Sustainable Business; Grocery & Food Retail

Sustainable Ethical Grocer/ Food Retailer

I’m so, so late publishing this blog post but what between suspected IBS and redesigning the website it kinda fell through the stools.

Now that I’ve redesigned the blog so that it’s more of a static website than a list of published posts I may review my weekly posts too and just switch to a regular email newsletter.

Apologies to those of you who got notifications of 3 posts published earlier in the week. I needed them to make the new website design work. The annoying thing about WordPress is that an email notification has to go out when you publish a post. I had hoped that making the blog private while I published would have prevented this but not joy.

Anyhow today we have another post in my series on sustainable businesses, this time for grocers and food retailers. If you’re not in the line of work feel free to forward the post onto someone that is.


Nothing mentioned in this post has been sponsored. It’s all just my own personal opinion. If you like your bloggers to remain independent then please share this post or support me with a small monthly donation via Patreon or with a once off donation via Paypal.
Photo by Hulki Okan Tabak on Unsplash


Take-away Food Containers

Packaging / Labelling

  • Aim to have loose veg the same price as packaged-veg
  • Consider ditching fruit labelling in favour of laser labelling as offered by Spanish company Nature and More
  • Wherever packaging is essential aim to only use recyclable or compostable packaging. This will solve a big headache for customers and they’ll appreciate that you’ve taken all the thinking out of the recycling process for them.
  • VPZ offer compostable fruit and veg nets and fruit boxes made from beech trees. They are based in Germany.
  • Switch to plastic-free multi-buy promotions for non-perishable, perhaps using paper / cardboard bands
  • Offer refill points for filtered water, beer, wine, milk, juice, washing-up liquid, shampoo, laundry liquid. Wine lab in Ireland sell wine dispenser taps that use kegs thereby reducing glass bottle waste. Infinity Water Systems offer a refill system for bottled sparkling or still water without the waste and cost associated with traditional bottled waters. They are based in Ireland
  • Sell condensed capsules of cleaning products instead of full bottles, like those from SploshIron & Velvet, or Ocean Saver’s Pod
  • Consider package-free versions of products your already sell like soap
  • Introduce toothpaste tablets and mouthwash tabs that customers can buy package-free
  • Introduce fully compostable versions of products that are accepted by bin collection companies, like ear-buds, cleaning cloths etc.
  • Trial a few package-free dry goods like rice, pasta, beans, dried fruit. The gravity bins might look like they’d spill all over the floor but they actually manage the flow in a very controlled way and are designed so that the older stock gets dispensed first.
  • Miwa is a circular system of reusable capsules that use smart technology, to fit into the logistic and hygienic standards of supermarket chains and Good Club is an online supermarket that delivers all it’s products in reusable containers. It’s based in the UK.

Food Waste & Miles

  • Tailor multi-buy options for fruit and veg, if done badly it leads to food waste. Replace with ‘recipe packs’ that invite customers to buy all they need for a particular featured recipe, which you display on posters in store for customers to take a photograph of. Recipes would be built around locally grown veg as much as possible to reduce air miles.
  • Promote locally sourced package-free veg.
  • If you’ve a lot of food waste consider installing a food digester


  • Klee Paper in Ireland sell compostable single-use gloves
  • If you sign up for Terracycle points you can earn cash for a charity or community organisation by collecting and posting certain packaging streams.
  • Set your tills to not give receipts unless requested.
  • Allow customers to donate unwanted reusable shopping bags for customers can use if they forget theirs. Link to a charity so customers can donate in appreciation of the scheme.
  • If you’re going to use compostable packaging make sure you have a compost bin for all food waste and compostable containers nearby and signage to explain which bin to put it in and why.
  • Support the initiative Refill and allow people to refill their reusable bottles on your premises.  Ecofil sell water refill stations. They are based in Ireland.


Energy & Water

  • Urban volt install LED lights with no money down. They get paid from a percentage of the savings you make from using less energy. They’re based in the US and Ireland.
  • Switch energy provider.
  • Monitor your energy usage and set targets for reductions
  • Monitor your water consumption and set targets for reductions.


