Jessica Rimoch is the young woman who owns, and can nearly always be found in, Jarr Market, a zero-waste shop that has opened a few minutes’ walk from where I live. Born in Mexico City, Jess came to London six years ago. After initially working in the IT industry she became increasingly concerned about the worsening state of our environment and started to think about how she could make a difference. She reckoned that as a retail entrepreneur she might be able to make an impact. So she quit her job, and a year later opened her first shop.

People are intrigued…

Nearly everything on sale in Jarr Market comes in bulk from just two suppliers: one for food and one for cleaning products, which are dispensed from 25-litre bottles. They are then returned to the warehouses for refilling.

How is this new business shaping up?

Jess says there has been a very positive response, with lots of returning customers bringing their own bags and jars with them. Pasta, spices, bran flakes, washing-up liquid… there is even a machine that creates peanut butter in seconds from a pile of salted peanuts. Jess is buying in more than she expected to at this stage. (It seems we are keen on our muesli in Herne Hill; she is selling more than 25 kilos a week.)

Jessica in Jarrmarket

Our young entrepreneur is very well educated and far from naive. Only a few years ago she might have been regarded as a well-meaning hippy. But no longer. Not only does her business plan deserve to succeed but it probably will be widely copied.

***

Sir David Attenborough is, rightly, getting a lot of credit for raising the British public’s awareness of the dangers of our throw-away habits, but it was probably coming anyway. People on holiday see fields and rivers full of plastic waste in countries like Cambodia, India and Mexico (see above) and are disgusted by it. Yet we acknowledge that it’s tourists who are largely responsible. We rarely come face-to-face with the same ecological horrors in Britain but we are making a huge mess at home as well. Supermarkets continue to wrap food in single-use plastic and sell tiny bottles of so-called mineral water. (There is nothing wrong with British tap water. )

Branded water is a ridiculous rip-off

Of course buying your lentils loose rather than in a tin won’t save the planet but one should do what one can. Little by little one begins to become more aware. The amount of stuff the average British household throws away is a scandal. As for feeling good about your recycling efforts – that’s a red herring because we should never have brought it home in the first place!

For those of us who grew up in the 1950s and 60s, Jesica’s way of thinking is hardly revolutionary. We fondly recall that pop was sold in glass bottles with a small deposit. Children took the empties back to the shop and, as often as not, got to keep the returned deposit. It supplemented our pocket money and sent out a positive message: these containers have a value.

Notes for customers

My parents’ generation bought ice-cream, butter and milk loose and carried it home in their own jars and cartons. Very quaint, but what was wrong with that? The answer is: nothing – except that it doesn’t work for today’s supermarket chains, who prefer to transport their products in little boxes inside bigger boxes inside bigger boxes.

One way or another we pay for it

And if you don’t want to use a supermarket? Have you got a local greengrocer, butcher and fishmonger? I do, but many people don’t. The supermarkets have seen them off.

***

Christmas is easily the most wasteful time of the year, with unwanted presents, left-over food and all those cards and reams of wrapping “paper” going straight into the bin… just think about it.

3 thoughts on “Back to the Future?

  1. Very good!

    That will make a great article. I know it’s pretty useless future-of-the-planet-wise, but off to town tomorrow to do some marching.

    Laurence

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  2. Great blog Colin!

    In my youth in Sligo tea came in a big tea chest and I packed it into reusable brown paper bags for our customers. Chickens came from out back in our sheds as did the turkeys at Christmas time… all bottles were glass so recycled and yes you got a 5p for each. Flour, oatmeal and similar came from our local mill – a short walk from where we lived.. your blog just brought me back to a very different time… thanks!👍

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  3. Totally agree. I agree that we will need to try to do our best but I think supermarkets absolutely need to clean up their act. I am sick of unwanted and totally unnecessary packaging on food. I have noticed that a lot of French large supermarkets are now providing paper or recyclable bags for vegetables. Surely this is possible in the UK? I think one of the places that could really clean up their act is airports. I take an empty water bottle with me but the only airport I have found with a self-service water cooler so far has been Inverness! It is possible to get some water if you eat in a café and ask them for a glass of water which you then pour into your empty water bottle but often people end up buying a plastic bottle which is a complete waste.

    By the way I know there is a lot of waste in Mexico but one of the interesting things I found when travelling there was there are still many drinks sold in glass bottles with a deposit on them. One of the problems we noticed in Mexico is that many locals buy water in huge plastic drums because, of course, the local the water supply is unsafe

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