Sustainable Saturday – Meet Marlies Bron, the owner of one of Jozi’s newest Zero Waste stores.

Marlies Bron recently opened an online Zero-waste store: The Unwrapped‘ in Johannesburg. I contacted her for interview so you can get to know the person behind the store and hopefully further inspire you in the fight against waste.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I grew up in Pretoria for the most part. My parents instilled a good dose of thriftiness into my upbringing (think boiling only enough water for the 2 cups of tea being made) and my dad had the most amazing veggie garden when I was younger. I mention this because I clearly remember rolling my eyes at it all and I couldn’t understand why you would want to grow your own veggies when you could buy them in a store. Now I probably wish I was more like them!
I’ve always loved being out in nature and I’ve had my fair share of adventures, but I think its the people I have met along the way, the conversations made, the examples they have been, that have had the biggest impact on my life. To not just enjoy the created world, but also take responsibility in looking after it. Living in a city again for the last 5 years does tend to put you a little out of touch with your environmental impact, however, the day it sunk in that recycling isn’t half as effective as I had dreamed it to be, was probably the day I started the slow journey to decrease my waste.

You recently opened a Zero-waste store in Johannesburg, how and why did you decide on this concept? I had been on a personal zero-waste journey for about a year and although certain changes had been easy, I was failing pretty miserably at reducing my grocery waste. I kept asking why there’s no zero-waste stores in Johannesburg, but then some friends threw the idea back at me and asked me “But if you’re so passionate about it, why don’t you do it?”. The idea has evolved and changed somewhat from planning a physical store to now running an online one. I’m very excited about the concept and as a mom of almost 3, its also a more manageable approach. Joburg is still in short supply of zero-waste options, and I’m really hopeful that the scene is going to explode in the coming years.

What can people expect from your store and is it only for Zero-wasters?
The focus of my store is to supply people with pantry foods free of single-use packaging, but I also have a selection of other zero-waste goodies to try and cover most aspects of waste-free living. I chose a glass jar deposit system because I feel strongly about reusing resources. It’s definitely not only for zero-wasters. I would love to reach out to the local community and regular shoppers like myself by making it accessible and affordable. I see the store as a platform to educate people about living more sustainably. Obviously, I’m finding that harder to do online than talking face-to-face, but we’re learning!

What would be your number one tip for aspiring Zero-wasters and people who want to make the amount of waste they create smaller?
Ah, there’s so many ways to tackle this journey! However, living in Joburg, I think it starts with an inner awareness of how consumer-driven we all have become. Without being a total kill-joy, start having conversations with yourself about the necessity of buying this or that. Be it that grab-and-go coffee, new clothes, another plastic toy for the kids… I guess I’m describing the ‘refuse’ of a zero-waste lifestyle. From there a world of swap-outs opens up! My tip here is to make changes one-by-one, starting with the more manageable and affordable ones first, like buying pantry foods from us… 😉 No, I’m actually thinking of easy swops like reusable shopping bags, always carrying around your own water bottle or coffee cup, using bamboo toothbrushes, natural soaps etc. Lastly, take a sniff through your dustbin and assess where most of your waste is coming from – there’s probably an alternative solution out there for it. Oh, and definitely join the Zero Waste Journey in Southern Africa group on Facebook – it is a wealth of information and I have found fellow zero-wasters to be extremely helpful and encouraging.

Marlies calls on us to be gentle on others and gentle on ourselves in this journey: “…when someone sees me buying a plastic-wrapped cucumber don’t view me as a complete traitor… going zero waste is a journey where we make choices based on our resources of time, money, availability of goods etc – which will differ from one person and place to the next. Its not helpful to yourself to be overly critical of every ‘misstep’ you make but rather enjoy and get good at the changes you can make.”

Where to find me: The Unwrapped

Facebook: theunwrappedco

Instagram : unwrapped_co


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