June 22, 2024

Unwrapped: Packaging free, bike delivered specialty grocer in Stockholm

Here at Pacific Roots we are very keen on learning more about Zero Waste and Low Impact lifestyle. In a world that often prioritises convenience and ease over longer term, sustainability minded solutions, making the individual shift towards Zero Waste aims can be truly overwhelming. Anyone familiar with the movement or way of living knows that it is a gradual process, not a state of perfection. So we are excited to share, on a continuous basis, features and interviews with Zero Waste bloggers, researchers and businesses helping consumers to make the shift.

“Another challenge is that a lot of the fresh produce in this country is imported and wrapped in plastic. This is a tough one as the use of packaging here, helps to prolong the life of the produce to avoid food waste too. We need to focus more on locally produced food, get back to basics and pickle and ferment to make food last throughout the winter. We are all lacking in this education and knowledge, which should be taught from a young age at school.-Unwrapped

Hanna & Sarah of Unwrapped, Photo: Felix Lobelius

Unwrapped is an online store that opened in June 2019. They specialise in selling dry pantry staples, cleaning and personal hygiene products and deliver all products to customers by bike or electric car in plastic free reusable containers, such as glass jars and cotton bags. On the next delivery they pick up the jars and bags, wash and reuse.

Hanna and Sarah, two friends living in Stockholm, Sweden’s beautiful capital, co-founded Unwrapped. Hanna is a mother of two children with a background in CRM (email marketing) and e-commerce. Formerly an elite-runner, Hanna now views free time as an opportunity to play with her children, run and work on Unwrapped. Sarah is an Australian expatriate and soon to be mother with a background in Graphic Design and e-commerce who enjoys hiking and being out in nature, spending time with her husband, cooking and working on Unwrapped.

Read on for an interview with Unwrapped’s co-founders about their inspiration for founding the business, perception of challenges and solutions to approach and incorporate Zero Waste mindset in society and individual life, thoughts about the wastefulness inherent in much production and distribution and how we can all take steps to creating less wasteful lives, collectively and individually.

Photo: Felix Lobelius

Interview with Sarah & Hanna of Unwrapped

Was there an “a-ha” moment that led to the decision to establish Unwrapped?

The driving force that led to the launch of Unwrapped was frustration and love!

I think we had both read and heard a lot about the zero waste movement individually and just started talking about it one day. We both felt incredibly frustrated with the limited options we had here in Stockholm to try and reduce our waste and were also quite overwhelmed with the amount of single use packing our households were producing. It shouldn’t have to be difficult to live more sustainably.

We also felt responsible towards our families to try and do something more positive for the environment and set an example.

There appears to be a need for more package free shops. What are your teams thoughts on package free shopping in your local community and city (and Sweden overall as well)?

It is very challenging with the large supermarket chains here in Sweden. You can buy fruit, most vegetables, bread, candy and some nuts package-free, but for everything else there are limited options. There are more and more smaller stores providing options but, overall, it is moving very slowly. By offering packing free products online and by being delivered by bike and electric car, we hope to provide more sustainable options for people wanting to reduce their waste and move closer to living a zero waste lifestyle.

Photo: Felix Lobelius

Have you seen Zero Waste shops in other parts of the world and also gain inspiration from what they were doing?

Unwrapped: Yes! It’s so inspiring following this global movement! Bea Johnson and Lauren Singer are such fantastic role models. The UK is also very much at the forefront of the ZW movement, there are so many packaging-free stores and a few online too that we have definitely gained inspiration from. Gram in Malmö has probably been the biggest influence, we actually had a consultation with the store owner in the early planning stages of Unwrapped and she has provided us with so much knowledge and support.

I think many people may be craving knowledge and tips on how to live a less wasteful life but simply may feel overwhelmed. Many of us shop at mainstream grocers where there are few to no options to shop Zero Waste- extensive packaging is standard.

Photo: Felix Lobelius

So I am very curious about your teams perspective, as you are of course consumers but also now in the business of providing a zero waste service for consumers. What shifts do you think we need to take in society to make Zero Waste shopping more of a mainstream option?

Unwrapped: Wow – where to begin with societal shift! People need to understand that zero waste is actually about consuming less. I think the zero waste 5 Rs diagram is a good place to start; refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle and rot.

