I've been so thrilled with how many eco-friendly and zero waste-friendly businesses I've been able to find in Manchester with just a little bit of digging. It just goes to show that there are plenty of businesses striving to make a positive impact, and we should keep our eyes open for them and support them when we can!
In today's installment of the Zero Waste Guides to Manchester, we have a beautiful organic grocery, an art gallery with a fab cafe and bookstore, a unique charity shop, and an old fashioned general store. Read on for details!
Unicorn Grocery in Chorlton is one of my favorite places in Manchester. Though it’s not super convenient for me to get to (about 20 minutes from the city centre by tram), I make the journey about once a week.
Why? It has the most extensive offering of loose (not packaged!) produce I’ve found in the area, and it’s ALL organic. In fact, most of the pantry products in the store are organic as well, and all are plant-based, including a variety of vegan meat and dairy substitutes.
Though they don’t offer dry goods in bulk, they do offer larger volume bags of dry goods so that you can buy more at a time, which is a good option if you want to save on packaging (and price). They also carry bulk-sized containers of everyday things like washing up liquid and olive oil.
Unicorn Grocery is a one-stop shop for the eco-conscious shopper, where you can pick up produce, dry goods, pantry items, household products, personal care products, kitchen tools, prepared food, wine and beer, and even baby clothing! Not everything in the shop is plastic free, but the majority is organic and made with natural ingredients.
At the counter at the end of the till, there are two boxes, one for used grocery bags, and one for used glass jars. Both are free for customers to take and use as they need them. Below the counter there are stacks of cardboard and plywood boxes up for grabs as well. My favorite feature of the shop: next to the exit door there is a book exchange shelf, where customers can pick up and drop off second hand books to share with the community.
This grocery with a conscience walks the walk in every way, and the community appreciates it - they are busy every day of the week from the time they open their doors until they close (except on Mondays, when they are closed all day).
Manchester Art Gallery
This gallery in the heart of town is worth a visit for its cafe and gift shop alone, to say nothing of its exhibitions or historic architecture.
This cafe is a beautiful, cheery little space, with big windows and high ceilings, and is a wonderful spot to sit and have a slow lunch. The food is sourced from local producers, and there are several vegetarian options on the menu. The chef maintains a mini allotment in the garden just inside the gates of the main gallery, which grows herbs and veg exclusively for the cafe. They even use the flowers from the garden in their cake decorations!
What I love most about the cafe, however, is that they source ingredients from The Real Junk Food Project, whose aim is to reduce food wastage in the UK. This enables them to offer a “pay what you wish” scheme for children who visit the cafe, which creates an inclusive community atmosphere for families with children, while helping to prevent food wastage.
This is not your average museum gift shop. It’s a beautifully curated collection of books and gifts, including handmade jewelry and home wares. Most of the goods come from independent makers, and many of them are plastic-free. Notables are the mini cacti and decorative planters, loose graphite pencils, scented candles, and hand-made cushions. It’s the perfect spot to find unique gifts for the creative people in your life.
There is really nothing in the United States to compare to the ubiquity of charity shops in the UK. When I first moved to the Manchester area, I became obsessed with scouring the shops in my neighborhood, always on the hunt for a deal. Mat and I completely outfitted our kitchen (and most of the rest of our house) from the 5 charity shops in our vicinity.
The charity shops in my neighborhood, however, are somewhat lacking in the apparel department, so when I’m on the hunt for second hand fashion, I come in to the city centre. Goodstock is one of the largest and best curated charity shops I’ve come across in Manchester. It’s a big, open space with well chosen selections of women’s and men’s second hand clothing, as well as pre-owned shoes, accessories, house wares, books, DVDs, and even vinyl. I was tempted by the black leather Mulberry handbag I spotted, on sale for £200!
Proceeds from the shop support vInspired, an organization which helps young people ages 14-25 to find volunteering positions in causes that are important to them. Since its founding in 2006, vInspired has created more than 1 million volunteering roles across the UK!
Deadstock General Store
I stumbled upon Deadstock General Store quite by accident as I was wandering the Northern Quarter, and I was drawn to its front window by the sign advertising “alterations and repairs”. When I walked in, I was pleasantly surprised to find a beautiful front table display of zero waste friendly goods: hand-milled organic soaps, wooden brushes, enamel flatware and safety razors.
The owner, Liam, was in residence, working on repairing a pair of trousers himself as I shopped, while an industrial sewing machine hummed a pleasant white noise through the shop, which has a vintage industrial vibe.
There was almost no discernible plastic in the products on offer, and most seemed to be sourced from small scale, independent makers, including a range of wooden graphite pencils in vintage-looking boxes, made by the smallest pencil factory in Portugal!
This is not a place to look for a bargain - this is a place to find quality products that are worth their price tag, and that will last a long time.
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!