Zero Waste Guide to Manchester: Part 1

Zero waste Manchester

Moving to a new city is always an adjustment.  Moving to a new city while trying to fine tune a zero waste lifestyle is something else altogether. 

It takes time to develop a routine around avoiding and eliminating waste, and it requires a lot of research and legwork.  You have to know your go-to spots, and work up the courage to chat with the staff and ask them to accommodate you, whether it's having a cheesemonger wrap your cheese in a napkin instead of plastic, or getting your local cafe to fill up your reusable coffee cup.  

I had just started to get my routine nailed when we were living in India, so when we left I pretty much had to start from scratch.  But I've been in Manchester for almost four months now, and with a little exploring, I've found quite a few businesses with zero-waste-friendly practices or products.  I'm pleased to say, there are too many to cover in one post, so stay tuned for further eco-friendly recommendations!  Today's favorites:

Village Greens

Village Greens is a lovely little organic grocery tucked away in Prestwich, a 20 minute tram ride from Manchester Piccadilly.  I knew I’d love the shop by the sign in the window, bearing the eternal words of Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” 

Just inside the front window, I found the holy grail of zero waste in Manchester: bulk food bins!  Granted, the selection is limited (9 bins offering oats, seeds, and lentils), but I was thrilled and grateful to find them, since I’ve had such trouble locating bulk dry goods elsewhere in the area.  The staff told me they are planning to add more in to their selection in the near future. Yay!

Next to the bulk bins, or “hoppers” as they call them, is a beautiful array of loose produce, including loose herbs and some loose greens.  All their fresh foods come from within 300 miles of the shop, with the exception of some European-sourced produce (like oranges and avocados).  

Though they do offer a small selection of meat and dairy, they also offer lots of meat and dairy substitutes for plant-based eaters.  Their pantry section was robust, with organic canned vegetables, nut butters, oils, and vinegars, and even some artisan beer, wine, and soft drinks.

At the front counter is a selection of organic eggs, and behind it is an enticing variety of fresh baked bread.  My favorite feature of the store: they sell off day old bread at a discount so that it doesn't go to waste. 

The staff at Village Greens were super helpful and friendly, and kindly accommodated my wish to use my own produce bags, rather than the paper and cellophane bags they provide.  (It’s worth noting that both paper and true cellophane are biodegradable.)  In fact, this month they’re working on adding more zero waste and plastic free products to their assortment.  

Earth Cafe

Organic loose tea

Earth cafe sits next door to the Manchester Buddhist Centre, and has an exciting menu of vegan dishes that changes daily, depending on the freshness of ingredients available at market.  All food in the cafe is made from scratch, including their dairy-free cake!  They also serve fresh pressed juice, and organic tea and coffee (with your choice of dairy-free milk).  

I like to sit in and have an organic Earl Grey tea, which is served in a personal sized pot with a metal mesh strainer (no teabag waste!), and oat milk on the side.  I also help myself to a glass of water from the communal glass jug. 

I rub the wooden buddha’s belly and give the prayer wheel a spin on my way out. 

Neal’s Yard

At first I was hesitant to include Neal’s Yard in my roundup of zero waste friendly stores, since they’re an international chain and I wanted to focus mainly in independent local businesses.  But I stopped in one morning and chatted with the lovely staff of the store on King Street in the city centre, and was pleasantly surprised to discover what an amazing organization they really are.  I had no idea, for instance, that Neal’s Yard is a carbon neutral company.  They are, in fact, the first high street brand to earn this accreditation.  

Neal’s Yard use 92% certified organic ingredients, and they never test their products on animals.  Much of their range is packaged in glass and metal, and their small plastic bottles are made of 100% recycled plastic.  Their “4R” policy helps keep waste low (reduce, reuse, recycle, and recover energy) and in 2016 only 1% of the waste from their entire business went to landfill.   

The staff are veritable herbal experts, and can mix you up a custom herbal blend from their bulk herb bins, depending on your ailment or health goal.  They carry gorgeous loose soaps, free of packaging, as well as a number of grooming tools made from natural materials: wooden nail brushes, organic cotton facial cloths, and natural pumice stones.  You can even sip on some fresh herbal tea (in a beautiful ceramic tea cup!) while you shop. 

Manchester Book Buyers

This quirky little book stand on Church Street in the Northern Quarter has a personality all its own - one that you certainly won’t find in a big chain bookstore.  It’s a veritable jumble of second hand books, but with a little digging you can find some real gems, and at a bargain.  Multiple placards pasted to the walls bear the command, “Kill the Kindle, buy a book!”  

While I appreciate the Kindle’s place in the world, I also appreciate the shop owner’s sentiment.  If you’d rather turn real pages than digital ones, pop in to this shop and have a look through the many books stacked on tables, shelves, and in boxes. Come prepared with a little bit of patience, as there doesn’t seem to be much rhyme or reason to the displays! 

Stay tuned for more of my favorites.  My list keeps growing as I delve further and further into this city!  

Pssst!  Are you a Mancunian?  What are your favorite second hand, eco-friendly, vegan/vegetarian, zero waste spots?  Leave a comment or send me an email!


The zero waste guide to Manchester, UK