Living Green: Asda’s sustainable store – deserving of the hype?

It says a lot about our current lifestyle that my housemates and I were excited to take a trip to the new (ish) sustainable Asda, but then I guess that’s just the nature of lockdown. The Leeds trial store is the only one in the UK, designed to help shoppers reduce, reuse and recycle with ease. Perhaps the low clouds and drizzling rain on the drive over foreshadowed our impending disappointment, a little pinch of pathetic fallacy for a Tuesday morning, or perhaps I’m just dramatic because there’s not much going on in my life right now. Either way, the experience wasn’t all it was hyped up to be.

For a start, the vegetable section looked no different to that of Morrisons or Tesco, save for the numerous, unmissable signs shouting that you can recycle your plastic there. What’s the big deal? I can recycle that packaging at home too. Sure, it was nice to see some loose tomatoes and mushrooms, and I appreciated the pronounced apology for their use of plastic, but I didn’t feel like there was a big enough change to make such a tra-la-la about it. I’ve never known an apology to resolve a critical environmental issue. And although the bring your own container to weigh and package your veg incentive is great, having to plunge your hand into a pit of tomatoes is not so covid friendly. Perhaps some scoopers could be provided in the future?

Okay, getting to the bit you’re all itching to hear about (yes, lockdown really has done this to us), the refill station! Sadly, another let down. But I’ll cut Asda some slack; at least their trying, which is more than what I can say for some stores.

At the refill station, customers bringing their own containers follow these steps:
  1. Weigh the empty container at the station
  2. Print off the barcode sticker that’s provided once the container has been weighed. This identifies how much the container weighs without produce
  3. Fill the container
  4. Reweigh, scanning the barcode to determine the price of the goods without the additional weight of the container
  5. Print out the price label and stick it onto the container
  6. Pay at the till using the new barcode sticker

Considering that the whole process is an attempt to reduce waste, it would make more sense for Asda to produce these barcodes on an app, or at least offer the customer this choice, to remove the single-use stickers. It would also be beneficial to introduce more products to the refill station; I’m thinking nuts, beans and legumes. Nonetheless, the initiative is an honourable one and I’m grateful that supermarkets are making the effort to reduce their plastic consumption, and encouraging eco norms by keeping the prices of non-packaged foods low.

Next up, the pre-loved fashion section. Yes, dear Leeds Uni students who say rah and sport juicy tracksuit tops with fila stompers, there are now new means to achieve that edgy glow. As far as they go, the selection was pretty great, with some big brand names in the eye-watering mix of shit shirts and cowboy-fringed suede jackets. If you’d have told me 5 years ago that clothes shopping at Asda was to become fashionable, I’d never have believed you.

So, Asda, I award you with a C+. I applaud your attempt, I do! It’s about time more changes were made, and I’m sure you’ll set the precedence for greater eco-forward measures in supermarkets. But I’m not altogether wowed. Things have been overlooked, under-baked. The Leeds store is a trial, so let’s try again next time with a little more umph.