An Eco-Analysis of a Small Business

Unpackaged is a small, charming shop that sells affordable organic and fair trade dry foods--unpackaged. You bring your own container or buy a reusable one. It sounds like old news to North Americans, but here in the UK it is unique. The owner, Catherine Conway, is very serious about her business and has made great efforts to push the envelope, using a low carbon delivery service, publishing a newsy and informative monthly newsletter, and becoming a community resource for the area.

Now she has had an environmental analysis of her business done. The "Green House Gas Assessment review contrasts the emissions associated with 8 commonly available packaged items and those associated with Unpackaged's methods of supply and re-fill using one's own containers. The items compared were: shampoo, olive oil, washing up liquid, hand soap, tea bags, muesli, and nut mix which form 33% of the shop's sales.

The highest and lowest savings were made with products traditionally associated with glass. Olive oil is dispensed from a bulk steel container into typical 500ml by Unpackaged. These bottles are re-used at least 20 times. If store-bought then a new bottle is used each time.

Some of the savings are high because they have proportionally high sales. Unpackaged sold 500 litres of washing up liquid in 6 months versus just 35 litres of liquid soap.

The report's conclusions: "However, despite these contrasts, it is clear that purchasing products from Unpackaged does have measurable emissions benefits. Based on the assumptions outlined, average emissions reductions of 47% are achieved each time a product is purchased from the store. Unpackaged is saving approximately 1.5t CO2e a year at present, and at an early stage in the company’s development. Further savings will be realised as more customers re-use (and propotional sales of individual containers reduce). Moreover, the behavioural change engendered by Unpackaged will inevitably result in further lifestyle adjustments which contribute to emissions reductions.Unpackaged is saving approximately 471.kgCO2e a year at present."

As Conway says " we now have a baseline that we can use to build on and improve by finding more local suppliers and buying in greater bulk. By next year, we can report back on our improvements." Unpackaged
More on Unpackaged
Unpackaged: A Success Story

Tags: Energy | Life Cycle Analysis | Recycling | Reusability


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