This post was first seen under the title ‘The Power of the Swap’ in Details Magazine x Winchester Fashion Week Issue. I thought this post would be the perfect start to my new series on some of my favourite (or important) places in Hampshire, so let’s start with Earthian!
If you are a Wintonian, you’ll know that Parchment Street is the place to shop. From timeless home decor in Pavia-Lee, to second-hand gifts in Oxfam Books & Music, and delicious delights in Piecaramba!, Parchment Street has it all. It’s no surprise then that this terraced street is home to one of Winchester’s gems of retail – Earthian.
Earthian is a Zero Waste shop, which means it focuses on providing a sustainable and plastic-free alternative to traditional supermarkets. Not only does Earthian follow the three Rs we all know and love – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – but it adds two more to the equation for a sustainable lifestyle. Refuse; stop bringing plastic or wasteful products and packaging into your life, and rot; everything you have should last as long as it can before being returned to the earth to compost.
We should note that Earthian is not just your usual supermarket-alternative, bring your own packaging, refill-shop – oh no. Sure, it stocks what you would expect, including pasta and rice, cereal and oats, nuts and dried fruit. But it goes above and beyond the basics! You can refill your kitchen from an array of spices and oils, organic tea and coffee, as well as every cleaning product your home could need. It also offers a wide range of personal care products including shampoo, bubble bath, fabric conditioner, deodorant, and anything sweet smelling or useful you can think of. With Earthian at your door, there’s no need to just pop to the Extra or Express down the road. You can shop locally and be a sustainable hero.
With the popularity of refill and zero waste shops on the rise, we sat down virtually with Earthian founder, Katie Campling, to talk more about green living and the power of the swap. Think Vogue’s quickfire 73 Questions with a sprinkling of sustainability, socio-economic issues, and talk of… bike inner tubes?
Hi Katie! Let’s dive right into it. Zero Waste is a bit of a buzzword at the moment in the retail world. What does it mean to you and Earthian?
KC: That is very true, zero waste lifestyles have become trendy with so much talk about plastic pollution. That can be good if it gets more people thinking about sustainable living, but we can’t let it become a fleeting goal. It’s about everyone’s future and it will take long-term changes to turn the tide. Aiming at being zero waste is a good place to start, if it helps you to check your habits and find ways to reduce your impact. At Earthian, it’s our whole reason for existing and I want to do more than help others to reduce their waste. I’m also working on making the business zero waste to landfill, we’re about 95% there and when we achieve that last bit, I’ll be really happy to see the shop truly embody its values. As an exercise it has been so valuable in pushing us to make changes to our supply chain, to how we deal with stock, deliveries, wastage and all sorts of other things that we often don’t think about.
I suppose the ethos behind Earthian is ‘the power of the swap’. What are the most basic swaps someone can make in their life to start living more sustainably?
KC: Using what you have to refill time and time again is honestly the first thing I would suggest. This is the simplest way to start and the cheapest! Say your shampoo and conditioner bottles are now empty, don’t throw them in the recycling bin, bring them to us and we can fill them up for a couple of pounds! You then have two bottles saved from the ocean and your shower routine is the same as before. Once you’ve got the hang of refilling there are other great waste reducing swaps out there to try, it really depends on your routine and where you find most waste in your life.
The majority of young people today are actively trying to make more sustainable changes. However, these changes sometimes get a bad rap for being inaccessible due to cost barriers. How does Earthian maintain being a valid option for students or those on lower budgets?
KC: I’m trying hard to challenge the idea that sustainable living has to be expensive and exclusive. I want this way of living to be for everyone so wherever possible we’ll price match to supermarkets, often we’re cheaper than they are! Also, you can buy as much or as little as you need, so if you only need pasta for dinner tonight you can come and grab just that much, saving money and waste. I don’t want living this way to be a sacrifice for anyone, but we also need to consider who is being sacrificed for the low costs in the supermarkets. We’re fighting for fair wages, fair pay throughout the supply chain and it can be hard to balance that with affordability sometimes but talking to customers in the shop I hear that their budget hasn’t needed to change to shop with us and that is really encouraging.
Now, Earthian is not just a one-stop shop for refills and low-plastic goodies. You also have some amazing recycling schemes.
KC: Yes! We are a collection point for a few different recycling schemes, all of them raise money for charity. We’ve got milk bottle tops and bread bags raising money for Kicks Count Charity, a bra bank that goes to Against Breast Cancer Research, bike inner tubes for Cycle of Good and printer cartridges for Winchester Youth Counselling.
Katie, being the founder of Earthian, I am sure you must try to be as unbiased as possible in terms of stocking the shop. But I have to ask – what is your favourite swap item that you sell in Earthian?
KC: Absolutely, I try to get a wide range of products to suit everyone, but I also use most of it myself at home too! Picking a favourite is really hard, but the thing I love most that I have at the shop is my Mooncup. It’s a weird one to pick but for me it’s been amazing. I’ve had it for 3 and a half years; in that time, I’ve saved around 630 sanitary products from being needed but it’s also saved me money too.
Finally, you have three words to describe Earthian to the reader. Go!
KC: Sustainable. Affordable. Independent.
Thanks so much to Katie for sitting down with me for this interview (virtually of course, we had a COVID scare in the house). On your next trip into Winchester, make sure to give Earthian a visit – it’s a real Winchester staple. If you are a local then you already know what you need to do. Make it a part of your weekly shop: better for you and better for the planet.
Tell me, what is your top sustainable swap? Personally, I love my reusable cotton facial pads, especially as a skincare fan. I’ve bought two packs over three years, just to make sure I have enough, and they are still going strong. According to my maths, I’ve saved over 3000 single use cotton pads since making that swap. Let me know yours in the comments!
PS Make sure to check out Details Magazine, where you will be able to find more of my Winchester and lifestyle inspired writing over the next few months, as well as work from writers across the globe.