On a snowy day in March 2018, we first opened our doors as Natural Weigh – Wales’ first zero waste shop. It was scary and exciting in equal measure and we can’t really believe it has been a whole year since that first day. But here we are, March 2019, and what a year it has been. We wanted to take this opportunity to reflect on all the amazing things which have happened over the past 12 months and to say a massive thank you to everyone who has been in to see us and shop with us. It is down to all of you that Natural Weigh has been a success and we are overwhelmingly grateful for your support and enthusiasm.
Thanks to all of you, we have achieved the following headline figures:
• >1,200 reusable straws sold
• >1,200 bamboo toothbrushes sold
• >300 reusable water bottles sold
• >50 reusable sanitary pads and >30 menstrual cups sold
• >1,000 plastic bottles of washing up liquid avoided
• >500 plastic bottles of shampoo avoided
• Total of 140 kg of plastic avoided
Over the year, we have been graced by visits from several prestigious persons, the most exciting of whom was His Royal Highness Prince Charles! On a sweltering day in June, Prince Charles came to officially open The Corn Exchange. He popped in to our shop, had a go with some of our gravity dispensers (selecting cannellini beans over chocolate!) and chatted to us about the challenges of reducing plastic in a supply chain which is often varied and diverse. We have also received visits from Kirsty Williams, our very supportive local Assembly Member, Hannah Blythyn, the Welsh Minister for the Environment, and Simon Thomas, another supportive Assembly Member. Each of these individuals has their own area of influence and we are hopeful they will have continued to spread the positive message we discussed in the shop around encouraging people to choose plastic free options when shopping.
Through the year, we also did a bit of visiting others. We gave a talk to Transition Cardiff on the concept behind our shop, and went to the IEMA conference to highlight what we have done in Crickhowell and why we did it. In October, we were invited as a speaker to the first Zero Waste Conference which was a huge honour. All of these experiences enabled us to spread the message about Natural Weigh and plastic free shopping and met with very receptive audiences. We even went to a primary school to discuss the problem of plastic with the children. That was almost the most daunting visit!
Towards the end of 2018, we were delighted to be shortlisted for a number of awards and to even win one. Natural Weigh won the One to Watch award at the Social Business Wales awards and we were shortlisted for the Sustainable Business Award. We also had a trip to the House of Lords as one of 100 small businesses in the UK as part of a campaign to encourage consumers to shop local. This recognition has helped us to maintain our momentum and continue to drive Natural Weigh to do more and keep improving.
When we first opened our doors last year, it was after a huge amount of planning and careful consideration of where we wanted to be based. Some people ask us why we chose Crickhowell but most people who have been to this beautiful bustling town know. On our first anniversary, we want to highlight the wonderful community of people and businesses based in here. Crickhowell attracted our attention because of its fiercely independent high street but also its community of committed individuals working to make positive change. The building we are based in (The Corn Exchange) was destined to be turned into a supermarket but was instead bought by the local community and converted into shops and flats. This is the sort of community which looks after its members. In the months after we opened, many of the other high street traders came into our shop to introduce themselves and offer their support and assistance should we need it. Indeed, on those first few days, with the snow as deep as it was, we had several offers from people of somewhere to stay if we got stranded. This warmth and support has continued throughout the last year. Thank you Crickhowell for such a warm welcome!
This wonderful local community, of which we very much feel a part, won the Great British High Street award in 2018, fending off Altringham, Portadown and Alness to win the title. This is such a deserving reward for a town which is bursting with independent shops and thriving at a time when many high streets seem to be struggling. How lucky we are to be a part of it!
All of these experiences over the last year, would not have been possible without the support of so many people, from our own family and friends, to the wonderful people of Crickhowell and to all our customers both near and far. We were lucky to receive a grant award from UnLtd as one of their selected social businesses. We also got business support from Business Wales. Thank you to everyone who has been a part of the Natural Weigh journey. We will continue to do our best to provide high quality, plastic free food and lifestyle products.
Looking toward the next year, we have some exciting developments. We have recently launched our online shop, offering customers from further a field and those not able to pop into the shop, the chance to buy plastic free food and support our dream. We are also committed to finding new and innovative ways to combat unnecessary packaging within our supply chain and will be exploring this avenue further in the next year. We will continue to respond to customer demand and introduce new and exciting products and to work within the community to encourage and enable others to reduce their reliance on single use plastic.
Year one was fantastic, but here’s to an even better second year!
Chloe & Robin Masefield