On 17th January, The Clean Kilo surpassed their crowdfunding target and raised £18,837 to fund the opening of the first zero waste shop in Birmingham.
With the risk of sounding dramatic, this shop is going to be life-changing for me.
Why? Because I have to travel to Bristol, or London with a huge backpack or suitcase if I want to stock up on proper zero waste goodies. When The Clean Kilo opens, I can travel 15 minutes on the bus to stock up my pantry, then head to the Bull Ring market for my veggies, meats or eggs.
I have been on this zero waste journey for a while now, and I'll be honest, it felt lonely to be on this journey – like it was only me who cared about it in the city I lived in.
However, the Crowdfunding from The Clean Kilo, and the huge social media buzz around this, showed me that other people care too! 501 people backed the campaign, which I found super exciting. And I really believe that more people will shop zero waste when it starts to become easier to do.
Myself aside, what does this mean for Birmingham?
Birmingham is in the top 10 of the worst recycling cities in all of the UK. For those of you who don’t know the city well, Birmingham is the second largest city after London. The city has poor recycling facilities (we only recently received bins from the council, before this, it was a bin bag on the side of the road…) these small improvements have made a difference – but I personally don't think it's enough, and it's not citywide just yet.
It's not a clean city, that's for sure.
In 2017, there was a strike from the bin workers. Whilst I found this easier to cope with than most, due to living a zero waste lifestyle, it led to people fly tipping, burning rubbish and reverting back to those bin bags on the side of the road.
That is why The Clean Kilo opening going to be epic.
You can see why Anna and I reached out to Tom, who grew up in Lichfield and has a PhD in chemistry, as soon as we got wind of this awesome project. So, one rainy Saturday in the middle of January, Tom invited us along to take a sneak peek around the shop...
Where will it be?
The shop, weirdly, has three addresses…
We tested it out though – the one on the website works with google maps to get you there.
If you know the Custard Factory well, you may be familiar with the shop, as it's the first building you come to on Digbeth High Street. Its previous occupants were hair stylists and originally the shop was actually a bank, which is really evident. The décor is super cool as it is and there will be so much room for zero waste products.
The Old Bank building actually still has a vault in it (!) which, in true zero waste style will be kept as it is and repurposed into a storeroom, potentially for the products which need to be kept chilled.
The longer-term plan is to install solar panels and electric heating with the help of a grant.
What can we get from the shop?
All dried goods will be displayed in gravity dispensers full of nuts, rice, pasta, lentils, flours and everything in-between. There will be an organic and non-organic range – so if organic oats are your thing (like me!) you can get them here. It's basically going to look like a posh pick and mix store, and if that doesn't sound like the best way to do your weekly shop ever, then I don’t know what does!
Alongside this, there will be the ability to make your own peanut butter, grind your own coffee beans and juice fresh oranges, alongside loose teas, non-dairy milks, herbs and spices, and, one of my very favourite things, chocolate!
Customers will also be able to stock up on toiletries, with anything from shampoos to conditioners and handsoaps stocked. These will either be in the form of bars, or as refills.
In terms of cleaning products, there will be washing up liquids, washing detergents, fabric conditioners and surface sprays all of which will be in refill form and from a cruelty-free manufacturer.
To make the whole zero waste journey easier, customers can also purchase produce bags, jars, straws, sponges, toothbrushes, sanitary products, cups, razors, reusable makeup wipes and food wraps. If any of you were backers in this campaign, you may well be having one of the bags or jars on their way to you as a special thank you gift.
They will also run workshops, including how to make shampoos, cooking workshops and inspiring talks.
The coolest part? As much of this as possible is going to be sourced locally. As soon Tom finds a product he could source from a local producer, he will stock their product over the one which might have many air miles attached to it. Now that’s awesome and something I find literally impossible to achieve right now. He's already conversing with a farmer in Staffordshire.
Tom stressed that it's not going to be a fancy pants elitist shop – okay, he didn't quite use those words, I may have changed them a bit –as he wants it to be accessible for all! This will be possible because customers won't have to be paying for that pesky packaging. The Clean Kilo will be catering for vegans, vegetarians, pescatarians, meat eaters, gluten free and dairy free diets while still offering everything at affordable prices. Meat products won't be sold at this shop, but they will be a stone's throw away from the Bullring Markets.
When will The Clean Kilo open?
All being well, The Clean Kilo will open their doors in May.
*Charlotte does a happy dance*
Tom's official line he goes for is a Spring opening – so hopefully he will achieve this!
Who will it be run by?
Tom! As with all startups, he'll be the jack of all trades. He also adds that it wouldn't have been at all possible without having had plenty of help and support from his partner and family. As soon as The Clean Kilo is the roaring success we are all certain it will be, he'll be considering hiring staff members.
So, a bit more about Toms zero waste journey…
Much like Anna and I, Tom has been aware of environmental issues from a young age, being always conscious to not drop litter. In fact, as a child, his mom used to find that his pockets were full of banana skins as he knew they should go on the compost heap! I hope for his washing machine's sake he now takes around a Tupperware box for his compost...
Then, in much the same way as Anna and I, the spark to start the zero waste journey came from watching documentaries like Plastic Oceans, researching the ethos behind it and just getting stuck in.
Like with most zero-wasters, once you start your journey, you can't stop seeing useless, wasteful packaging everywhere. And that was the inspiration to start The Clean Kilo.
Simply, because there's nothing else like it here.
We were discussing with Tom that a waste-free shop isn’t a new concept and how we're just slow as a country to catch on. However, the momentum is starting now and package-free shops are super successful elsewhere in the country and the world.
It really seems like it’s a good year to start, everyone is becoming more eco-conscious.
This should be the start of a catalyst for change – we can see that local consumers want to buy cousinly – but lots of industries will have to change to echo this demand. Due to Tom's chemical studies in the past, he knows that biodegradable plastics aren’t the answer as these need industrial conditions to biodegrade, and all too often, still end up in the oceans.
How can you prepare?
Start collecting boxes, bags, and save up all your pennies, to begin spending at The Clean Kilo!