Feel Good

How to grocery shop sustainably – and the local refill shop making it easier, convenient and more affordable than ever

SomethingGood is the independent refill shop in Jesmond dedicated to creating a positive change in today’s modern convenience culture. Lauren and her team are passionate about happy people and a happy planet and have just started offering online delivery too.

Written by Becky Hardy
Published 12.05.2022

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Now, more than ever, we’re all becoming more aware of the relationship between our everyday habits and the impact this has on both people and planet.

‘Plastic’ seems to be the word on everyone’s lips when it comes to combatting climate change, with single-use plastic being the worst (and most prevalent) offender when it comes to pollution – made primarily from fossil fuel-based chemicals, disposed of straight after it’s been used, and taking hundreds (sometimes thousands) of years to degrade in landfill. And don’t even get us started on the unethical forms of plastic production, either.

Which is why refill shops are on the rise. And rightly so. Customers simply enter the shop with their own reusable containers in tow and buy unpackaged produce by weight. Simple and effective.

The only problem, hitherto, had been breaking down the stereotypes surrounding sustainable shopping. Will the quality of produce suffer? Surely buying organic, plant-based and fair trade will rack up costs? What about hygiene control? Is it a right hassle to weigh everything out yourself?

That is, until now. Because here in the North East, we’ve got local refill shop SomethingGood to keep us right.

See, SomethingGood are on a mission – to make sustainable, ethical shopping the easiest, most reliable, convenient and affordable way to shop all our everyday essentials, from groceries to skincare and cleaning products. And boy, are they smashing it so far!

As well as being a hotspot for conscious consumers in the region (with incredibly comparable prices, you’ll find lots of products even coming in more affordable than your local supermarket), SomethingGood have now also launched their home delivery service – meaning you can have a clear conscience, a cheaper weekly food bill and top quality organic products, all from the comfort of your own home.

That’s why we caught up with SomethingGood’s founder, local legend and forever friend of HLN, Lauren Wedderburn, to help more of us understand just how we can shop sustainable – and why it really is so important to the future of our planet…

WHY SHOP SUSTAINABLE?

To reduce plastic pollution.

40% of the plastic the world produces is used for single-use packaging, with less than 10% having been recycled. Instead of recycling plastic, we dump 8 million tonnes of it into the sea every year.

Plastic waste is destroying our wildlife and some vitally important ecosystems. The Guardian even reported recently that micro-plastics have been found in human blood for the first time in history.

At SomethingGood, we’re all about refilling – eliminating the need to single-use packaging altogether. Simply bring in your empty containers and refill them. We’ve got all your daily essentials (and lots of luxuries, too!), just without the plastic.

To reduce food waste.

This form of shopping also means you can reduce your waste and your grocery bill. Fill your jars, tubs and bags with exactly the amount you need; weigh it, pay for it and enjoy it!

Why that’s such a big deal? Well, as well as keeping as much of your money as possible right where it belongs – in your bank account – it’s also essential for the future of our planet.

If food waste were a country, it would be the third largest emitters of greenhouse gasses in the world, behind the US and China. We, as individuals, can have a really positive impact on the climate crisis simply by using up all of the food that we buy.

Selling our food products by weight means our community only buy what they actually need; if you’re baking a cake, for example, you can simply weigh out the ingredients for that recipe without having leftover bags of flour and sugar sitting in the back of your cupboards for months.

To go plant-based (for at least some of the time).

A vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on our planet, in terms greenhouse gas emissions, land use and water use.

It’s also great for our general health and wellbeing, with research suggesting that a vegan diet can improve our heart health, protect us against some forms of cancer and lower the risk of type 2 diabetes.

At SomethingGood, our product collection is almost 100% plant-based. Plus, our blog is full of tasty recipes to inspire you!

To become more conscious consumers.

We work every day with our vision of helping people and the planet become as healthy and happy as possible in our minds.

Like everything, SomethingGood is a work in progress. But, over the years, we’ve delved deeper into what it really means to be ‘sustainable’ – and it’s about so much more than recycling and ditching plastic straws, (although they’re excellent places to start).

We’re learning more all the time and we’re passionate about sharing what we’re learning with our community. Everything from being advocates for organic produce (farming without chemicals to keep soil healthy and make sure we’ll be able to keep using the land to grow food in future), to tracing the origins of our food and demanding fair trade (so that the people who grow our food can make a living through their work), and championing other local businesses through our platform.

HOW TO SHOP SUSTAINABLY

It’s so easy and fun!

A lot of people come to see us for the first time with the intention of not buying anything, which is totally fine. They come in to have a chat, to see how it all works, and to see what we have. But they almost always leave with a little bag of sweeties, (they’re pretty hard to resist!).

 

There really isn’t any container that isn’t suitable for refilling.

