We talk to Jess Dollinger of The Good Neighbour, a zero waste grocery shop on a mission to be as local, organic, affordable, and package-free as possible.
“People are realizing the disastrous consequences our actions will have if we don’t change, so I’m hopeful that as the public will to change grows, government and corporations will follow suit!”
What is The Good Neighbour?
The Good Neighbour is a zero waste grocery shop. Our mission is to be as local, organic, affordable, and package-free as possible. We want to make zero waste shopping easy and accessible so that people can move towards minimizing waste in their homes. Most people have the desire to reduce their waste, but we’re all busy, and if it isn’t easy, most people just don’t have time to make the necessary changes.
We want to be a one-stop shop so that it’s easy to drop in on the way home from work and get everything you need. We’ve got grains, pasta, cereals, spices, nuts, seeds, eggs, butter, fruit and veg, tea, coffee, peanut butter, etc.
What is your background and how did you end up establishing this store?
I have absolutely no experience in this field! I was living in Toronto and went into a zero waste shop there for some laundry detergent. I was expecting it to be more expensive, so was surprised when it was cheaper for an all-natural detergent than it would have been for a regular bottle of detergent in my local shop. It got me thinking about how great it would be if that sort of bulk, unpackaged shopping was accessible in Dublin, and here we are almost a year later!
Any advice manuals or podcasts which have informed your decision to open the store?
Not really. I find I learn better in-person, so I was very lucky to find several zero waste shop owners who were willing to chat. I also connected with Elaine Butler, of the Living Lightly in Ireland blog and her advice and blog were incredibly helpful!
What has been the best advice you’ve received to date?
As a new business owner, it’s hard not to second guess everything. People kindly want to give you advice, but often it’s not very informed or relevant, and can be hard to handle. My dad always reminds me to trust my instincts, and I’ve found that to be the most helpful when starting up a business – take advice, but if it goes against your instinct, maybe it’s not the right advice.
What do you think are the biggest concerns customers have around zero waste?
I think most people have the idea that zero waste shopping will be more expensive. At The Good Neighbour we really do want it to be affordable so that it’s accessible to everyone. While some of our local, organic goods are more expensive, you’d be surprised at how reasonable the rest of our prices are! In addition, most people are used to buying larger quantities than they need because things are pre-packaged in regular shops.
When you shop zero waste you can buy as little or as much as you need – whether that’s a tablespoon of curry powder or 3kg of rice. Not only is it easier on your wallet, it also helps to prevent food waste.
What are some simple measures people could start enacting at home to reduce waste and be more considered?
People often look around their homes, see the amount of plastic, and feel like they’re facing an insurmountable problem. If you try to tackle all the plastic in your home at once, it’s sure to be overwhelming. Instead, pick one room – for most people it’s the bathroom. Some easy changes to make would include switching to a shampoo bar, or finding a place to refill your shampoo bottle, using a bamboo toothbrush, and buying toothtablets rather than toothpaste. If you’d rather start in the kitchen, start with staples like rice, oats, and pasta. Once you have those you can start switching up other ingredients in your pantry until you’ve got a primarily waste-free pantry.
How optimistic / pessimistic are you about our ability to address waste and the climate change crisis?
I’m optimistic about our ability to change on an individual level. I think that most people have the desire to reduce their waste and make sure they aren’t leaving a pile of waste behind, so if we give them the tools, they will change. However, I’m pessimistic about the large scale changes that also need to take place. There has been very little action on the part of governments and big corporations to curb our carbon emissions – without action on their part, we won’t see the change we need to. However, people are realizing the disastrous consequences our actions will have if we don’t change, so I’m hopeful that as the public will to change grows, government and corporations will follow suit!
Unit 8 Dundrum Village,