Finding a zero waste shop in London

By Tom Tapper


Tom Tapper is the co-founder of Nice and Serious, a creative agency focused on ‘serious’ issues. The agency has also created the Useless (use less) website directory of zero waste shops in London. He talks to REAL about the concept. 

What was the inspiration behind Useless?

Useless is an idea that came from a conversation between two designers over lunch at Nice and Serious. One of the designers, Sam, had discovered a new shop where he could refill his old bottles with shampoo and detergent. It’s a simple concept, but it really caught the imagination of the team who are always looking for ways to cut plastic out of their lives. After some research, we realised that there were loads of new zero-waste shops popping up all over London, but there was a problem; they were hard to find and their websites were often ugly. So the two designers pitched an idea to the team: to create a beautifully designed directory of all the zero waste shops in London.

How does Useless help deliver a sustainable lifestyle?

A sustainable life is a life lived without waste. Seven billion people can’t peacefully and prosperously exist on our planet with a linear system of consumption involving buying more stuff and then throwing that stuff away. ‘Stuff’ is clogging up the arteries that keep all living species alive. So we rapidly need to switch to circular systems, where valuable materials – like plastic – aren’t wasted. Ultimately people don’t want to buy plastic, they want what it contains. So part of the challenge is to make people aware that there are alternative products and solutions that help avoid single-use plastics, and then direct them to the shops in their local community that are selling them. Useless provides a beautifully designed solution that helps people make that connection and start out on a journey to circular living.

What’s stopping this from becoming the norm?

The big supermarkets rely on the fact that our hectic lifestyles are forcing us to put convenience over conscience. Their stores are on every street corner making it all too easy to buy their highly packaged, linear products. Zero waste shops tend to be owned independently and can’t afford the premium rents of high footfall locations. They also don’t have big marketing teams or agencies to develop nice websites and campaigns to attract people to their stores. So the majority of people remain unaware that zero waste shops exist within their local community.

What’s in the future for Useless?

Our plan is to expand Useless to other cities and communities around the world, to showcase and celebrate the amazing zero waste shops and products that are emerging. We’re planning to do this by collaborating with local organisations to curate localised content. We hope this will encourage supermarkets to follow suit and start radically reducing plastic waste and enabling circular, sustainable lifestyles. But this won’t happen through Useless alone, we need governments to start legislating, and businesses to set ambitious targets to reduce waste while innovating to ensure that reducing plastic doesn’t unintentionally increase food waste, for example. 

Your top tips for reducing carbon emissions?

Visit your local zero-waste shop. Start simple by using refillable cleaning products and self-care products. Then when it becomes a habit, start exploring explore other ways to remove waste from your life.