Towards a world with zero waste
Published on: 24 Feb 2017
Bringing zero waste guru to Bristol
Zero Waste Living with Bea Johnson, Arnolfini, Bristol
March 11, 11.30am and 3.30pm. Tickets: £12.50 + booking fee
With Kate Arnell, TV presenter & eco-blogger; Michelle Cassar, director of City to Sea; Lizzy Carr, paddle-boarding eco-campaigner
• Facebook: @Eqoliving
EQO’S Most popular products
1. Lunch bots – these stainless steel boxes with internal compartments have been a ‘consistent best-seller’;
2. Glass water bottles;
3. Re-usable sandwich bags and wraps – cut out the clingfilm and plastic food bags.
It’s all very well recycling packaging – but what if you can buy food containers that will last for years? Beccy Golding meets the founder of a South Bristol eco-firm, Eqo
Jyoti Shaw has lived in Knowle for eight and a half years, since moving south of the river from Montpelier. She can pinpoint the day she moved in because “it was the day I gave birth to my first child!” She now has four children, the three eldest attend Hillcrest primary school in Knowle, with little Arthur celebrating his second birthday soon – of which more later…
Clearly someone who likes to keep busy, three years ago Jyoti also set up a small business. “It started at home,” she told me, “when the kids started school, and I wanted a nicer lunchbox than I could find in the shops.”
Jyoti’s mum had had breast cancer some years before. It left Jyoti with an awareness of plastics leaching (it is feared by some scientists that potentially harmful chemicals can migrate from plastic containerrs and food packaging into food).
“I wanted a stainless steel alternative to plastic lunchboxes, and there was not a lot in the market. I found one, with compartments, designed in the US and not available in the UK.”
She started a blog; Kids Lunchboxes (no longer going), in which she featured healthy food and nice lunchboxes. She also started selling that first bento-style box, under the business name My Clever Box.
And the business has quickly grown, from the original range of lunchboxes, to featuring “lots of products to encourage people to live a waste-free life, and promote well-designed, lovely-looking products that you want to use, even love to use!”
Eqo, as the business has been re-named to reflect its wider range, now stocks 180 products. Jyoti showed me some of them when I visited her at her office cum warehouse, which she shares with her landscaper husband, at Filwood Green Business Park. It’s a bright fresh space, which the couple moved into about a year ago – some of the first tenants. They have a view across what is now wasteland (possibly a nature reserve in future?), right through to Filwood Broadway – somehow a nice juxtaposition against the modern architecture and design of the new building.
As well as lunch boxes there are metal and glass water bottles, baby bottles, toothbrushes, some nifty re-usable sandwich/food bags, tableware and lots more. Lots of the glass products have this brightly-coloured, funky silicon sleeve which protects them from occasional drops, as well as being made from very durable glass. Jyoti’s aim is to “find brands and products not widely available everywhere – things that are different.”
All new products are judged against four criteria – everything must meet two, many hit three or the perfect four: healthy, functional, stylish and sustainable.
A year after she started her business Jyoti stumbled across a book called Zero Waste Home. French author Bea Johnson turned from a consumerist lifestyle in the US to write a blog, Zero Waste Home, about cutting down on waste. Her book of the same name goes room-by-room offering tips on doing it yourself. Now Bea travels the world promoting a zero waste lifestyle.
“I heard she was coming to Europe,” said Jyoti, “and emailed her, and she’s agreed to come to the UK!” Bea will be doing two dates, one in London, and one in Bristol, which Jyoti is organising. “Bristol will be a great city for her to talk in – it’s a hub of green and eco-issues.”
With no budget, Jyoti asked the council for a venue. She got a reply from Bristol Waste, which agreed to sponsor the event and pay for a venue at the Arnolfini. “There’s been amazing support from people wanting to help. It’s not something I’d planned, but I didn’t want to miss this opportunity.” Coincidentally, the event is on little Arthur’s second birthday – which brings Jyoti’s themes of family, and working to make the world a better place, neatly together.