Our first stop on this sustainable journey was to Local Hero, an independent cafe, located on Fulham Road, providing delicious brunch with perfectly brewed coffee. Local Hero delivers outstanding customer service while creating a great sense of community. The menu boasts innovative dishes that are mix of nutritional and indulgent, with plenty of veggie, vegan and gluten-free options! I spoke to Colm, manager of Local Hero...
1. Tell me a little about yourself and the business!
Local Hero is about 16 years old - Peter and Mariana started the business together. It used to be about half the size and they used to only do sandwiches and coffee, but now we have the garden and they’ve expanded the business to include more food. We’ve gone from using independent coffee to actually roasting our own & we now have our signature blend - that’s how it’s really taken off! I started in 2015 and I’ve been the manager since!
2. What’s the community like in Fulham?
Fulham is a very community-based area - you see a lot of the same faces. Out of all the places I’ve worked, this is the one where we have the most regulars. We know their names and what they do; we actually went to one of our customer’s gin openings recently - so customers really do become friends! Same with our staff. We have a low turnover and a lot of people come back. Fulham’s so small that everyone knows each other, I think that’s why we’re called Local Hero, we’re here for the community! People like to go to the same places and family is important around here so the garden’s great because you can let the kids run around. The roof is retractable so we can actually open and close it depending on the weather!
3. I see that Local Hero pushes a sustainable narrative, can you tell me a little more about that?
So, especially with our packaging - we’ve changed all of our cups so that they’re biodegradable and the straws are gone! We’ve reduced our plastic consumption by half and everything is reused and refilled. I think we’ve really tried and tried and tried… At the moment we’re working on making the stickers biodegradable, so we're constantly looking for suppliers to keep up with what we need. All our food is fresh and locally sourced - it comes from suppliers that use North End Road, so not far at all. We actually used to sell chai that was made by a lady down the road, so we definitely try to incorporate products from the area!
4. How was 2020 for you guys?
2020 was probably the most difficult year, what with opening and closing… yeah it’s been tough! You don’t know if you’re going to need staff, if takeaway is going to work… We were so lucky that it did! The minute we were allowed to open, we did. It was so nice to see people from Fulham really supporting their local cafes and stores. Last week was our best weekend since the pandemic & it’s definitely slowly picking up. We lost the commuters in the morning, but we actually benefited from the people working from home - they’d come in for a coffee and then go back to WFH. I feel like things are turning a corner, so I think by September things should pick up, hopefully!
5. Any goals for 2021/22?
I think the next one is to change the menu - I think that’s really important & we like to do it seasonally. Maybe try and do some more coffees and smoothies… We’re always trying to do new things!
6. What’s it been like running the business with sustainability in mind?
Customers will always say something - it’s great! We had someone come in and remark on our bottles, they said that they’d prefer to buy a more sustainable/glass bottle as opposed to a plastic bottle. We used to have PLA straws - they’re plastic, but they’re biodegradable so they break down - a lot of people weren’t aware of that material so they’d comment on them, they’d say “I don’t want plastic!”. It’s great because locals come in and they tell you things that they’ve liked, and haven’t liked, and they’re always trying to make us better. It’s really nice.
7. What are three pieces of advice that you’d give, to a company or an individual, about how to live a more planet-friendly life?
I think the first thing I’d say is listen, that’s the most important thing. Then the next thing is definitely research. It’s so important to research - you CAN find alternatives, you just have to spend the time looking. And then finally, don’t be offended! It’s not personal and it takes time - the most important thing is that the world is changing and we have to change with it. It’s a case of learning. I think people don’t realise the amount of straws that get dumped and how much plastic is in our oceans… it is crazy to see what it’s doing to our planet and we only have one, so we need to take care of it.
A few stores down is BYGRAM, an independent business created to offer local grocery shopping without single use plastics. Inspired by having lived in a Cyprus village close to nature, seeing first hand the eye sore plastic rubbish created, Tonia and her husband Chris wanted to play a part in contributing to a greener planet!
1. Tell me a bit about yourself & BYGRAM.
My partner, Chris, and I started the business a year and a half ago. We used to live in Cyprus before, and we had always been involved in environmental projects - we used to run an Agritourism place and were involved in cleaning beaches, etc, so we decided to do something in line with that once we moved to London. We also LOVE food & cooking, so it just made sense!
I think the sense of community here is great, to be quite honest with you! We’ve had a great response since the beginning. It was a surprise to use that all age groups were interested in shopping with us - we’ve had young people coming in, who see zero-waste as a trend, but we also have elderly individuals coming in because they see this way of shopping as similar to when they were growing up. It was a bit of a surprise to us, but obviously a happy surprise! We are so happy to show everyone this way of shopping sustainably. I think maybe 80% of our customers now bring in their own containers, which is great! People are getting into the habit of doing a bigger shop and doing it in a sustainable fashion!
