The first Be Inspired blog tells the story of a woman with a mission: to offer people a way to incorporate zero waste alternatives into their lifestyles and support a healthier planet.
The world is struggling to bear the weight of our waste – and it shows. For many, waste is just a normal part of everyday life; buy, use, dispose, repeat. But does it have to be like this? Us humans have developed wonderful, innovative creations and made incredible advancements. But we’ve also taken shortcuts, used up much of our resources and neglected to care for our reason for being: mother earth. Thankfully, though, there are ways to make positive changes day-to-day.
Changing the status quo
A few weeks ago, I stumbled across a new stall at Altrincham Market. A breath of fresh air, One Small Step is a start up business offering a range of products that are free from wasteful packaging, from house-hold cleaning items to personal hygiene essentials to food and even hand-blown glass bottles. Passionate about wanting to change the paradigm of how we consume, Rachael Wong opened her stall to offer people an easier way to live a convenient zero waste lifestyle. I interviewed Rachael to learn more:
Tell me a bit about yourself – what is your background?
“My name is Rachael Wong, I’m 32 and from London. Before taking the path towards a zero waste lifestyle and deciding to start a career within that, I worked in TV advertising production for 7 years and also spent over 3 years travelling in Asia and New Zealand.“
That’s quite the career change! What was behind the move?
“I never quite felt that I fit into the ad world. Although I was lucky to work with some really fantastic individuals, my work lacked purpose and I was always on the lookout for something that really inspired me, where I could make a difference; something that I could grab on to and create something out of and make an impact on.
I guess that’s why I turned to travelling – to search for my purpose in life. Along my travels I was really saddened to see the ways in which waste is disposed of in other parts of the globe. In many places, plastic could be found littering the streets, the jungles, the beaches, the ocean, even high up at almost 6000ft in the Himalayas. It made me feel so much guilt for never having considered what happens to my own plastic and non-biodegradable waste – it was not something that I had really thought of and I’d always assumed that back home in the UK we would have it figured out (it turns out that we do not!).“
What inspired you to set up One Small Step?
“It started with the deep, dark holes of doom and gloom that I found myself in when researching the problems that plastic causes for our planet. I couldn’t believe what we were doing. I looked around my home and was disgusted at how much plastic I had all around. I made the decision to cut it out where possible, and when I saw how easy it could be in certain areas I told all of my friends and family. I loved sharing my tips with them, and they loved hearing about things that they could do to make a difference too. That is where my inspiration came from…simply from inspiring change in others.
I wanted to create more of those [positive] ripples on a bigger platform, informing people of the problem, offering up solutions and congratulating them all for their efforts. All the while, ensuring that people didn’t get trapped in their own holes of gloom as I did, I wanted to spread the message with a positive, supportive and optimistic tone.”
Can you tell me about your products?
“I aimed to select a range of products that could fit into many or all of our lifestyles. My favourite items (currently, as this always changes) include the laundry soap nuts, which are amazingly effective and an economical plastic-free switch from the bottles and containers of laundry detergent that line the supermarket shelves. They work so well and the fact that they are totally organic, directly from nature, makes them even better.
But I also love the concept of the scoop and weigh food selection. Food is one of the most difficult places in your life to keep up with living a plastic-free lifestyle, so having this available to customers is helpful and, if used effectively, can result in a major decline in the amount of plastic we have in our homes.“
Why Altrincham Market? What would you say about the community spirit?
“I ended up in Alty Market purely by luck, and the divine alignment of my dreams and all that I had been manifesting. I couldn’t be happier here, it is the perfect market for One Small Step.
The market is really supportive and the people here share my beliefs and vision of a cleaner, greener local environment. The community spirit is great, there are certainly regular faces that I see on a daily, or weekly basis and new and intrigued customers who have often found me on social media or through the grapevine.“
Are people receptive to/engaged with the idea of zero waste, based on your experience?
“I am absolutely overwhelmed by the response that One Small Step has had with the local community. Each day there are more and more people that approach me for a chat to find out where they can start their zero waste journey or to tell me how great they are doing, and what next steps they are ready to take.
It is inspiring and fulfilling, as this is exactly why I am doing this, to encourage this sort of behaviour and allow people to take responsibility for their actions. And I can honestly say that I believe they are. I absolutely adore each and every one of my customers for their willingness to step up and become a part of change that is so deeply needed.“
What would you say is key to getting people on board with a circular economy?
“Education. For sure!
I think that we all need to be educated on the problem, from my observations and chats with customers, what I find is that many of us (myself included) are/were totally uneducated on what some of the products that we use daily are made from and on what happens to our waste when we no longer need it. Yet once we know, we read, research and learn. Most of us will begin to make small changes to address it; we may start small but the fact that we start somewhere is important.
That is where the name One Small Step was birthed from…just taking it one step at a time, not letting it overwhelm or depress you (like it did me at the offset), but to take it piece by piece and allow each step to empower the next step of your journey.“
Is this your only venture or do you have any side hustles?
“For now, this is my only venture. It is a huge learning exercise for me, I have never worked in retail, or run a business, nor did I have the self-confidence to believe that I could spread such a positive message and that people would actually listen to me. I’ve also never had this much responsibility in my life. Yet I show up every day, for myself, for my customers, for the planet and for the local environment and community.
As it is still early days for One Small Step, I do not take a wage and all of the profits go right back into growing the business. I am of course hoping that one day it will be possible to financially sustain my (moderate) lifestyle, but for now my priority is purely to spread the message and to assist people to live greener, more environmentally conscious lives.“
What are you hoping to achieve in the long run?
“I am hoping to see all the people that I have touched with my message living with less plastic in their lives and being more conscious in how they consume. We only have one planet and it is our home, so we should all treat it as such, and consider the future of the planet that our children and children’s children will inherit from us.
I would also like to see One Small Steps popping up in surrounding areas, as zero waste shopping needs to be our future. Our planet can not sustain our bad habits and changes need to be made. I want One Small Step to be a big part of that change.“
Rachael’s stall offers a diverse range of sustainable products. For instance, you can purchase reusable, washable and 100% organic cotton wipes and bio-degradable, vegan dental floss that is made from corn and sold in little glass bottles that can be refilled. The idea is to strip single use plastics from daily life where possible and shoppers can come to the stall ready with reusable bags and containers to stock up on what they need, whether that be pasta, porridge oats, or shampoo and conditioner. One Small Step is open every Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Altrincham Market.
For those that want to adopt a zero waste lifestyle, there are now a number of more sustainable brands and products cropping up over the UK. Once seen as largely middle-class, zero waste shops are becoming more accessible to a wider demographic, and while more sustainable products might look pricey at first glance, they can often be cheaper in the long run.
Remember that every single action towards a more sustainable future really does make a positive difference – we have to start somewhere. Thanks to increasing global awareness of the challenges facing our world and the sustained efforts of individuals far and wide, we can start to see a shift. A shift in perceptions, attitudes and, most importantly, actions. While we have a long way to go, and there is no quick-fix-solution, there is still light at the end of the tunnel.
For tips on how to start your zero-waste journey, click here.