Making the transition towards a more sustainable lifestyle can be challenging at the best of times. No longer can you shop anywhere, blissfully unaware and purchase guilt free... more research is required and often the purse strings need to extend further than before. I’m here to show you that this doesn’t have to always be the case and affordable, sustainable shopping options do exist (yes, I know that sounds hard to believe).
Ok so let’s begin. To start with, you may be wondering what the term ‘shopping sustainably’ actually means. In simple terms, it means purchasing products that do not negatively harm the environment or those within it. I have recently moved to London, one of the most expensive cities in the world, and have found that shopping sustainably at affordable prices here requires some (or a lot of) ingenuity. Below I have detailed some of my favourite spots for sustainable bargains as well as some top tricks that are applicable anywhere!
The BEST Charity Shops in London...
Shopping sustainably does not always have to mean buying new products. Purchasing second-hand items is without a doubt one of the most sustainable consumption practices around. No new raw materials are used and no old raw materials are being thrown away – it’s a win-win! I am ashamed to say that I am rather late on the charity shop train but having recently moved to a new flat in London, I felt that it was time to change my ways and see what the second-hand hype was all about. I made sure that my first weekend in the big smoke consisted of a gruelling charity shop crawl… and boy was it worth it! I can now safely say that I am a charity shop convert. Putting sustainability aside, there is an incomparable satisfaction that comes with finding a luxury item tucked away for only £2!
Out of all the charity shops I have visited since moving to London, my favourite has to be the British Red Cross in Chelsea. A pattern that I have begun to realise is that the quality of items tend to mirror their surrounding area. Since many of the items in the shop have been donated by rich pensioners, a hidden gem will always lie waiting for you to discover. Rumour has it that Victoria Beckham has even donated to this charity shop before! After a failed first attempt, I hit the jackpot on my return, stumbling across a Burberry jacket that fits perfectly… persistence is most definitely the key to success with charity shopping.
Address: 69-71 Old Church St, Chelsea, London SW3 5BS
A genuine Burberry jacket for only £40... jackpot!
Another great charity shop that I am now obsessed with and frequently visit is the recently established ‘Traid’. First launched in 1999, they have made it their mission to tackle the environmental impacts linked to the textile industry, a cause that sits close to my heart. They have a number of branches throughout London but my favourite has to be their Dalston shop. In most of their other branches they only stock clothes but in Dalston they also have a great variety of other second-hand items including stylish homeware and jewellery. I am definitely more than a little biased though… I was lucky enough to find the most beautiful plant pot and gold chain at the Dalston branch but I’m sure their other shops will hold similar treasures! So if you love amazing, sustainable bargains as much as I do, make sure to head to your local Traid – you won’t regret it!
Address: 106-108 Kingsland High Street, Dalston, London, E8 2NS
London’s Top Farmers’ Markets
Not much in life can surpass the joy of a relaxing stroll down a farmers’ market on a sunny Sunday morning. Aside from the fresh produce and the day out itself, shopping at a farmers’ markets is a great sustainable practice. Food production is currently the leading contributor to carbon emissions. Supermarkets are jam-packed with food that has travelled thousands of miles, food which could have been easily attained through locals means. This is why farmers’ markets are so great… they provide the opportunity to buy fresh produce that has been grown a stone’s throw away. Although not always cheaper than supermarkets, buying your veg for the week from your local farmers’ market will not bruise your wallet as much as you might think and has loads of added benefits.
Alexander Palace farmers’ market attained its status as a multi-award winning farmers’ market for a reason. Held every other Sunday in the beautiful park that surrounds the famed Alexandra Palace, it has everything that is required to create a top tier farmers’ market. The range of stalls offers everything a foodie could dream of. From freshly grown veg from Kent to a wide range of delicious street food (perfect to dig into whilst meandering through the stools). The surrounding setting combined with the loosely-packed stalls creates a ‘villagey’ vibe - so if you’re looking to escape from the hustle and bustle of the city for a morning then there really is no better place!
Address: Nightingale Lane, London, N8 7AF
‘Growing Communities’ is one of Hackney’s best kept secrets. This farmers’ market boasts the claim of running the UK’s only 100% organic farmers’ market. The philosophy behind ‘Growing Communities’ really epitomises the strong ties held between farmers’ markets and sustainable living. All produce at the market is either organic or biodynamic and come from within 60 miles of London! So you can rest assure that no synthetic pesticides are used to grow the produce and by shopping here you are actively helping in the fight to protect our environment. And if this wasn’t enough, in comparison to all the farmers markets I have visited so far, I would have to say that ‘Growing Communities’ has the most affordable prices (they even accept healthy start and rose vouchers!). A particular stall that I would highly recommend visiting is the Global Fusion stall, run by Colga Parker. Her vegan fritters smothered in her famed hot sauce are what dreams are made of! ‘Growing Communities’ runs every Saturday from 10am-2:30pm but make sure to be sure to check their page for covid-19 related updates!
Address: Stoke Newington High St, Hackney Downs, London N16 7UY
Mmm.. fresh organic goodness!
The Zero-Waste Shops that Dreams are Made of!
The sudden emergence of zero-waste shops in recent years is undoubtedly related to the rise in conscientious shoppers. They provide a place of comfort for eco-shoppers with an array of gorgeous organic products that have a minimal environmental impact. Most do not provide packaging and instead encourage their abiding customers to bring their own. From my personal experience of these shops, no matter how much you spend, you leave the shop feel refreshed and re-energised. It’s a strange sensation spending money shopping and not feeling anxious about finances because you know that you are doing a good thing to understand you have to try it! On the theme of affordability, it is no secret that the organic products in some of these shops can cost a pretty penny. However, through a thorough research of London’s zero-waste shops I have unearthed a couple that don’t break the bank so that you can all benefit...
King’s College London have set an example to all other universities with regards to sustainability. ‘Nought’ zero-waste shop is currently the only student-run zero-waste shop open to the public in London. They provide a range of wholefoods in refillable containers; you simply go along with your own container (or glass jars kindly provided by them) and fill up to your heart’s content. In other words, it’s the sustainable sweet shop of dreams. As promised, this is definitely one of the more affordable zero waste shops in town. I suspect the prices are set to accommodate for a student budget but since it is open to the public, everyone can benefit! On top of the affordability factor, all the proceeds made from the shop go to improving the sustainability efforts of the KCL students… they simply can’t put a foot wrong at this shop!
Address: Collingwood Street, London, SE1 9RT
Patoka is another great zero-waste shop that provides a wide selection of eco-friendly products and refillable foods at affordable prices. What I love about Patoka in comparison to most other zero-waste shops, is the wide range of products available. From reusable tea bags to cotton plasters and organic flour, they really have you covered in every department. This means that you no longer have to slog around 10 different sustainable shops to get all of your must-have organic goodies. It’s important to note that the shop in Wembley is temporally closed as they are upgrading to a new, bigger shop (check their website for updates!). Luckily you can still shop online and their delivery service is as speedy as it gets.
Address: New location to be announced soon!