3. I see that you like to push a sustainable narrative, can you talk more about why you choose to do so?
Well, we see a lot of alternatives (biodegradable/compostable products) popping up nowadays, but personally we don’t believe the UK has the systems in place to deal with that… each council does their own thing and recycling options are different depending on where you go, it’s a mess! We think refilling is the best option at this point, it raises awareness in the community and encourages people to make the first steps in their sustainability journey. It might be a little more expensive - mainly due to the fact the majority of our products are organic - but you could shop small… refilling your spice jars at Bygram is actually cheaper than going to a mainstream supermarket!
4. I know you opened the shop only 3 months before the UK’s first lockdown… How was 2020 for you guys?
We started with good intentions and had big hopes… We were actually able to stay open throughout the pandemic since we sell essentials! I think it was great for the community, people came to us because there were such long queues at the mainstream supermarkets, and we were always open and able to process our customer’s orders. We had to react quickly in the first lockdown and began taking deliveries, it was a quick fix for sure... but all together we are happy with how things turned out - we secured a lot of new customers & now see a lot of regulars coming in!
5. What things can businesses do to move towards a more sustainable model?
There is a sort of switch happening on each level of the supply chain, if any retail unit is wanting to make a change, it’s definitely possible! Wholesalers and suppliers are thinking about packaging & becoming more sustainable. There’s also always opportunities to become a part of social projects - get involved in community projects, make an impact and raise awareness about your business! Nowadays, since the pandemic, there’s such a feel of community so more businesses should work together moving forward. We actually started supplying small businesses, private chefs & food companies, with zero-waste food so that was great - hopefully we’ll be able to do more of that in the future!
6. Have you got any plans for the next year?
Yes, we plan to expand this year - we have another store opening up in Hampstead which is exciting! Another thing we’ve always wanted to do since we started was events. We haven’t been able to because of the lockdowns, etc… but we’d love to connect with nutritionists, chefs and people involved in sustainability and see what we can do together!
7. I assume you practice sustainability within your own life, what advice would you give to someone just starting their sustainability journey?
Absolutely, it feels absolutely natural to me! There is no other option for me! It’s become such a day-to-day part of my life that it’s difficult to think of how I first started… I think what was important to me in the beginning was connecting with communities and individuals who also had sustainability in mind. Back in Cyprus I remember joining clean-up groups (the beach...the forest…) and it was a great way to connect with nature & make an impact from a personal level. I see a lot of people quitting cold-turkey, saying to themselves “I won’t ever shop from mainstream stores after tomorrow!” but then they go to a zero-waste store two or three times and then disappear… I think first you have to figure out why you want to make this change and use that as fuel to continue. Connect with nature, hug the trees!
Over the river you'll find 79 Collective, an iconic South-West London coffee, brunch & lunch spot on a mission to be the first carbon neutral hospitality group! Tucked away on Lower Richmond Road, this café is a must visit, boasting delicious coffee & an emphasis on sustainability! I spoke to Vittorio...
1. Tell me about yourself and about 79 Collective!
So the cafe has been open for almost 11 years, but the new owner took over just before lockdown last year and that’s when everything really became centred around sustainability! I’ve been here for a year and a half. I started making coffees, but then I got really interested in the sustainability aspect and got offered a job taking care of that side of the business. We are almost completely plastic free, we just have a few things to get rid of! Our cups are all compostable & we have a bin outside to do that, so that’s great.
2. How did Putney become the home of Coffee Society?
This is the original store - the owner was a local! He took over the business and we’ve been expanding ever since.
3. How was 2020 for you guys?
It was very challenging, obviously, but we never closed, not even during the first wave! It was great because it meant we got to engage with so many people from the area who didn’t know about us prior to the pandemic, and now we have even more customers because of it! We’ve improved a lot, changed the shop, gained some new team members, started working on some sustainability projects… so it’s been good for us actually! It’s been crazy but we’ve learnt a lot.
4. So community is important to you?
It’s the most important thing! Actually, we got to know so many people during the lockdowns because we had to ask their names, you know? They're our base - community is fundamental to us.
5. What things can businesses do to move towards a more sustainable model?
First thing to do is to monitor what stage you’re at - what’s your wastage, what type of materials are you using, where are your staff commuting from? It’s so important to keep monitoring that! Also, keep calculating emissions - what can you do to be better? At the moment we’re also working on a public environmental policy so that we can set up targets and work towards them - it’s not ready yet, but it’s going to come out soon!
6. What have you learnt from running a sustainable business?
I think it’s a new thing for everyone - we’re all learning. I took a course before taking this role & I learnt so much, so now I’m trying to implement that into the business. You learn as you go, research is so important, there’s always something new out there.
