London Unpackaged: Shopping without the wrapping

Unpackaged strives to be sustainable and fresh. Photo credit: Ayesha Sitara

Unpackaged strives to be sustainable and fresh. Photo credit: Ayesha Sitara

Plastic and packaging is ubiquitous in our life. From food to clothing, everything is packaged in some kind of plastic. Food from the major supermarkets have to be packed and labelled in accordance with the Food Safety Act and other EU regulations. So, it is very welcoming when a shop stands out for selling products that do not come packaged.

Aptly called Unpackaged, this boutique shop in Islington came about because its owner Catherine Conway believed that there was a better way to sell food. “We want to make it easy for our customers to do the right thing for themselves and for the environment,” she says.

This ‘right thing’ comes from the idea that almost all the products at Unpackaged are guaranteed to be organic and plastic free. Those that are not organic come from a local supplier that has been chosen because of its sustainable practices. However, Conway insists she is not there to ‘greenwash’ you but to tell you that Unpackaged conforms to certain rules of sustainability: They always source fair trade products, try to make sure their products are not air-freighted, and they abide by the principles of waste hierarchy: reduce, reuse and recycle.

“We have developed an extensive sustainability policy that covers the following elements of our business – products, suppliers, use of any packaging, waste, energy consumption, transport and community involvement”, Conway says.

Help yourself

However, it is the DIY nature of the store that gives it an extra appeal. As its name suggests, most of the products found here come without a package – you basically refill a container that you bring from home or that you buy at the store.

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For example, above the vegetable counter there is a rack of large stainless steel containers with taps filled with different oils. All you need to do is fill up your own bottle from the receptacle. In case you didn’t bring your own, the shop kindly lets you have an empty container if they have any spares left.

Flip-open-top boxes around the shop contain a spoon from where one could take a scoop of pasta, rice, nuts, spices and other products of your choice. There is also a variety of herbal tea and spirulina stored in air-tight glass containers.

Even the presentation of what is sold in Unpackaged seems to be done with care: Vegetables and fruit are endearingly housed in large brown paper bags with their prices and source written on a black slate with white chalk. Fresh bread and baked goods are placed in charming little woven bread baskets that reminds you of the English countryside.

The shop does not stop at food. They also have a range of environment friendly household cleaners and luscious toiletries – soaps, toothpaste, toilet cleaner, stain removers, and so on.

A healthy option

Sarah, 23, works at a nearby firm and gets her lunch  from Unpackaged every day. She comes in and fills up her lunch box with fresh produce from the whole-food salad section in the store. “It is a much healthier choice than reaching for a sandwich or junk food that is normally available in other shops,” she says. “They also have a wide range of cheese, jams, jellies and even organic milk in returnable glass bottles that I regularly buy.”

If you feel like doing your bit for sustainability or just feel an urge to find something fresh and organic, a visit to this friendly store is highly recommended. All you have to do is bring your own containers or bags, fill them up, pay, and leave with a skip and a hop in your heart.

Unpackaged
42 Amwell Street
London EC1 1XT
020 7713 8368
beunpackaged.com



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