We often hear people say ‘I bought this because it was one sale, I don’t really need it but bought it anyway’. We need to stop buying things we don’t need. We need to start questioning the lifetime of the container that each product is packed in. Living closer to zero waste also means you might have to make more of your food from scratch. Making your own oat milk, tofu etc to reduce packaging. Our grandparents would have made almost everything from scratch, there is much more reward and appreciation in that. Because of the “convenience” of everything nowadays, we have become very lazy and fail to question what implications do my choices really have?

We started Unwrapped to make it easier and more convenient for people to shop zero waste but we also started Unwrapped because we wanted to get people to start thinking about the trash we create by buying products in plastic containers and to get people to start questioning how they are living.

In your perspective, what are some of the primary challenges to Zero Waste and Low Impact living?

Unwrapped: The biggest challenges are the current options given to us as consumers. It’s very easy to feel helpless because of the options given to us in our current society, which is why most of us give up and just continue doing as we have already done.

One issue here in Sweden that conflicts a bit with the zero waste lifestyle is recycling. The recycling system in this country is amazing, however and you are led to believe that everything is just great as long as you recycle! But from a zero waste perspective, recycling should be seen as a last resort, not a first option and solution.

Another challenge is that a lot of the fresh produce in this country is imported and wrapped in plastic. This is a tough one as the use of packaging here, helps to prolong the life of the produce to avoid food waste too. We need to focus more on locally produced food, get back to basics and pickle and ferment to make food last throughout the winter. We are all lacking in this education and knowledge, which should be taught from a young age at school.

Photo: Felix Lobelius

Are you particularly interested in any specific movement or cause related to Zero Waste or happening with specific campaigns?

A great initiative being led by the Zero Waste Stockholm Association is the BYO project. They are currently working towards offering shop owners stickers to exhibit in their store front windows, inviting customers to bring their own containers into their stores. Thus helping people to shop and eat out in less wasteful ways.

For example, bringing your own container to put your take away dinner into or using a reusable cup to get your morning coffee on the way to work, avoiding single use packaging! Something we are trying to achieve at Unwrapped also!

Photo: Felix Lobelius

Zero Waste and Low Impact living can be viewed from many angles including our individual efforts to reduce waste from our household output as well as changes that need to happen more broadly in production and distribution of goods. What are your thoughts on the bigger picture and relationship between individual efforts and those of companies and broader systems?

Unwrapped: We have contacted suppliers that cannot provide products in a way we want to receive them because of their production setup. Or suppliers that have to deliver their products in plastic due to different reasons. We are trying to put pressure on these suppliers, however these changes cannot happen overnight especially with bigger companies where it may impact their entire setup. For many companies the drive for money is more important than the negative impact they may have on our planet.

There are so many companies that are producing shit. Those companies will keep producing shit until we the consumer stops buying it. It’s about supply and demand. We, the consumers need to express that we want more sustainable options and the companies will have no choice but to adapt and act towards consumer demands. We vote with our dollar (kr in our case) everyday and there is so much power in that, it’s just that many of us don’t understand this power we all have.

Change is happening, you can see it through social media, people sharing quotes, videos, articles, strikes. It’s fantastic to see this develop, people are waking up and want to see sustainable change.

But we wish that each company would take a bigger responsibility for the products that they make/create. Does it really matter if a company makes a lot of money if we have a planet that in the end might not be livable?

I imagine the interest is starting to bubble up for your services. How has the response been so far?

Unwrapped: We have had lots of interest and positive feedback. Lots of people seem to think our concept is interesting. However, the summer holidays are approaching and it will be interesting to see how the response will develop in August and September.

Visit Unwrapped online at https://unwrapped.se/

Feature & Interview by Annika Lundkvist at Pacific Roots Magazine Editorial Desk

Podcast V: Biocyclic Vegan Agriculture

Editor’s Note

Welcome! Launched in Summer 2019, Pacific Roots Magazine is a platform devoted to issues of veganic agriculture, sustainability, plant based food & more. We welcome you along for the journey as we explore, learn & develop further awareness about this home we call Earth. 

International Biocyclic Vegan Network