Eco-Friendly Shopping in Edinburgh and Glasgow

We pick out some of our favourite packaging-free and eco-friendly shops across Scotland, helping you save the planet and make use of all those mason jars

Feature by Peter Simpson | 01 Feb 2019
  • Roots, Fruits and Flowers

The environment is pretty good, all things considered. It helps us to breathe, it gives polar bears somewhere to live, and it’s where all our food comes from. But unfortunately, much of how we get that food comes at an environmental cost. We chuck millions of tonnes of plastic, glass and metal in the collective bin, not to mention all the actual food that ends up going to waste before or after it makes it out of the shops. Thankfully, Edinburgh and Glasgow are becoming increasingly packed with stores big and small at which you can get your groceries without creating a small mountain of rubbish in your wake, while also saving yourself some cash.

The Shopping List

Glasgow is well-served by the fantastic Locavore (349 Victoria Rd), a fantastic treasure trove of foodie delights. OK, ‘treasure trove’ is over-stating it – we’re talking about by-weight groceries here, not big piles of gold coins – but it’s still a great shop to pick up packaging-free versions of most of your key goods. Nuts, seeds, pasta, flour, all kinds of dried stuff; the list goes on. By only buying what you need you can cut down on wasted food, and get your shopping bill down at the same time. Who ever needed exactly one kilogram of flour anyway? Everybody knows that the ideal situation is to buy exactly the right amount for the cake you’re making, because that way you can’t accidentally knock a half-open bag of self-raising into your sink full of dishes leaving everything covered in a soapy, floury sludge. Moving on, Zero Waste Market are also worth keeping an eye on; they currently operate as a market stall, with plans afoot for a physical shop in the near future.

Over in Edinburgh, the classic option for getting your eco-shopping comes at either end of town in the form of Real Foods (8 Brougham St, 37 Broughton St). If you’re looking for flours, grains and all the standard cupboard stuff but without any of the pesky plastic then this is a good place to start; the enormous selection of organic chocolate is a happy bonus, so consider it your treat for being so nice to the planet.

The Refillery

Another good option lies in the heart of leafy, student-filled Marchmont. The New Leaf Co-Op (23 Argyle Pl, Edinburgh) is a small but packed corner store that’s great for the kind of things you only need a little bit of. Want to try out something new from that recipe book you got for Christmas, but short on some of the more exotic spices? Just take some old jars down with you and grab what you need from a wall filled with everything from aniseed to za'atar. As an added bonus, New Leaf have an on-demand peanut butter machine, and not even the biggest enormo-supermarket has one of those. We know. We’ve looked around.

Then there are a host of newbies on their respective blocks, offering a big range of grocery staples with no wasted plastic or stupidly sized jars in sight (unless you’ve brought your own). There’s the fantastically titled Weigh to Go (27 Crighton Pl) on Leith Walk, The Refillery in the Southside (39 Newington Rd) and The Eco Larder near Haymarket (200 Morrison St, Edinburgh) – each of them offer well-organised selections of eco-friendly groceries for you to take home. Quick side note: invest in a roll of masking tape and a pen, or get ready to irritate the hell out of your flatmates when they go looking for the jam and find a succession of jars full of different kinds of unmarked lentils. 

Boxing Clever

If you want to cut down on the environmental chaos you’re causing, another good place to start is in your vegetable drawer. Most supermarket veg you pick up will present two problems. One, it’s covered in plastic, and two, it has been brought to you from hundreds or thousands of miles away as part of a convoluted global supply chain. Fruit’s even worse – as we’ve said in these pages before, you can’t grow mangoes in urban Scotland in February, and yet there they are on the supermarket shelves, looking all tasty and problematic.

The Grunting Growler

What you need, my pal, is a veg box. Usually coming direct from the farm, veg boxes help cut down on emissions from transporting stuff around, they reduce waste at the farm’s end – grown too many turnips? Chuck them in everyone’s veg boxes! – and they keep you stocked up with tasty local stuff to get stuck into. As the name suggests, East Coast Organics is an organic farm near Edinburgh, and their boxes are an excellent way of cutting down on your waste. Almost everything in their boxes is grown on the farm, it’s all organic, there’s next-to-no packaging involved (except for the box, obviously) and it’s actually a fair bit cheaper than if you were to nip to the shops and get the whole lot yourself. Also, their boxes are delivered in zero-emission electric vans, which feels like showing off at this point but their veg is lovely so we’ll forgive them. Through in Glasgow, perennial favourites Roots Fruits and Flowers offer a range of fruit and veg boxes, and Locavore’s veg box offerings always feature some produce grown on their very own farms around the city.

Popping Bottles

We don’t want you to think that this all completely utilitarian, by the way. Cutting down on your shopping waste does involve a fair amount of lentil-spilling and sticking your head in bins full of grain, but it can also feature some swanky-ass partying. Demijohn (32 Victoria St, Edinburgh; 382 Byres Rd, Glasgow) bills itself as ‘the world’s first liquid deli’, and its shelves are packed with oils, vinegars and all the other stuff you put on salads. Those same shelves are also home to a whole host of spirits, liqueurs and all the other stuff you put in cocktails. You can get your bottle refilled for just the cost of the liquid inside, so if you’re a big fan of olive oil or sippable booze this is the place to hit. 

If you want to take the waste out of your beer run, The Grunting Growler (51 Old Dumbarton Rd, Glasgow) are here to help. Their rotating selection of draft beer is available to take away in the aforementioned growlers, large resealable bottles designed to keep things super fresh. You get tasty beer straight from the tap to drink in the house, and the environment doesn’t end up covered in discarded cans and bottles. It’s a win-win situation.