We have lots of jars, bottles and bags in store to get you started, but we always encourage people to re-use what they have at home first. As long as it’s empty, clean and dry, we can refill it. We’ve put laundry liquid in gin bottles, pasta in plastic bread bags and maple syrup in coffee cups. Anything goes!

You’ll shop in three simple steps.

And we’re always there to help, or even do it for you.

Step One – weigh your empty containers on our scale.

Step Two – fill your containers with something good.

Step Three – weigh your containers again when they’re full. Easy!

Our high-tech scales do all the maths for you. You can even pop a little bit of something good into your container and weigh it as you go, so you know exactly how much you’re taking and how much it’ll cost, so there aren’t any surprises at the till.

Each of our containers has a detailed label, including a full list of ingredients, allergens, product origins and best before dates, so you know exactly what you’re taking home.

How about online shopping?

Shopping SomethingGood in store is a great experience. It’s about way more than just shopping for the essentials; you can have a taste of the new batch of dried mango, refill your own oat milk bottle and chat to us about your latest plastic-free swaps. It’s a slower way of shopping, which is exactly what we intended and why a lot of people come back to us again and again.

But we also know that sometimes life gets busy, so we’ve made sure that shopping at SomethingGood can be the most convenient way to shop, as well as the most ethical.

You can browse our entire product range online from wherever you are, order and pay online. Then we’ll get to work! We’ll weigh all our pantry items out to order into 100% recycled, compostable paper bags, and we have a glass bottle return scheme for all our liquid refills, too (just like the milkman!).

We’ll have your order ready for you to collect on your way home from work or on the school run. Or our zero-emissions delivery partner ZMOVE will deliver it right to your door. Shopping sustainable and shopping local has never been so easy!

A LITTLE MYTH-BUSTING…

What are 3 things you wish everyone knew about refill shopping?

That the quality is amazing.

Brand name is often used as a benchmark for quality, instead of considering product ingredients or how something is made, which is something we’re working hard to challenge. So many of our products are made with love by other small businesses who care passionately about their products – and it shows in their quality. Plus, our pantry staples are really fresh as they haven’t been sat around in supermarket warehouses within plastic packaging. Flavour and nutrition really shine through when food isn’t covered in chemicals and preservatives!

 

You can save money.

It’s funny, because while people who aren’t familiar with ethical grocery stores can question the quality of products, they also assume that they’re going to be more expensive. But while the quality is the best around, you can also save money by shopping with us. We’re very open about our prices in comparison to supermarkets and bigger brands, (tune in to our Instagram stories for our popular daily price checks!). Buying in bulk quantities and selling products without packaging means we can often pass savings onto our customers, so there’s often money to be saved by shopping at SomethingGood, as well saving on carbon emissions, unnecessary plastic packaging and food waste.

 

It’s so easy!

Once you get started, it’s addictive. Refill shopping isn’t new – it’s how things used to be done. Our older customers say it reminds them of shopping with their grandparents when they were little. But we’ve also come a long way from the old ‘weigh-houses’. We’ve invested a lot into modern equipment, which is completely air-tight, keeps the food in rotation and makes sure that customers don’t come into contact with the food. Maybe buying by weight seems a little intimidating at first, but we use lots of simple technology to break down these barriers and make it accessible to everyone. And if you don’t fancy doing the refilling yourself, we’ll do it for you.

What are your tips for getting started with refill shopping?

We’re built on the idea that we can all do ‘something’. We can’t all change everything at once, it’s too overwhelming. But it’s important not to let the scale of the problem put us off making small steps: every positive action will add up to bigger changes if we all work together.

So, pick one thing and start there. It can be fun to set yourself a challenge – maybe to refill one new item each month. Or when something runs out and you need to replace or replenish, look for the most sustainable alternative. Lots of our customers come to us for their first visit with one empty ‘fairy liquid’ bottle; they’ll refill that with our amazing Fill washing up liquid, and that’s it – before they know it, their whole cleaning cupboard is refilled and ‘new-plastic’ free.

 

What are your favourite SomethingGood products? 

It’s so hard to choose! We taste and try out everything before it hits the shelves. If we don’t love it, we don’t stock it.

Tahini on tap has been a hit since we launched it last year. And we’re in love with our nut butter grinder – the smell of freshly ground almonds making their way into a big glass jar is heaven.

One of our most recent additions is our collection of beautiful skincare products made from upcycled ingredients (spent grounds from artisan coffee shops, ground fruit stones and more) – they’re pretty special! We’ve got some exciting local collaborations planned for the summer, too.

To find out more about SomethingGood and to shop their full range of organic, plant-based produce, visit their website. You can stay up to date will all their newest additions, plant-based recipe inspo and daily price checks by following them on Instagram and Facebook, too.

SomethingGood, 265 Jesmond Road, Newcastle Upon Tyne NE2 1LB.

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