide it to Leeds, as well as for ourselves!”
Newton believes it is either convenience or expense that discourages people from limiting plastic usage, adding: “Other than these two factors I can only put it down to ignorance, assuming ‘someone else’ will solve the problem, or just being completely unaware there is a problem at all.”
The Jar Tree in Kirkgate Market, is another example of a ‘Zero-Waste’ supermarket that prices products based on weight. Owner Aimee Charlotte believes attitudes to environmentally friendly practices are slowly becoming more positive. She says: “Since we opened last year, we’re getting less and less people coming along and saying ‘What is this about?’ [In a year] I think our customer numbers have slightly over doubled.” Charlotte believes awareness has been raised by larger supermarkets employing eco-friendly policies such as introducing reusable bags.
The idea of ‘Zero-Waste’ also extends to restaurants within Kirkgate Market. Charlotte mentions two of her customers, the owners of OWT – a French restaurant in Kirkgate Market which operates on a rotating set menu that purchases ingredients from vendors in small quantities in an effort to minimise food waste at the end of service.
A food establishment aiming to reduce food waste on a city-wide scale is Rainbow Junktion Café. Located in Hyde Park, the café operates as part of The Food Revival Project and The Real Junk Food Project, which since starting in 2013 has intercepted 4.5 million kilograms of foods from supermarkets destined for landfill, feeding local communities on a “pay as you feel” basis. Rainbow Junktion also receives donations from supermarkets, small businesses, food banks and students moving accommodation.
The Café is open to all, serves three courses including vegan and gluten-free options during the day as well as hosting workshops and bistro-style events on the first and third Friday of every month, which can be themed.
On average the café serves fifty people lunches daily and employs its own waste management strategies for leftover cooked food. Community Café manager Emily Carrigan says: “We’re on an app called Too Good To Go, so we often get people picking up from that. We send our leftovers to other community groups, or we’ll freeze things. We also work with Plate 2 Plate, which is a local company that collects compost.”
Carrigan states that students can contribute to the project through volunteering, food and cash donations, spreading awareness about the café to those in need of food and in particular using the café space, bistro evenings or catering service for events. International students who may be away from home on Christmas day are also encouraged to attend the café’s Christmas dinner, which served over 200 people last year. “If they’re on their own they should come and be with all the people at the café,” says Carrigan.
Open Monday, Thursday, Friday 11am – 3pm. Food Service 12pm – 14:30pm.
Next Bistro event 1st November 2019.