Packing Material

  • Cardboard Converters sell cardboard shredders that allow you to reuse cardboard boxes as packing material. They have an office in Ireland.
  • Flex-hex use expandable cardboard sheets to protect bottles
  • Palletsock provide reusable durable socks for use to palette thereby doing away with the need for acres and acres of stretch wrap
  • Recycled cardboard packing material by Ecor
  • Flexible compostable packaging by Tipa

Promotions / Signage

  • Print posters with offers and invite customers to photograph instead of doing individual catalogues
  • Switch to a digital loyalty scheme that uses phones instead of a plastic card / keychain
  • Consider using waxed cotton for outdoor signs instead of plastic coated ones like Millbee Studio did.
  • Avoid dates on banners and pop-up signs so they can be reused.


  • Linea Zero is a range of professional cleaning products that are fully biodegradable and based on plant ingredients or source your cleaning products from Klee Paper, or another eco-stationary brand


  • Neutral in Denmark offering custom printing of certified 100% organic fairtrade toxin-free t-shirts which have made with renewable energy and are carbon neutral.



  • Get yourself or your staff driving more sustainably with the device Lightfoot. It plugs into the vehicle’s on-board computer and monitors driving performance. This is then displayed on the dashboard with a series of little lights. They’re based in the UK.


Car Parks

  • Use reusable plastic tokens instead of printing single-use tickets.
  • Promote cycling by put up bike racks close to the door to reduce theft


Positive Actions

  • One percent for the planet work with companies that want to donate 1% of their gross sales to environmental charities. They are based in the US but work with companies all over the world.
  • Invite people in to talk about sustainable living or other issues.

And if you’re planning on opening a zero waste store here’s a handy guide on what to consider from Zero Waste Store association Bepakt

Thanks for reading






Sustainable Ethical Haircare

sustainable ethical haircare

Having luscious locks seems to be the dream of most humans, so much so that a huge industry has been created to help deliver it, often with quite toxic results. I have settled on no hair-dye and liquid shampoo refills with a vinegar rinse for my haircare needs and I have to say my hair is all the better for it. Here’s some eco brands and products for you to consider in your search for your hairdo dreams.

Continue reading “Sustainable Ethical Haircare”

Eco Sunscreen

Phyts Sun Care

It seems as if the whole area of suncream is problematic, both from a health and environmental point of view. Whether it’s concerns over cancer-causing chemicals in the products themselves or how they contribute to coral reef bleaching it’s a minefield. Here’s some info to help you navigate the area along with some brands that are less harmful both ecologically and personally.

Sunscreen / Sunblocks
When it comes to sun protection there are two types of products; sunscreens and sun blocks. Sunscreens are usually made up of a mix of chemicals that reflect or scatter the light away from the skin and absorb the UV rays so that our skin doesn’t. Sunblocks use inorganic chemicals, including minerals such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, to act as a physical sunblock. They reflect UV rays, similar to how white paint reflects light. In the past sunblock were very noticeable on the skin but now inorganic particles can be made much smaller and so aren’t as visible.

Another type of radiation, called UVA radiation, penetrates deeper into the skin and can cause premature wrinkling, age spots and can also heighten the risk for some skin cancers. Sunscreen lotions labelled as ‘broad-spectrum’ block against both UVA and UVB, but currently there is no standard for listing UVA blocking power. Inorganic chemicals that deflect sunlight will deflect both UVA and UVB rays.

Some of the chemicals in sunscreen have recently come under fire for possibly being carcinogenic (cancer-causing) or otherwise harmful, according to a report by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), an advocacy group based in Washington D.C. Scientists found that oxybenzone absorbs into the skin and is present in urine long after sunscreen is applied, so some researchers have suggested not using sunscreens containing this chemical on children. Also in a preliminary study last year, large quantities of nano-particles of titanium dioxide was shown to cause genetic damage in mice. See below for information on which brands clearly don’t use nano-particles.

Research carried out in 2008 found that organic ultraviolet filters in sunscreen lead to bleaching of corals in areas of high leisure activity and in 2015 a team reported that oxybenzone is toxic to the symbiotic algae that live within corals, which provides their color and performs other vital duties, and also stunts the growth of corals. Sunblock formulas with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide below 100 nanometers can be ingested by corals and are to be avoided. The HEL list is a list of chemicals that are known pollutants in many different environments (freshwater streams, river, beaches, and ocean systems) or wildlife (e.g., corals, fish, birds, marine mammals, sea turtles). All of them pose a threat to Ecosystem Health.

