Shop Zero has its own range of eco-friendly products like biodegradable brushes and reusable ear buds. Photo: Shop Zero

Shop Zero: A place for the eco-conscious customer

By Gemma Gatticchi
Tuesday, Jun 6, 2023 Lifestyle

Janneke Blake was so annoyed by the amount of packaging used for everyday items that she decided something had to be done. In 2017, Shop Zero opened its doors in Cape Town and now carries its own range of environmentally friendly and plastic-free products such as safety razors, bamboo toothbrushes and biodegradable kitchen sponges.

We spoke to Janneke to find out more.

Janneke says she opened Shop Zero to combat her own climate grief and eco-anxiety. Photo: Supplied

Why did you start Shop Zero?

In 2017, I dreamed of opening a zero-waste store in South Africa because there weren’t any at the time. Driven by my personal desire to live more mindfully and inspire positive environmental change (and recognising the lack of accessible products that aligned with my lifestyle) I founded Shop Zero in August 2017.

With a mission to change consumer patterns in response to the global challenges of plastic pollution and climate change, I aimed to provide a comprehensive solution to reduce carbon and plastic footprints. My determination to combat my own ‘climate grief’ and ‘eco-anxiety’ and address the shared concerns of others led me to bring these eco-friendly products to South Africa. 

What was your vision when you started?

The vision behind starting Shop Zero was to make sustainable living accessible and easy for everyone. I wanted to create a space where people could find eco-friendly alternatives to everyday products and be part of a community that values sustainability.

How do you decide what kind of products to stock?

The selection of products is based on our commitment to sustainability, quality and environmental impact. We carefully curate our product offerings, considering factors such as packaging, durability and ethical sourcing. Products that align with our values of being eco-friendly and cruelty-free are chosen [because] they meet our standards of sustainability and ethical practices. We don’t just sell anything and everything – we test all of our products vigorously… If we can’t test it, I will research it thoroughly.

Walk me through how a customer uses your ‘refill’ stations

We offer free brown paper bags and sell glass jars, but we encourage customers to bring their own containers to eliminate single-use packaging. The most eco-friendly thing you can do is use what you already have. The customer’s container is weighed before filling to determine the price based on the weight of the product.

The store offers refills for oats, coffee beans, quinoa, chickpeas and more. Photo: Supplied

Why is a company like this important in SA?

South Africa is facing significant environmental challenges, including pollution, deforestation and water scarcity. Shop Zero is helping to reduce waste and promote sustainable living, which can have a positive impact on the environment and society as a whole. We welcome anyone through our doors – no matter their lifestyle or personal choices. Together we can make positive changes for a greener future.

Does Shop Zero have its own products?

Our range includes double-edge safety razors, bamboo toothbrushes, reusable bamboo and silicone earbuds, hemp shopping bags, shampoo bars, biodegradable kitchen sponges and more.

What are your popular products?

Some of the most popular products are bamboo toothbrushes, loofah sponges, shampoo bars and amber glass bottles. Our non-toxic cleaning products such as natural dishwashing liquid and laundry detergent are also popular.

Shop Zero has its own range of eco-friendly products like reusable earbuds. Photo: Supplied

How do you eliminate waste when couriering to online buyers?

Our boxes aren’t pretty, but we’re trying to save trees! We reuse the boxes from deliveries made to us by our suppliers or donated by family and friends. We then seal the boxes with 100% biodegradable, non-reinforced paper tape. Why? According to the forest conservation organisation Canopy Planet, as reported in the Sourcing Journal, three billion trees are cut down every year to make 241-million tonnes of cardboard boxes, mailers, void-fill wrappers and other paper-based packaging.

We encourage our customers to reuse the paper bags our food is packaged in at least three times to reduce their carbon footprint and to reuse the box before sending it off to the recycling plant.

The Shop Zero online store has been operational since 2018. Photo: Supplied

How do you keep up with news about your sector?

I have been selected as both a 5 Gyres Institute ambassador and a Sustainable Ocean Alliance ocean leader. 5 Gyres fuels ocean leaders with connections needed to empower them to preserve the health of our oceans… They give me access to a global community of ocean experts and leaders that can help Shop Zero develop and implement sustainability projects, awareness campaigns and ocean solution initiatives.

Are there any other organisations you admire out there?

There are so many magnificent organisations that bring positive change to their communities and the planet. Ones that I’ve worked with or supported include: The Beach Co-op, Greyton Farm Animal Sanctuary, Greenpop, Four Paws, Ladles of Love, Souper Troopers, Atlantic Hope and the Hout Bay Seal Rescue Centre.

Where is the company situated?

We are close to parliament in Cape Town. Find Shop Zero at 1 Roeland Terrace, 56 Roeland Street. We share a space with The Vegan Life, a marketplace that shares our values and commitment to sustainability.