Look inside this zero-waste store

Hetu is one of London’s hottest zero-waste store

Cast your mind back to the waste that you’ve produced in the last week, month, or even year. Try to picture all the food packaging, cosmetic products and clothing that you have purchased, then discarded. Even if you’re the strictest recycler going, chances are, you will have racked up quite a pile. As 2018 exposed the harmful impact of plastic, more people are vowing to become zero-waste. Stores like Hetu are paving the way for a more sustainable way of life. Dodging unnecessary packaging and only using locally-sourced products can be a challenge, one that Laura Boyes was familiar with. Wanting to do better for the environment, and encourage others to follow suit, she decided to open Hetu, a vegan, zero-waste shop located in London.

Buying in Bulk

Hetu offers whole foods in bulk, cleaning products on tap and sustainable, reusable items without unnecessary packaging; our philosophy is ‘planet and purpose over profit’. We apply the zero-waste business principles to everything we do. This includes commitment to the triple bottom line – social, environmental, financial – a zero-to-landfill policy and challenging ‘waste, behind the waste’. For example, the store’s design was created with 80 per cent second-hand and upcycled pieces. Hetu was the first store in the UK to use plastic-free food dispensers and the first fully vegan, zero-waste shop in London.

spice be kind hetu

Giving inspiration

The inspiration for Hetu came from living in Australia and discovering the zero-waste lifestyle. In Australia it was relatively easy to live waste-free due to the number of bulk shops and farmers markets. At that time (mid-2016), there were no zero-waste shops in the UK, but the community was growing. Like a lot of people, I was searching for my purpose, then one day whilst doing my bulk shopping I thought – maybe my purpose was to help bring the zero-waste lifestyle to the UK? So that’s what we did – we moved home to the UK in 2017 and nine months later, Hetu was open.

Choosing the products we sell is definitely the hardest part – everything is vegan, cruelty-free and palm oil-free, as standard. For the food items, they need to be bulk and ideally plastic-free, although it’s not always possible. We also take into consideration the provenance of all our products, what environmental impact the products have had to get to us in-store, and how we can minimise their impact as much as possible. This heavily influenced our decision to move away from Chinese-grown beans and pulses, to majority UK or EU grown. Our food and non-food range is 90 per cent organic.

Since opening in December 2017, we have definitely seen an increase in the awareness of the zero-waste movement; there’s also been an increased demand for sustainable products. Hetu was born to challenge the notion of consumerism, not to help feed it. It’s great to see the rise in people going vegan as that is where the greatest environmental impact can happen; we often have people coming into the shop asking for tips on how to go vegan.

lentils hetu

A purpose in life

Being zero-waste gives me a purpose – a sense of belonging to something bigger, a greater connection to the environment and all those I share it with. It also helps me hold myself accountable for my decisions and actions as a citizen. We can sometimes feel helpless with everything going on around us, and not sure how we can make a difference. Zero-waste gives us back that control and can directly impact positive change. My hard-earned money no longer goes into the pockets of large companies or supports damaging industries.

Zero-waste means we move away from being consumers and towards being citizens again – we’re not fans of the word ‘consumer’. The term zero-waste was not developed to be used as a lifestyle or movement – it’s an industrial term. To be zero-waste we need the right infrastructure, recycling and composting schemes and legislation. Until that all changes, it will always be hard to consider yourself as zero-waste, but that shouldn’t stop us all from working towards it.

We definitely have no plans to see a Hetu in every town or street corner. Each town or community should have its own zero-waste shop, built by locals for locals. In the last year we have helped advise numerous shops and online stores on how to open their own shop. Maybe that’s the future for Hetu? One thing we do know is zero-waste isn’t going anywhere; it’s here to stay and we’re in it for the long haul.