Welcome to another instalment of the Small Business Spotlight! This is a series I’ve been wanting to develop more since the first instalment back in March. Of all the sustainable changes I’ve made, my biggest hurdle has been food shopping. Combine small town with a student budget, and you’re facing limited options. Not to mention lots of plastic packaging. So I jumped on the opportunity to shop zero waste during my Cardiff trip and paid a visit to Ripple!
Hand-cranked peanut butter, reusable travel mugs, and naked shampoo bars. You name it, Ripple has it all. I just knew I’d arrived in zero waste heaven. You can shop ethical fashion while your friends buy macaroni – all under one roof! It makes my eco-conscious heart so very happy.
I didn’t go to Ripple with a set list of things I needed. I wanted to wander and see what caught my eye. Spoiler; a lot of things did. My big “oh my god” moment came when I saw the Lucy & Yak product displays at the back of the store. I could easily recognise their corduroy dungarees from a mile off! They’ve been on my fair fashion wishlist for a while now (not that I don’t already own 4 L&Y items…). Immediately, I made a beeline for the changing room.
In addition to the original corduroy L&Y’s I also picked up a 500ml bottle of body wash, some Georganics toothpaste tabs in Spearmint, and Issue #13 of The Happy News. My biggest worry was using the scales (you have to weigh your containers before & after filling). Luckily, there were plenty of [very friendly] staff members on hand to provide assistance!
I’d absolutely recommend visiting Ripple if you get the chance. Although it’s a small shop, it’s so easy to get caught up looking at everything on offer! I easily could’ve done a huge haul, but I held myself back. Realistically I wouldn’t have needed it all – but teaching myself to buy less has been a rocky journey.
I know for a fact that I’ll be going back sometime very soon. It’s such an enjoyable experience to be able to shop low/zero waste in person as opposed to just online.
Ripple was founded by Sophie Rae, a 30-year old Cardiff local. I got in touch, and she kindly agreed to answer a few questions.
Ripple is Cardiff’s first not-for-profit zero waste store, selling everything from bulk refillable wholefoods, natural beauty products, sustainable homewares, and ethical fashion. I founded the business after a difficult few years of feeling pretty queasy every time I went shopping.
My trolley was filled with single-use plastic, my wardrobe full of synthetic fibres and my bathroom cabinet and make-up bag was just a muddle of toxins and chemicals.
Nothing I bought brought me much joy, and ultimately left me feeling disappointed in how I was carelessly consuming. The final straw came after watching Blue Planet 2 in the autumn of 2017.
I knew I had to start asking better questions, about my impact on the planet and the people that my habits were exploiting. It’s not comfortable to realise that your traditions are impacting negatively on other people, but from that discomfort, came Ripple.
Being my own boss has definitely had it’s ups and downs but is ultimately the greatest gift I could have given myself. As a female entrepreneur I’m acutely aware of the privilege I have to be able to show up in business, on my own terms, while so many women across the glove are still refused basic human rights.
Hiring intuitively, bringing consciousness to how I lead, and allowing the community to have a say in how Ripple expands, has been so empowering.
I’m surrounded by a team of compassionate humans who remind me to stop playing small. I have a voice; without taking the leap of faith to work for myself, I may never had had the courage to use it.
We opened November 28th 2018.
As the world starts to pay more attention to plastic pollution, I’m sure supermarkets will one day take the leap and invest in unpackaged sections, making it more accessible for the masses. With that in mind, I’m sure shops like Ripple will feel the pressure to compete. Sadly, without the buying power and opportunities to buy in vast bulk, trying would be futile.
I wouldn’t compromise my moral and forsake the livelihoods of the makers and brands I support, for the pride of continuing to run a business.
However, while the community shows no signs of withdrawing their support, my only plan is to continue to source incredible products that are being made with sustainability at their core. The shop is thriving, and that’s in part to the wealth of time and energy I put into curating a collection that has bee tried and tested. Perhaps one day that will mean expansion into multiple stores, or finding ways to grow our impact to more of the city, via educational workshops, pop-ups, and markets.
Whatever the future holds, I know my heart will be leading the way.
I'm Elen Mai, the brains behind Welsh Wanderer and 20-something human biology student from (you guessed it) Wales! Welsh Wanderer is designed with the eco-conscious adventurer in mind. So stick around for tips & tricks on living sustainably.