So how do you avoid unhealthy, coral bleaching sunscreen? Well until such time as there is a widespread certification for ‘coral friendly’ sunscreen you’re going to have to check the list of ingredients in your preferred product and check it against the HEL list referred to above. During my research I came across a coral reef safe facial suncream from the Beauty Kitchen, made from 100% derived natural ingredients and free from nano mineral particles. Alba sunscreen, available from Down to Earth in D2, also states that it is coral reef friendly.

Before I list the ‘greener’ brands of sunscreen it’s worth referring to the post ‘Why I’m Giving up Non-toxic Sunscreen‘ by Eco cult. In the post she argues that research into the harmful effects of oxybenzone indicated that you’d need to apply 200 years worth of sunscreen to reach the exposure levels required to possibly put yourself at risk of cancer. She argues that using non-toxic sunscreens that, in her experience don’t work, puts you at immediate risk of cancer, whereas normal exposure to oxybenzone may or may not. Personally I have used non-toxic sunscreen by Green People, Beauty Kitchen and Jason and found that they all worked very well as long as you apply them regularly, as is required with all sunscreens. I will qualify that remark by saying that I’ve only tested these products in Ireland and the UK and they may not stand up in countries closer to the Equator.

Non-toxic Sunscreen Brands

Alba sunscreen is biodegradeable and coral reef safe, made from vegetarian ingredients and free of cruelty, synthetic fragrances, parabens, phylates, gluten, artificial colours, sulphates and nano-minerals. It is . They do cream and spray based products and offer mineral based sunscreen or ones without mineral ingredients.  Their products are currently available from Down to Earth in Dublin 2.

Aloe Pura is a brand of sunscreens and suncare products that you see frequently in health food stores. I have really struggled to find a website for the company, which concerns me. The Holland and Barrett website states that Aloe Pura Aloe Vera Sun Lotion is produced from organic and certified Aloe Vera gel and that it is free from free from parabens, paraffin/petroleum, lanolin and salicylates. No independent certification for these claims could be found online.

Beauty Kitchen are based in Scotland and aim to make 100% effective, natural and affordable products that only contain 100% pure essential oils plus naturally derived ingredients. Their products are also cruelty free and some are labelled ‘vegan friendly’ even their seahorse plankton face cream! You can buy from their website or via Holland and Barrett stores.

Louth based Biofresh offer cruelty and paraben-free suncare products that contain certified natural and organic ingredients. You can buy through their website or in their salons in Drogheda, Co Louth and Swords, Co Dublin. There is no evidence of independent certification on their website.

UK Green People offer a range of natural and organic suncare products that are free from cruelty, SLS, parabens, lanolin, perfumes, propylene glycol, artificial synthetic fragrances, Colourants, petrochemicals, PABA-sunscreen, Urea, PEG’s, DEA and TEA. They say their products are suitable for all skin types, particularly sensitive skin and possibly those prone to eczema and psoriasis. Their product pages are very informative and list each of the certifications that apply to them. These certificates include ones from the Organic Soil Association, the Organic Food Federation, the Vegan Society, the Good Shopping Guide and EcoCert. The company also donates 10% of their net profit to ‘green’ health and environmental charities. Their Irish website states that their packaging is recyclable, are fully biodegradable and when burned release only Carbon Dioxide and water.

The company JASÖN® have been running since 1959 and offer both mineral and non-mineral sunscreens that are free of cruelty, mineral oils, lanolin, petrolatum and nanoparticles. Where palm oil or palm derived products are used in their products the company states that they are obtained from sources that support organic and/or sustainable palm practices.  Their products do not contain meat or any products obtained from killing animals. They state that their skincare is classed as natural, although some individual products are 100% organic and certified as such by the USDA in the USA. The BUAV bunny is visible on the UK website.

