Conscious Shopping With Unwrpd, A Sustainable Subscription Service

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By Sangeeta Waldron 

There is a global war on plastic being fought right now. But for consumers, it is not always easy to find the best eco-friendly products, find the suppliers or know what to buy. In India there are online sustainable shopping platform like – The Sustainable Store; Ripple Effect and EcoTokri. 

I spoke to Daniel Hemsley (DH), founder of the newly launched UK online platform called Unwrpd, to understand more about conscious shopping. Unwrpd offers a sustainable subscription service to help people make less waste by stocking plastic-free alternatives to everyday items; and is on a mission to make sustainable living more convenient. 

What made you decide to set up Unwrpd?

DH: I set up Unwrpd after my own zero waste journey began, two years ago, where I made, what I thought was a fairly innocuous New Year’s resolution to reduce my consumption of single use plastics. However, I soon began to realize the extent to which plastic dominates our lives and the impact it has on our environment!

I started phasing out plastics starting with disposables, but I was still waking up every morning to clean my teeth with a plastic brush with toothpaste from a plastic tube. This prompted me to start sourcing alternative plastic free products, which wasn’t easy to do. While the products were out there, there were as accessible as they should be; I wanted to change that.

Has it been easy to set up a concept like Unwrpd?

DH: The concept has been challenging to set up. The vision was to make going plastic-free as convenient as possible. We tested several different approaches to do this with a closed group, before creating our fully dynamic customized subscription service.

We love all of the products we sell, but we didn’t want to lock people in or force people to purchase products they didn’t want to use. So, instead of creating three box types, such as small, medium and large, each order we ship is bespoke to suit the users needs that month. Our subscriptions are flexible and can be changed, paused or cancelled. Technically that isn’t as easy to set up, as a straight forward web shop, but is central to the service we wanted to offer.

Is it easy to source products?

DH: There are so many amazing suppliers out there creating products they care about and often by hand. Brands such as – ‘Friendly Soaps’ with their great range of solid soap bars; ‘Shade’s All Natural Sunscreen’ to ‘Truthpaste’, the UK’s first zero-waste and cruelty free mineral based toothpaste!

These products can seem more expensive, compared to their traditional FMCG (Fast-Moving Consumer Goods) counterparts, which can be off-putting for consumers. For individuals, sourcing a variety of products from a network of suppliers is time consuming and costly. Our hope is that by bringing these sustainable products under one roof, we can appeal to a bigger audience – making the plastic-free lifestyle easy.

What kind of eco-products would you like to see more of?

DH: The big enemy is still single use plastics. I’d love to see one of the big UK supermarkets make a real stand and completely cut needless disposable plastic.

Have you seen a change in consumers and what we are buying?

DH: The biggest change we are seeing is the types of customers and we’re seeing more people taking ownership of their waste; making efforts to send less to landfill.

The zero waste community is growing. Beyond this community, we’re also seeing more everyday consumers becoming increasingly conscious about how they consume, turning to sustainable alternatives.

What tips do have for us consumers, when buying products?

DH: Buying plastic-free products can be a minefield. Greenwashing is still rampant,  and even with established green brands you might open a box to find a layer of needless plastic packaging, the packaging is likely labelled as recyclable, but that’s not always the case.

You have to be willing to dig a bit deeper. For example, with bamboo toothbrushes, you’ll see a lot of 100% biodegradable handles with no mention of the bristles, which are either going to be Nylon or boar hair (which isn’t for everyone). The reality is that even the most environmentally friendly toothbrushes still need to have their bristles stripped to be disposed of correctly, but that’s not the easiest message to sell a toothbrush.

My other tip is, if you can’t find a plastic free alternative, then perhaps ask yourself do I really need this? Going zero waste isn’t a million miles from minimalism. Stripping out products and practices can be rewarding. I encourage people to enjoy the positive changes they make.

Plastic pollution is serious problems. Do you think there will be more retailers like Unwrpd?

DH: We are seeing an increase in zero waste and plastic free retailers, which is great. We all have the shared vision of putting better, more sustainable products into people’s hands.
Plus, more established brands are moving their products to a more sustainable direction and are becoming involved.

When I started Unwrpd, I said that when supermarkets start to sell bamboo toothbrushes, we would have served our purpose. I have since seen bamboo toothbrushes on the shelves of major UK supermarkets, however they were wrapped in plastic packaging! There’s still a long way to go.

 What’s next for Unwrpd?

DH: We launched with a carefully refined product mix, knowing that all our products are of a high quality and a good sustainable alternative. These products should ease our customer’s ‘environmental conscience’, leaving them happy by how much better these products are than the mass produced, chemically infused plastic packaged counterparts.

We want our future direction to be informed by our customers, and we will be refining our products to reflect this, making it easier for people to make less waste! Equally there are lots of wonderful suppliers making sustainable alternatives. We want to bring those products to our customers through collaborations and partnerships!

Sangeeta Waldron is India CSR’s Contributing Global Editor. She is based in London, UK writes on international affairs, broadening India CSR’s news scope to bring you the best stories from around the world.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this feature are entirely their own and does not necessarily reflect the views of India CSR Network and its Editor.

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