An interview with Debbie from Wastenot – Brighton’s first zero waste shop!

Recently I have noticed zero waste shops seem to be appearing all over the place! I think there are now at least 3 in my town. Wastenot has been here a while though – since 2014. Debbie, the owner, was a bit of a pioneer and front runner in the zero waste shop movement! I wanted to find out more about her and why she opened her shop and decided to interview her.

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Interview with Debbie of Wastenot, a zero waste shop

Tell us a bit about yourself

Well one thing I like to say about myself is that I’m a life long environmentalist. I’m pretty sure it was being a tree frog in the school performance of Yanamamo that inspired 7 year old Debbie to try to protect the Earth.

Why did you set up Wastenot?

I’ve been working on minimising my waste since 2012 when I travelled to Australia. While I was there, I was introduced to bin diving for perfectly edible food thrown away by supermarkets. This really opened my eyes to the sheer scale of waste caused by the developed world. From food to packaging, disposability and convenience are destroying us. I wanted to create a space where people can shop for only what food they need, find eco friendly disposable alternatives, and purchase items that can last them a lifetime

How did you get your business started and did you get any help and support starting it up?

I am very fortunate to have plenty of skilled and kind friends around me who have helped. From the DIY shop fit, to marketing and blogging advice, and especially my partner Robin who was instrumental in building the website! 

What kinds of products are your best sellers in the shop?

I would definitely say that the dried bulk foods and the detergent refills are the most popular things. They are closely followed by bamboo toothbrushes, and washable makeup remover pads.

What have been your best moments with the shop so far?

My best moments tend to happen as a result of serendipity. For example, I wanted to start stocking coffee beans. A week after I had that thought, I was approached by Chris from Brewed Roasters about stocking their beans! Collecting coffee beans is one of my favourite things to do. I take the jars from my shop to Brewed on Lewes Road, and they fill them straight from their coffee sacks. I get to have a delicious brunch while I’m there too.

What have been your greatest challenges since opening your shop?

Finding time to do everything I want, and having to learn patience when I can’t move things as quickly as I would like!

What are the top three tips you would you give to someone else thinking of opening up a zero waste shop?

Be patient, get enough sleep, and have plenty of savings! It’s a very demanding and not especially well paid job so you have to know you will really love what you’re doing.

Where do you see yourself and the shop in 5 years time? It’s a strange thing to say, but I hope to be out of a job in 5 years!

It’s my dream that zero waste shopping becomes so mainstream that all the supermarkets run bulk sections and eco friendly products become the norm. I could close the shop happy that I was part of the movement towards a sustainable future.

Thanks to Debbie for answering the questions!

Want to find your local zero waste shop? Take a look at my UK Directory of Zero Waste Shops