'I had so much junk' One Irish woman on why she started her own zero waste shop 10 months ago

'I had so much junk' One Irish woman on why she started her own zero waste shop

conscious bits

Fiona Smiddy used to love shopping in Penneys.

She'd head to town on the weekends (like most of us), drop a load of cash (like most of us), and arrive home with bags and bags of stuff she didn't necessarily need (like most of us).

Her bedroom would be cluttered with paper bags and receipts, items of clothing and homeware she would rarely use or straight up didn't need.

“I always cared about climate change and thought I was doing my bit," she says.

"I was living in Dublin and shopping like normal, going to Penneys, buying fast fashion. I wasn’t really making the correlation between consumption and the product, or between the food I was eating and climate change.”

Having worked for a renewable energy company for almost two years, Fiona always assumed she was doing as much as she could when it came t0 the environment.

It was only when she took a bit of time away from Ireland to go travelling (and eventually sat down to watch Cowspiracy on Netflix), that she decided to totally change her consumption habits.

"I read a book called ZeroWaste Home by Bea Johnson and I was learning about the whole idea of bulk stores where you bring in your container and you buy all your food and that and I was thinking, 'why don’t we do that?'" she says.

“I knew I wasn’t coming home for a job so I decided I wanted to set up a shop instead. I was trying to see if it would be viable so I set up an Instagram to see if people were interested - and they were."

Fiona launched her zero waste shop - Green Outlook Ireland - this week.

The online store is plastic-free with all orders shipped in re-used packaging including boxes, old magazines, and newspapers. Many of the products come in re-usable metal tins encouraging customers to buy refills when stocking up in future.

The shop has a focus on beauty products including body and hair care, but also offers reusable containers like snack bags and coffee cups, as well as menstrual products, cleaning products, and deodorant creams.

About half of Fiona's stock is Irish made with the rest outsourced from international companies. She says that she only uses suppliers who avoid the use of bubble wrap and plastic in shipping, pay their workers fair wages, and ensure all of their products are organic and carefully sourced.

Fiona says that we need to lean towards more sustainable production to move forward, "... rather than massive companies producing thousands and thousands of products and nobody really caring."

"If you put a little money into something, you’ll care about it more," she says.

“I had so much junk. When I was packing up in Dublin it took me forever. I had so much stuff, so many books that I had barely read, so many clothes.

"All that stuff would just sit there taking up space. I’m definitely happier now. It’s different for me, reducing everything definitely made me feel freer. And it's also doing good by the environment."

As part of a more sustainable lifestyle, Fiona also massively reduced her meat consumption. She says that she hasn't gone fully vegetarian or vegan yet, but that a little bit of research showed her how much excessive meat farming - especially red meat farming - was destroying the planet.

It takes 1,800 gallons of water to produce just one pound of beef. By contrast, one slice of bread requires just 11 gallons.

Despite the hard facts, Fiona recognises that many people aren't quite ready to make the jump to a plant based diet just yet.

She doesn't think that anybody should be forced to entirely change their eating habits. She sees the hard promotion of a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle "a bit off-putting" and prefers to encourage people to think about what they're eating, and where it comes from, instead.

“The meat industry is a touchy subject in Ireland," she says. "Everybody’s related to somebody or at least knows somebody in the farming community."

“I don’t promote or tell anybody to vegetarian or vegan, I think that’s the wrong way to go about it.

"I would just tell people to think about it, to maybe reduce what you’re eating slightly, particularly red meat. And if you are buying meat, buy Irish. Support your local butcher, support new business owners and support local producers."

You can find out more about Fiona's zero waste shop, Green Outlook Ireland, here. 

During May, Her will be doing some more #ConsciousBits.

Over the month, we'll be learning how to re-use more than we buy, examining the sheer amount of waste the planet produces, and considering the many, many benefits of sustainable fashion choices. 

We'll also be chatting to some people who have made sustainability a priority, while setting ourselves a few environmentally conscious challenges along the way. 

Change is daunting and we're not perfect, but we can always try to do our bit. Our conscious bit. 

You can follow the rest of the #ConsciousBits series here or follow our Instagram account for more related content. 

Want to get in touch? Email us at jade@her.ie.