Founded in 1987 and located in Germany Lavera make 100% certified natural suncare products with plant ingredients, using organic where possible. Their products are all free from cruelty, parabens, SLS, silicone, paraffin, GMO ingredients, synthetic preservatives, synthetic emulsifiers, synthetic fragrances, synthetic colours. Most of their products are gluten-free and vegan. Each product page helpfully lists all the ingredients contained in each product.  The company is certified by NaTrue. Interestingly the American version of the Lavera website says it’s an ‘organic’ skincare company, while the German one simply states ‘natural’ skincare using organic ingredients. Their website states that since the enactment of the EU Regulation on Cosmetic Products in 2013, particles between 1 and 100 nm must be declared under the term ‘nano’ in the ingredient list of sun protection products, e.g. ‘titanium dioxide (nano)’. It goes on to state that ‘lavera sun protection products comply 100% with EU regulations and the Regulation on Cosmetic Products and meet their requirements regarding the use of nano-particles. Considering this and the fact that the list of ingredients in their sun cream only lists titanium dioxide I’m going to conclude that they don’t use nano particles.

Moogoo is a family owned Australian company making mineral-based suncare products from natural ingredients, which they list on each product. They claim to be one of the greenish skincare companies around and have a video showing what they do on their website! No evidence of certification was available on their website.

Set up in 1972 French brand Phyt’s offer 100% natural mineral-based sunscreens made with organic ingredients. You can buy their products online or from the beauty salon Virginia Claire in Harold’s Cross, Dublin 6W. They list all of the ingredients on their website and the company are signed up to a quality charter by Cosmebio, a self-regulating Professional Association for Natural, Ecological and Organic cosmetics. Their organic ingredients are also certified by EcoCert and Agriculture Biologic.  According to their website the Zinc Oxide and Titanium minerals in their sun care products are non-nano. 

German brand Weleda is one of the oldest skincare companies, having begun in 1921. Their products are non-toxic, paraben-free, synthetic fragrance-free, SLS-free and GMO-free and are certified as natural by NaTrue. They state that approximately three-quarters of their plant ingredients come from organic or biodynamic farming and from certified wild collection. They are also engaged in fair trade farming agreements with their suppliers and have a network of them across Europe. They clearly state that the titanium oxide in their sunscreen lotion is non-nano.

Lush do a solid cocoa butter-based 30spf sunblock that you’re meant to apply in the shower, although some people just apply it like regular sunblock. The block comes in three sections and each section is said to cover on body entirely. As with all Lush products it contains natural ingredients and what Lush call ‘safe synthetics’. I’ve heard it’s greasy when first applied but socks in to leave a barrier. It costs €11.95 for 100g and comes in a sealed plastic bag. They also do a powder sun-screen that provides 15spf.

Shade cream is 25spf product I heard about in the Zero Waste FB group. It is made of 4 100% natural ingredients; shea butter, coconut oil, beeswax, and non-nano zinc oxide. It is free from Parabens, Alcohol, Methylchlorolsothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone, Retinyl palmitrate, Oxybenzone, Phthalates, Artificial perfumes, Petrochemicals and colourants. It is said to be suitable for sensitive skins and isn’t tested on animals. It is a UK brand and although there aren’t currently any stockists in Ireland but quite a few e-tailers seem to stock it and you can buy it via or directly from their website. I thought this blog post by the maker in response to a bad review on Amazon was very information and worth reading before your purchase. Love companies as transparent as this!

UK company Odylique offer a cruelty-free Spf 30 sunscreen made from faitrade and organic ingredients. It is also free of synthetic UV filters, preservatives, silicones, fragrance and colour. All of the ingredients in this sunscreen are natural with 76% certified as organic. It is also suitable for Vegans. It comes in plastic packaging that has been made in Europe and is, according to the company, recyclable. The company also use packaging made from recycled plastic for some of it’s products and the packing peanuts they use are biodegradable. They also support a range of charities and are accredited as an ethical company by The Ethical Company Organisation.

