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30th October 2019

Want Not Waste: The future of sustainable shopping?

We chat to two student volunteers at the Students’ Union’s student run zero-waste shop ‘Want Not Waste’
Want Not Waste: The future of sustainable shopping?
Want not Waste Sustainable photo: Georgina Davidson @ The Mancunion

The recently re-established zero-waste shop Want Not Waste has finally opened its doors next to Manchester Academy on Oxford Road. The modestly sized shop with a colossal, and uniquely designed, window features a brightly decorated display of the various zero-waste items available inside – most of which are from quirky, independent and sustainable brands.

In past years, the vegan food market has remained somewhat of a niche, but initiatives such as Want Not Waste help make vegan food options and a sustainable lifestyle more accessible. Want not Waste is completely student-run and is conveniently placed right beside the Student Union. The shop facilitates the switch to zero-waste for both students and local by-passers.

Want Not Waste has existed for over a year but didn’t have as much visibility as their new location as it was tucked well into the University’s Students Union. This move also prompted a more cohesive branding, which has now been established. Previously their window was overcrowded with sporadic marketing, but it now showcases designs that make their message unmistakable: that a zero-waste lifestyle is not as out of reach as you might assume. Their ethos is reflected inside the shop with a positive integration of both a safe-space atmosphere and a whole-foods store. Thier café offers delicious food and drink which sits amongst the range of everyday essentials, often available to purchase by weight.

We spoke to volunteers Laetitia and Lily to find out how well Want Not Waste compares with other contenders in the market, and find out their opinions on the efficacy of the store in promoting this ever-growing lifestyle. Laetitia described the store as one which offers “a great place for reflection” and is “looking at ways we can make a difference in society through our actions”. She also emphasised the importance of providing a welcoming and safe atmosphere with an initiative to build a community of like-minded people. This will in turn create collective support and appreciation for each consumer’s sustainability-conscious efforts.

The prices, often beginning at 20p per 100g of product, are not usually the cheapest options, bearing in mind the bargains you can find in Lidl or Asda. But Lily feels that buyers get “complete value for money”. For example, Lily said she paid for a whole spice jar for 16p, even though you can pay up to £2 at a regular supermarket.

Lily and Laetitia also emphasised the importance of having affordable products on offer that are made to last so as to provide and promote the multi-use of products. Laetitia mentioned that her favourite shampoo bar available at the shop “has lasted the two of us in my house for almost a year now”. This reflects the cost-efficiency of buying products that are designed to be long-lasting. She also pointed out: “We are all volunteers who have no salary at the shop, which reinforces that we are not here to make profit – just to provide people with more eco-friendly solutions.”

Lily reminded us that “any money the shop makes goes back into an eco-fund for supporting sustainable initiatives like tree-planting, for example”. This highlights one of the central ethos points of the sustainable-living movement; of course you could purchase items such as grains or washing powder from Lidl, but would you receive the same quality and guaranteed sustainable sourcing? Or, indeed, the clear conscience of knowing that your money is being directed into a worthy initiative rather than the hands of a chain-owner? It is a question of ethics.

In terms of what we can expect to look forward to in the near future from Want Not Waste, Laetitia and Lily reminded us of the monthly themed events that take place. For this month, the shop’s theme was fashion. They hosted a clothes swap which encouraged the recycling of unwanted clothes that would otherwise sit for millennia in landfills – polyester, being the most commonly used material for clothing, is non-biodegradable. Instead, unwanted clothes now find themselves in the wardrobe of someone who can appreciate these as new pieces, while those who forfeited these clothes will benefit from the same exchange.

Upcoming in late October as well is a free (!) slow stitch repair workshop that will teach the traditional Japanese ‘Sachiko’, among other styles.

Overall, Want Not Waste creates a valuable and positive impact on the student and local Manchester community. They facilitate the switch to zero-waste, make these difficult-to-find products accessible and keep them reasonably priced. Be sure to pop into the store to discover the unique brands and items available, and perhaps even to initiate your switch into a more sustainable lifestyle!

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