Inspiring Interviews: Janneke Blake of Shop Zero

Welcome to the first instalment of what will be an ongoing series introducing the Nourish Soap community of stockists and customers. This week we are chatting to Janneke Blake, founder of Shop Zero, an amazing zero waste shop in Woodstock.

Janneke is a very busy woman. She is the owner of Shop Zero; a mom; and busy saving the world and the oceans from plastic pollution.

Janneke’s desire to live more mindfully intensified after she became a mother for the first time. Then a Carte Blanche interview with Bea Johnsson, author and founder of the Zero Waste Home movement inspired her to leave her teaching position at a Primary School and take the plunge.

She very kindly answered our questions so that we could find out more about the Shop Zero ethos and her inspiration.

“I realised that there was a gap in the South African market for a shop with everything you need to reduce your footprint at one store. So, in August 2017 I established Shop Zero at markets and started selling products via our Facebook shop. Since then, lots of exciting things have happened in South Africa and zero waste stores have been popping up all over or are in the process of opening up. We are all very excited about the growing movement and helping to lead the paradigm shift and change the way South Africans shop.”

What do you know now that you did not know 3 years ago?

Building Shop Zero from the start-up stages has contributed greatly to my professional growth and skills. Operating autonomously in all facets of the business has allowed me to fill multiple roles from accountant and photographer to buyer and customer service representative. Trying to build our small business and grow the zero waste community in South Africa. It’s not always easy, but I love it!

It’s also been great learning about things I never knew when I started my journey of working towards a zero-waste lifestyle. One example of something I was unaware of is the harmful effect kitchen waste has on the environment. Food waste rot in the landfill, this produces a greenhouse gas called methane. We can all easily recycle it with our compost heaps, Bokashi bins or earthworm farms.

The zero-waste lifestyle is all about taking small steps to try and reduce the amount of waste we create. The zero in “zero waste” makes it sound scary and hard to achieve. It is not as hard as it seems, and it is as simple as following these Five R’s, in order:

  1. Refuse what you do not need.

  2. Reduce what you do need.

  3. Reuse by using reusables.

  4. Recycle what you cannot refuse, reduce, or reuse.

  5. Rot (compost) the rest.

As a 5 Gyres Ambassador and Sustainable Oceans Ocean Leader you connect with a global community of environmental activists, researchers, influencers and everyday people who invest their time and energy into conserving the oceans and preventing plastic pollution. Where does South Africa fit, in this global context? Are we Super-heroes or Villains or somewhere in between?

Over-fishing and poaching are two big problems that not only have an impact on the particular fish species that are overfished but also threaten the livelihoods of people employed in the South African fisheries industry. A rescue operation took place last month to capture and transport more than 1,700 abandoned Cape cormorant chicks by boat and then by road to the SANCCOB facility in Table View. SANCCOB’s research department suspects that the lack of food could be the main reason for the abandonment. This is of course very sad to see.

Consumers have the power to drive change by supporting responsible suppliers and sellers who source sustainable seafood from well-managed fisheries. If you do eat fish, it is easy to choose sustainable seafood when using the WWF-SASSI colour-coded seafood guide. It’s great for consumers to make conscious decisions and I would love to see this guide on all restaurants’ menus.

For those of us who live along the coast, the ocean is tangible, it has a place in our

everyday lives. We have a vested interest in a clean beach and a healthy sea but why

does this matter to say, someone living in Pretoria or Bloemfontein who may wonder why this is relevant in their life?

The oceans give us life. At least half of Earth's oxygen comes from the ocean. Rivers and waterways are all heading for the ocean. So even if you live quite far inland, things like plastic bags and straws for example still have an impact on the ocean. Supply will only meet demand. If people keep demanding plastic bags or straws even though they live way away from the ocean, the supply will continue to be there. A lot of education is still necessary, but we are getting there. Everyone enjoys going to the beach and many people are keen to keep our natural environment clean.

Shop Zero is no longer a brick and mortar shop, instead, it is now a beautiful, functional and comprehensive online shop for all things sustainable. Did you have an “a-ha!” moment that made you rethink your approach?

Our lease was coming to an end and I decided not to renew it. In these uncertain times, we felt it wiser to focus on growing our online shop and opening another physical shop space when the time is right. It’s been a great opportunity for change and we now focus all our efforts on giving our customers the best service possible online.

What is your favourite product in the shop, your go-to or must-have?

A tough choice, we have so many different categories, but I have to go with our toothpaste bits. Toothpaste comes into contact with the delicate membranes of our mouth, gums and tongue and most toothpaste contain toxic ingredients! We should think very carefully about what we put into our mouths and what goes down the drain into our waterways.

Sustainable Living 101 for Newbies: name 3 products from Shop Zero that will inspire us to change our non-sustainable ways, forever.

Your beauty and hygiene products can have such a positive impact on the environment. Not only are you doing your little bit for the planet, but you’re doing a whole lot for your hair and skin using natural products that don’t contain harmful ingredients. Washing your hair with a shampoo and conditioner bar, showering plastic-free with one of our body soap bars and swapping your plastic toothbrush for a bamboo one, are simple switches one can make to live with less plastic.

THANK YOU Janneke for your input and insights! We wish you all the very best with your amazing shop zero concept.

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