Amazinc! Mineral Lotion uses only mineral filters and natural ingredients in their vegan sun screen and it comes in an 100% recyclable aluminium bottle ensures, which is light and spill proof. The ingredients in the product include Almond Oil, Jojoba Oil, Olive Oil, Olive Squalene, Mineral Shield LIGHT (Zinc oxide – NON NANO, Magnesium oxide), Triticum Vulgare Germ Oil, Hydrogenated Almond Oil, Rosmarinus Officialis Leaf Oil, and Tocopherol. It’s available to buy from Irish e-tailer Green Outlook.

Homemade Sunscreen

You’ll find a lot of recipes online for homemade sunscreen if you’re interested. I’ve done a little digging on the purported spf ratings of natural oils and it seems that the evidence is very sketchy. I can’t find any research that definitively states that sunblocking performance of natural oils and unless something is independently tested I don’t trust its efficacy. If I do trial something myself I’ll post a review but for now I’m not comfortable share something that could put someone at risk of cancer.

Alternatives to Suncream
Using sunscreen is imperfect. You can miss spots, you can fail to reapply frequently enough. They can be sticky, and messy, and smelly and cause irritation on sensitive skins. And then there’s the permanent damage they cause to car paint work! Yikes.

For this and other reasons some people are moving away from sunscreen towards a more holistic approach to sun protection, choosing instead to avoid exposure in the first place. This may mean not sitting in direct sunlight or dressing in long-sleeved tops, trousers and hats instead of lathering on sunscreen with shorts and singlets.

We can already buy swimwear with spf rating in Irish department stores, particularly for kids, and I’d imagine it’s only time before we start to follow the lead of American and Australia with spf rated clothing but for now covering up in normal clothes is the easiest way to move towards a more sustainable form of sun protection.

Self Tanning Products
If you’ve done a very successful job of protecting your skin from the sun you may want to artificially add a tint of tan.  Tan Organic are an Irish company that uses natural and organic ingredients to make their self tanning products. They are also the only eco-certified self- tanning brand in the world and were recently listed as 9th best ethical cosmetic brand by the very well-respected Good Shopping Guide. Their website states that they source ingredients from ethically run producers, that they never test on animals and that their products are cruelty free.  Their products are certified by EcoCert, The Ethical Company Organisation & PETA. They use glass packaging and a biodegradable PLA made from extracts of corn and they state that they recycle, reuse, and reduce their waste wherever and whenever they can. They also give back to the community through their charity support program.

Insect Repellent
I’ve just learned about studies that show that lemon eucalyptus oil is as good as if not better than Deet. I generally like to reference original studies and not environmental websites that I’m unfamiliar with. This is because I prefer to read the research papers myself if at all possible to avoid misinterpretation. You’d be surprised just how often people misrepresent facts to say that they want! This time the link i’m using it to a website that support environmental journalism but  only because they link to the two original research papers cited in the article. I also heard this information collaborated in a podcast interview with the very well respected entomologist Dr. Dina Fonseca, professor of entomology in the school of public health at Rutgers University.

Newsletter – June Week 3

plastic free picnics

This week I had my first doctors appointment in about 5 years. It’s not that I haven’t been unwell in that time period, I just like to try and solve health issues with diet or lifestyle changes before trotting off to the GP. It drives my mother nuts. This week I felt so awful I capitulated, after which I felt a total failure for not being able to resolve my health issues myself.

Then I met a good friend for coffee and a chat and everything felt different. I felt lighter. I felt more positive. I felt more capable. I’m a complete extrovert and I think I’d underestimated the damaging effects of restrictions on my mental health. Sure there’s Facebook, Instagram, Zoom, Whatsapp, Skype etc but as time goes on these ‘tools’ fill me with despair. No longer do I see them as facilitating connections, more so a case of replacing it, which I find myself having a visceral reaction to.

I’m hoping that by investing in physical meet ups with people I feel genuinely connected to my mental health will improve, thereby improving quality of sleep, which will serve to reset bodily functions that have gone ary. Having had good health beyond my reach for a while now has made it all the more precious. I wonder will we all feel the same when our healthy eco system goes the same way.

And now for this week’s sustainable living stories;


Photo by Jonathan Borba on Unsplash
Nothing mentioned in this post has been sponsored. It’s all just my own personal opinion. If you like your bloggers to remain independent then please share this post or support me with a small monthly donation via Patreon or with a once off donation via Paypal.


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