With a problem as big as plastic pollution, caused by so many commonly-used products — disposable cups, disposable toothbrushes, unwanted plastic bags, unnecessary plastic packaging — it can be hard to know where to start to have a positive impact on the world. There may be an organic shop nearby, but what about toiletries? How far would you have to travel to get everything you could find in a local city supermarket?
Nice and Serious, the London-based creative agency that has worked for companies and charities including the Rainforest Alliance, the World Health Organisation and Ikea, has emerged with a solution: an online directory of zero-waste shops across the UK capital.
The result, Useless — a playful combination of the words “use” and “less” — is a fun, sparky website dedicated to showcasing shops in each of the boroughs across London that sell items without using disposable packaging. More than 40 shops are currently listed, each organised by borough and listing items they stock, including and cleaning and pantry products.
Westminster, for instance, the borough home to the Houses of Parliament, features a zero-waste shop called As Nature Intended, which sells organic cleaning products, drinks and pantry items. Camden, to the north of the city, has three: Bumblebee Natural Foods; Unpackaged; and Earth Natural Foods.
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Nice and Serious co-founder Tom Tapper told the magazine Dezeen that the idea was born after a lunch break “spent getting increasingly depressed about the sheer amount of single-use plastic in our lives.”
“Someone piped up to say they’d filled their shampoo [bottle] at a shop down the road. Most of the group didn’t know that was even an option,” he added.
The website also provides a “survival kit” with suggestions for reducing waste, such as carrying cutlery with you, instead of using plastic forks from takeaway restaurants, and switching from toothpaste to tablet toothpaste.
People visiting Useless can also contribute to the directory by submitting information about zero-waste shops not already listed. Once vetted, new listings are added with their own individual illustration.