REFLECTIONS OF A SHOPKEEPER - Buckle up!


Support Eco Driven Small Business Not Ego Driven Billionaires


Support Eco Driven Small Business Not Ego Driven Billionaires

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It’s been a funny few weeks for us. I’m away from the shop for the first time since we opened. I’ve found it really difficult maintaining the zero waste habits that we have got into whilst we have been travelling which has been frustrating. But it’s also given me an opportunity to properly reflect on how far we have come in less than two years. It was literally two years ago this month that I sat on my parents sofa with my laptop and planned Grain & Sustain.

I was four months pregnant with another two under four, and my Mother thought I was utterly barking. My vision for the shop was to be a zero waste one stop shop for all things other than meat, fish and fruit/veg which Burntisland already had. I wanted to enable customers to do their whole supermarket shop from small businesses on an independent High Street. I wanted it to be a community hub. Not just a commercial business but a space in which people felt empowered when it came to environmental and human rights campaigning. A place where you can do a weekly shop but also have a blether: whether that was about the weather or a rant about a cause or issue close to your heart.

I wanted to use my passion and skills to give something back whilst also doing something that I hope my kids will be proud of. Marching to the beat of my own drum for once rather than being caught up in the politics of working for someone else. I am so proud of what we have achieved. What you have enabled. What we have become. The community that we have built. The passion that I see from our customers every day. The things that I learn every day as we walk together on this journey. It’s a beautiful little echo chamber to inhabit.

And then I get brought back to reality when some numpty with more money than sense shoots himself into space so that he can be the first of a trio of numpties to do so. The Billionaire Space Race. Which is set to cost millions in dollars and an environmental cost that right now we can’t even quantify. Whilst millions starve these men are fighting it out with their immense fortunes to open up new commercial frontiers having created monopolies, quashed competition, paid minimal tax, and given zero hoots about the impact they were having in the process. Our wee community is literally counting every piece of plastic that it saves from shopping with us (over 100,000 to date by the way – awesome job you guys!) and yet these utter rockets go splurging our carbon emissions on spurious and egocentric escapades around the solar system.

Families the globe over are suffering physical, mental and financial hardship caused or exacerbated by the pandemic which has seen over 4million dead and over 194 million still infected. Yet these individuals flaunt their wealth despite having been first in line to demand State bail outs, or once again having been called out for the excessive waste within their operations and the horrendous treatment of their workers. It is at best insensitive and crass. At worst it is indicative of the kind of attitude towards dispensibility and disposability that some appear to have for both people and resources.

Manufacturers who deliberately design expensive equipment with an undisclosed shelf life so that the economic viability of repair forces the consumer to replace with new.

Insurance companies who don’t cover the cost of electrical faults on cars (usually the second most expensive asset which a family owns) that haven’t been involved in a collision, meaning that mechanical and electrical failures are increasingly becoming one of the biggest causes of economic write offs for vehicles, as the safety of cars increases and the number of accidents decreases.

Food manufacturers who cram their products full of additives which make you want to eat more leading to overeating, unhealthy food relationships, obesity and related health conditions but with little regard for nutritional value.

Commodities like electrical items, food and fashion are not cheap and so where you see them being sold at ridiculously low prices, someone, somewhere is paying the prices.

This is a global issue and it is not just so-called rich countries who are affected by these things. I was horrified when I worked in Papua New Guinea to see kids simultaneously malnourished and obese. A situation caused by the introduction of low nutrition, high sugar snacks and drinks from well known brands whose aggressive marketing had made it to even the most remote tribes on the planet. The same communities who disproportionately bear the brunt of climate change impacts with temperatures affecting farming and yield output, the rise of inclement weather leading to more natural disasters, and whose ancestral land is being reclaimed by the sea as our oceans rise.

Whilst these three individuals (collectively worth over $374 billion) race around the solar system with scant regard for the rest of us, I am floundering around in North Devon with a car that is now a mechanical write off, trying to scrape together enough money to buy a new one that will get us home to Scotland. It’s a totally different way of operating, and living, and one which I hope makes us more conscious of, and therefore better with, the choices that we make. Because those choices do matter. Every decision counts and it isn’t someone else’s problem. The planet is literally being stretched to beyond breaking point with our consumerism and greed. We are choking our oceans, poisoning the land, and living lifestyles that are abjectly unsustainable. For me it’s a strong marker of someone’s values when with all the assets, wealth, privilege and opportunity at their fingertips these people have chosen to travel to space rather than investing in a legacy which could end child poverty or cure a disease or tackle the issues of racism and bullying which affect so many. They are choosing themselves.

But if I didn’t honestly believe that it was possible for us collectively to make a difference I wouldn’t be doing this. Zero waste shopping is more than just a token gesture. It’s a commitment to change, and to being an agent of that change. It is pragmatic way to genuinely make a difference but it’s also a massive indicator – one big enough to go on one those ridiculous rockets that goes blythly orbiting around wafting elitism about like a giant beacon of entitled privilege.

It is a sign of the times and and a fight against the apathy which has caused us to stagnate amongst our oceans of plastic and piles of stuff. It is a message to our leaders, to big business and to policy makers that the pendulum is shifting and that people want things done differently. But we need more people on board.

We need this movement and these ideas to become every day topics of conversation. For these choices to become more accessible and available. This narrative needs normalising. And that is why we were thrilled to have been nominated for the #foodheroscot competition. We have now clawed our way up the rankings from 11th to 3rd. But we need to cling on to that spot for another week to win one of those coveted prizes. The points are so tight and every vote really counts.

Winning a £25k marketing packaging and mini documentary could be absolutely transformative for our business. But more importantly it will allow us to champion Burntisland High Street, Bowhouse, the East Neuk and all the incredible small businesses we work with. It will allow us to showcase all the amazing food that Fife has to offer, and highlight how small indie businesses are leading the charge on sustainability without compromising on quality.

The passion and drive that these businesses have are an inspiration to us every day and we know how much you love their products. So please help us. Help us to show how amazing this area is and raise awareness of just why making ethical and environmentally sustainable spending choices is so important. Here is link is here for you to cast your vote for Grain & Sustain!

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