7. Any goals for 2021/22?
We’ve got lots of things coming up. We’re going to offset all of our emissions by 150%, which is really cool! We are really into sustainability & it’s the core of what we do. We actually just signed a contract to become climate positive, so we are going to fund a company who takes care of reforestation & we’ll be receiving certification that we’re carbon positive. Our newest coffee will also be sold in compostable packaging, so that our customers can recycle from home - all exciting things!
The Source Bulk Foods
Our final stop on this little journey around Fulham & Putney was to the recently opened: The Source Bulk Foods, a franchise born in Australia in 2012 from the belief that unpackaged food should be easier to access and a smaller carbon footprint could be achieved every time you shop. I spoke to Brand Manager, Amanda, about their Putney branch - located at the top of the busy Putney high street!
1. Tell us about yourself!
We are your local bulk foods health food store helping the UK to shop healthy & fight against waste. Whether you are a foodie or looking to reduce the waste in your everyday life, our mission is to offer the finest quality produce, sourced locally to our amazing customers.
2. How did Putney become your business home? How is it different from the other branches?
We have always loved Putney and felt that the local community would love their own The Source Bulk Foods, so for us it was a clear choice when Thibaud the owner wanted something local to his family’s home. Being locals, including the broader Source team, we know that there is such a rich foodie culture and a keen interest in sustainable living. We’ve had locals asking for us to open a store near Putney for quite some time and we are so happy that we are finally able to provide the community with a zero-waste shopping destination.
3. What is your favourite thing about the community?
The best part of our day is always meeting new people in the community and being able to share our mutual passion for food and the planet. The Putney community have embraced us with open arms and we have some truly fantastic customers and we look forward to meeting many more over the coming months.
4. Have you seen any changes in the community since opening?
The Putney community is incredibly vibrant and we have loved seeing everyone out and about more now that summer has arrived! Since opening it has been great to see so many new customers, many of which have visited after being recommended by a friend. We are excited to continue engaging with the community and working together on some amazing zero-waste initiatives.
5. I see that you like to push a sustainable narrative, can you talk more about why you choose to do so?
Sustainability is at the heart of everything we do at The Source. Being a bulk foods is as much about providing nutritious products without packaging as it is about helping educate our customers about the importance of the shopping decisions they make, both for the environment and the health of themselves and their loved ones. In our way we are helping to nourish families, positively inform, foster a healthy community, and in doing so, take a hands-on approach to nurturing our planet.
6. It’s amazing that you use sustainable eco-friendly products/methods. Can you explain more on the mindset of running a business in this way?
Zero waste is more than a philosophy or trend to us, it’s a way of life that lies close to our hearts. It’s about mindfulness and conscious living, taking small steps to rethink the way we shop and how we reuse and recycle in order to achieve a giant leap for the future health of our environment. From sourcing our produce locally where we can to finding new exciting foods to sell in a bulk format, The Source Bulk Foods is continually finding new ways to embrace the zero waste mentality. We encourage all of our customers to bring their own refillable bags and bottles when shopping in-store and continuously work on our supply chain to incorporate more closed loop suppliers that take back their empty containers and refill them with each new order – saving even more waste!
7. How did 2020 affect The Source Bulk Foods?
The last year has been a very big learning curve for many businesses. At The Source we were determined to continue offering our amazing customers zero-waste shopping even through national lockdowns. This was the catalyst for us launching our click and collect and online delivery services, which meant that we could deliver straight to our customers' doorstep! We are so proud to be able to offer our customers online shopping with packaging that is 100% recyclable, reusable and compostable.
8. What things can businesses do to move towards a more sustainable model?
It’s all about taking small steps that can have a large impact. Here at The Source we are continually looking at how we can improve our stores and supply chain to be as sustainable as possible. It’s not just about offering more sustainable and eco-friendly products, but considering the whole supply chain and trying to minimise waste at every stage of the farm to store journey. It’s also about considering the waste in your business, be it your electricity provider or waste services company. Just as importantly we try our best to keep our teams happy, paying them a fair wage and providing a rewarding working environment where they can be themselves.
9. Any 2021 goals for The Source Bulk Foods in Putney or as a franchise?
This year, The Source are excited to be opening a new store in Crouch End! This is a very exciting milestone for us and we cannot wait to open our doors in early July. We are also on a mission to save the waste you don’t see, continuing to integrate more closed loop suppliers into our business, and of course, continuing to bring customers new and exciting zero-waste products to enjoy!
10. What are three pieces of advice would you give to someone who’s just starting their sustainability journey?
Know that every small action helps! Zero-waste doesn’t need to be perfect, it’s about making small changes in your day to day habits.
Choose reusable options and buy in bulk.
Spread the word to your family and friends who may otherwise not think of the small changes they can make! When you do keep it positive, be encouraging and celebrate the small wins.