Visiting the UK’s first fully vegan, zero waste store, Hetu, is an exercise in mindful consumption. Hetu rejects the compulsion we feel to consume things we don’t need, and encourages customers to fill their own bags and containers with as little or as much as they want, ensuring that their impact on the environment is as minimal as possible.
Zero waste shopping
Founder of Hetu, Laura Boynes, was inspired by the zero waste stores she saw in Australia, and she realised there was nothing really like this in the UK. Hetu opened its doors in 2017 and since then has grown a steady following of people trying to live a more sustainable lifestyle.
Why is zero waste so important? The concept of zero waste is pretty straight forward, it means using every little piece of what you buy, whether this means using your carrot tops to make pesto, or reusing your bags and containers again and again. Transitioning to a zero waste lifestyle is made easier simply by buying less, but also by reducing consumption of single use items such as throwaway packaging and poor quality products. When taken seriously, zero waste means eliminating toxic waste altogether, thus allowing our land, water and air to recover from the damage we have inflicted upon it.
Even Hetu is on its own sustainable journey. The store sources plastic-free food items where possible, but it is entirely transparent about the fact that this is not always a possibility. Not everything can be achieved instantly, and becoming zero waste is a constant learning process. So if you forget to bring your own containers, don’t worry, Hetu turns 25kg food sacks into reusable paper bags for customers, and there is a free jar adoption station in the store. But not only is the concept at Hetu to reduce single use plastic, they also “say no to animal products, no to palm oil, no to exploitation and no to over consumption”.
Aesthetics built upon sustainability
As you walk into Hetu you will be drawn to the colour – not of the decor, which is minimal and neutral – but of the vibrant organic fruit and vegetables on sale. Food at Hetu is kept whole and unprocessed, the fridges are filled with organic perishables, while wooden boxes are piled high with potatoes and tomatoes on either side. The Hetu team are constantly working with growers and suppliers to minimise their impact on the environment, and as a result of this the majority of their food comes from the UK and Europe and 90% of their products are organic.
The store walls are lined with sustainably produced gravity bins filled with beans, pasta, rice and grains. 90% of the furnishings have been preloved and up-cycled, from shelves and baskets to silver trays and marble pieces. Table tops are dispersed with glass jars filled with herbs, spices and organic teas, and next to the till you will find bliss balls made from almond mylk pulp and even an organic nut butter churner. You can pick up your vegan essentials such as nutritional yeast and coconut cooking butter, and (controversially) non essentials such as organic, fair-trade, vegan, plastic free chocolate bars (that was a mouthful!). Nut mylks by Mylkman are sold in glass jars which are cleaned and reused, oh yes, and they have wine on tap! They sell organic red wine from a small vineyard in France that uses solar panels as its main source of energy.
At the back of the shop you will find a variety of sustainable cleaning, laundry and self-care products. The environmental impact of every product they sell is carefully considered, from the ingredients and production to the journey the product has to make to the store. Hetu stocks refillable shampoo and conditioner handmade in Wales and shampoo bars for all different hair types made using 100% renewable energy. They have reusable face wipes made from un-dyed organic cotton, vegan menstrual cups made by Rubycup and recycled toilet paper made by Who Gives a Crap. Certified organic washing up liquid, laundry liquid, fabric softener and multi surface spray is sold by Greenscents, which makes small batches of the products in Somerset.
Hetu means ‘purpose’ in Hindi, and the purpose of this space is clear. The philosophy at Hetu is “to have the health and well-being of the planet and all its inhabitants at the core of everything we do”. So while it can be difficult to work out how to be truly zero waste, Hetu is a good start.
Address: 201 St John’s Hill, London SW11 1TH