Sustainable Shopping – Going Away or Here to Stay?

Tucked away in the Central Arcade at the bottom of town you’ll find EcoTopia, Leeds’ newest environmentally conscious shop. Set up just 3 months ago, EcoTopia is a weigh-and-pay style convenience store built around one all-important rule – no waste. The shop aims to provide an eco-friendly alternative to everyday supermarket shopping by allowing customers to fill up their own jars with cereals, seeds and much more, avoiding the use of any packaging at all.

Upon first impression it’s clear the owners have taken great care to consider how to avoid all of the negative environmental impacts that come with regular supermarket shopping. Selling everything from bamboo toothbrushes to muesli by the kilo, it certainly feels like you could get a large amount of your weekly shop in this one little store, reducing the amount of packaging and left-overs to almost zero.

But is sustainable shopping a trend? Or is it a more fundamental societal change, that all businesses will soon have to reflect? Co-founder Michelle was naturally betting on the latter:“I really hope sustainable shopping isn’t just a trend… for the sake of the environment much more so than our business”

Michelle admitted that they would have liked to have had a much bigger space to work with, in order to accommodate all of their eco-friendly innovations. It seems like this a shop which could have lots of room to grow. Moving to a bigger location in the city centre is certainly an obvious way of growing their business, but perhaps a different step forward might be to open another shop in a neighbourhood area – something which might mark a move away from a novelty shopping experience to a serious convenience shop contender.

It’s difficult to say whether or not shops like EcoTopia will become the new norm. People are certainly becoming more educated and aware about the environmental impacts of their shopping and for this reason lots of us are starting to think more about what we’re buying and where we’re buying it from. But with the persistent growth of budget supermarkets such as Aldi and Lidl, price still seems to be the dominant factor in determining where we’re willing to get hold of the essentials.

If shops are going to move towards more environmentally sustainable products then they are going to need to do this in a way that doesn’t drastically increase their prices. EcoTopia has managed to achieve just that, as the prices here seem to be very competitive, although admittedly somewhat more difficult to work out in pence per kilogram.

For now though, shops like EcoTopia offer a fun alternative to the more mundane and traditional supermarket shopping. With record numbers signing up to Veganuary in 2019 it seems quite possible that the environment will have more and more of an influence over our lifestyle choices in the future and if that’s the case, then EcoTopia may very well be one of the first movers in a soon-to-be dominant market.

Will Southall