Every Saturday, Alex runs Harry’s House — a Zero-waste shop from her home in Taplow. Aiming to cut down on unnecessary packaging, Alex’s customers bring their own reusable containers and fill them up with anything from pasta, and rice to shampoo and washing up liquid.
She started her store in June 2019 after the birth of her first child, Harry, with an ambition to help cut needless plastic packaging.
Why are you a Zero Hero?
I started my Zero-waste shop because I wanted to do something about the massive amount of packaging I was seeing in our supermarkets. It seems to have got worse over the years — more and more plastic. And it all seems to go to waste. I thought: there has to be a better way than this.
The plastic-free shop is in my kitchen at weekends — it’s a simple thing, I don’t have a conventional High St shop. But I do have a click and collect service, do various pop-ups at cafes, markets, and fairs. Recently, I’ve also started doing Bring a Tupperware Parties, meaning I do pop-ups at people’s homes across Buckinghamshire and Berkshire to make it convenient and relaxed to have a look, feel, and sniff whilst having some tea (wine!) and fruit (crisps!).
I want to help people to start to feel comfortable with the idea of bringing their own containers. It’s new for many, but it is so easy to do, like most things, when you know how — and it saves money and cuts waste.
What motivates you?
I had my first child, Harry, in October 2018. Spending more time at home meant I couldn’t ignore the sheer amount of single use plastic in various cupboards around the house. I later found out how much of our recycling isn’t actually recycled (something Hugh and Anna later pointed out to us all), and how difficult plastic is to recycle. I decided I wanted to buy loose pasta and rice, like my parents did when I was a child, but couldn’t find anything that suited me locally. So, I decided to do it myself.
Harry’s House was the result. I launched it in June 2019 and it has done nothing but grow! I’m thrilled people are keen not to have to buy things with loads of packaging all over it. Refilling is a simple, eco-friendly alternative.
I want Harry’s House to be accessible and help anyone and everyone reduce their plastic consumption. It makes our seas safer for wildlife and our beaches safer for kids, like Harry, to play on.
Zero-waste is still quite a new concept, and it can be hard to realise the impact you’re having by choosing to use less plastic. Personally, I like to remember these two phrases:
“It’s only 1 straw — said 8 million people”
“We don’t need one person to do Zero-waste perfectly, we need a million people to do it imperfectly.”
How do we switch to plastic free?
Going plastic free needs a change in lifestyle, sure, but it’s not impossible. My first tip would be ‘Slowly Does It’. If you try and do everything all at once and completely change everything, there’s a risk you can burn out and feel like you’ve failed. Start small and simple, like refilling your washing up liquid bottle. Then maybe move to refilling your rice. Then you might feel confident in trying a safety razor and bamboo toothbrush, maybe even a shampoo bar or toothpaste tablets.
It takes planning and time, and sometimes an upfront cost if you’re going for reusable kitchen roll or nappies. Rice will cost you as little as 50p for 2 people to have a couple of meals. Razors can cost around £15 to buy up front with 5 blades costing a couple of quid. That adds up, and can save you well over £100 a year when compared with your average razor.
Who’s your Zero Hero?
My inspiration started with a group of women in Dorset who have a mobile Zero-waste shop called The Green Weigh. My dad and step-mum use it regularly. They are incredible and remain an inspiration when times are tough in our shop. They have achieved amazing things; I like to feel inspired by their success!
Another Zero Hero of mine is Beth of Plastic Freedom. She runs an online shop for all things non-plastic and has some really beautiful products. It’s uplifting to see someone so passionate about what she does.
My number one inspiration is Harry, without him I wouldn’t be working in both a normal job, and trying to run a small, eco-friendly business at the same time. It’s all for your future little buddy!
Any tips for a plastic-free Christmas?
I’m getting better at gifting less plastic at Christmas. I try to be aware of my personal consumption and its impact, but I also love Christmas and present-giving. Thankfully, it’s getting easier to find inexpensive, plastic-free gifts — and maybe you’ll inspire someone to start their plastic free journey too!
Here are some of my Christmas gift suggestions:
- Nice soaps or sugar scrubs (a firm favourite!) — cost £1.50 — £3.65
- Yoghurt raisins in a fun jar you’ve got knocking around — from £1
- Refillable glass bottle of body wash — £9
- Reusable razor gift set — from £15
Those are just some ideas, but your local zero waste shop will have all kinds of things.
Alex’s Zero Hero Directory
Plastic freedom plasticfreedom.co.uk
The Green Weigh thegreenweigh.co.uk
Zero Waste Near Me zerowastenear.me
Zero Hero Kitchen switches
Tabitha Eve Tabithaeve.co.uk
Zero Hero Bathroom switches
Naked Necessities nakednecessities.co.uk
Who gives a crap whogivesacrap.org
Zero Hero Beauty switches
Cotton rounds — harry’s house harryshouserefills.co.uk
Zero Hero Parenting switches
Cheeky wipes cheekywipes.com
Tots Bots totsbots.com