Sheffield businesses’ guide to being sustainable in the city
Words: Sophie Watson
The Steel City is estimated to have over 4.5 million trees – that’s a higher tree to person ratio than any other city in Europe. With 250 parks and around 22,600 acres of green space to enjoy, it’s no wonder Sheffield was named the greenest city in the UK last year. Since close ties to nature are very much part of our cultural DNA, it’s no surprise that there are a wide number of independent businesses across the city working hard to reduce carbon footprints and offer customers a sustainable alternative to fast fashion, supermarket shopping and single-use products. Last month, I spoke to business owners in Sheffield’s hospitality and retail industries to see what processes they’re implementing to help protect our planet from further costly environmental damage.
Set up in July 2020, not long after the first national lockdown, The Nook is a hair salon offering clients the highest quality experience whilst minimising their impact on the planet. Owner Hannah Emmerich likes to call this “hairdressing with a conscience”.
The Nook is always looking for ways to reduce its carbon footprint and increase the use of local organic products in the salon. Hannah pushes to recycle as much as possible: the salon uses disposable compostable towels and gloves, hair cuttings are composted and all foils used for colouring are recycled. This is done through the Green Salon Collective, a company that focuses on finding circular solutions for salon waste.
For colouring products, The Nook uses sustainable beauty brand Davines, who go above and beyond to reduce their carbon footprint and use recycled plastic packaging. They also encourage clients to use their refillable product system instead of buying brand-new. All their products are environmentally-friendly and locally sourced where possible, including the floral decorations inside the salon, which are bought from independent Sheffield businesses.
The Nook does not stop there, however. The whole salon runs solely on electric energy and all cleaning products are sourced from the aforementioned low-waste lifestyle store Bare Alternative.
Hannah said: “As much as being sustainable is important, supporting fellow independents in Sheffield is also really important to us.”
“We’re always growing and learning so, as much as we go above and beyond to be sustainable at present, we’ll always look for ways to be even more sustainable.”
THE BARE ALTENRATIVE
Mathew Reynolds opened The Bare Alternative after being inspired by the Crookes zero-waste shop ‘Unwrapped’.
Looking to provide the Nether Edge community with a sustainable alternative to supermarket shopping, the Bare Alternative opened in November 2018 as a zero-waste refill store, bringing affordable package-free shopping to Sheffield.
The shop stocks dry food, oils, cooking/baking ingredients and household cleaning supplies for customers to buy as refills. The prices are measured by weight and customers can collect items in any container they want (or BYOC!).
Mathew told me: “We get people coming in with takeaway boxes for washing up liquid. Some people who are walking even bring plastic freezer bags to decant them when they get home.”
In December 2020, after its initial success, the Bare Alternative moved to a bigger space on Abbeydale Road, allowing the store to expand the list of products it sells. The shop now stocks a wide range of everyday sustainable alternatives and personal care products alongside its refillable items. These products are package-conscious and made of recyclable materials.
“We’ve now renamed ourselves as a refill and low-waste lifestyle store,” Mathew said. “We always look for where we can make products refillable, but if the product isn’t suitable for this, we look for packaging which can be easily disposed of and recycled at the end of the product’s life.”
Bare Alternative hopes to continue to expand its product inventory and introduce smaller refill stations filled with seasonal dried food. A lot of research goes into the products being sold, ensuring that they fit the ethos and genuinely make the difference.
Mathew enjoys hearing suggestions from his customers about what the shop should stock next and hastens to mention his appreciation for their support through the pandemic.
“I’m always thankful to the community. They kept us running through Covid and supported us in what we are trying to do.”
In 2021, Lavang became a certified carbon-neutral restaurant.
Located on Fulwood Road, owner and executive chef Jay Kawsar has worked hard to reduce the business’ carbon footprint and energy used on-site. Alongside a number of sustainable business practices, the restaurant now runs a smaller, seasonal menu which they change every 4-6 months. The basics are important, too, such as ensuring no food wastage, ensuring all appliances are switched off before closing and employing local staff to reduce the distance travelled to work.
On top of all these efforts, in order to achieve their goal of being a carbon-neutral business the Lavang team then had to go through the process of calculating their emissions by partnering with (TAG) Carbon Neutral Britain. After a rigorous and public registration and issuance process, a third-party audit is overseen by the CDM Executive Board (appointed by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), then ratified by the Kyoto Protocol. Once this was all in place, they could then announce that they are certified as a Carbon Neutral Business.
Lavang’s unique twist on Asian cuisine provides guests with an “elevated experience”, serving up dishes far from anything you would find at a local curry house. Alongside the restaurant’s thoughtfully crafted menu of innovative plates and signature dishes, customers can choose a drink from Lavang’s curated wine list to complement the diverse flavours of their cuisine.
“It’s not that we don’t like the traditional Asian food, we just want our guests to try something different and have an experience. Dishes on our menu include Indian flavouring, but it’s a lot more subtle and a lot more refined,” said Jay.
In February this year, Lavang celebrated its five-year anniversary after opening in 2017. With their carbon-neutral status achieved, the restaurant hopes to one day be a Net Zero business. But, for now, Lavang’s short to medium-term sustainable goal is to get planning permission to convert their outdoor space, so they can start producing their own renewable energy on-site.
“We hope we’re making a difference and by doing so, this shows us in a different light to our clientele.”
Celebrating its 10th anniversary next year, Vulgar has earned its spurs when it comes to delivering sustainable fashion to Sheffield.
Owned by couple Amber Savage and Liam Smith, Vulgar was founded through their mutual love of vintage fashion and second-hand clothes.
As a company, the shop sells vintage items, second-hand designer garments and reworked pieces. The clothing store also sells deadstock items, allowing Vulgar to keep on trend by finding clothing items unworn from decades ago. They are always looking out for old shop stock from the noughties, particularly skatewear and vintage rave gear. The shop also repair and mend garments while upcycling thousands of items each year to sell to the Sheffield public.
Amber said: “I think my best tip, whether you’re shopping vintage, second-hand or from a new sustainable label, is to look at what things are made of.”
“You’re always better off with clothing made of natural fibres like pure silk, cotton, denim, pure wool and cashmere in my experience, as they last and wash better as well as feel nicer on your skin.”
WHITE ROSE 9 + 10
Opening in April last year, White Rose 9 is labelled a charity shop but not as we know them. Inside the Ecclesall Road store, customers will find “handpicked recycled fashion” which includes many designer brands.
White Rose aims to offer an affordable alternative to fast fashion, marketing themselves as an ethical and sustainable clothing brand. There are now 13 shops across the UK and Ecclesall road is also home to White Rose 10, a men’s clothing and accessories shop.
Jess Bradshaw, store manager of WR9, told me: “We want to be the blueprint for second hand recycled fashion.”
“I think your typical charity shops are great to look through when you’re on the hunt for that amazing piece, but when you shop at White Rose everything is handpicked so nothing will be of bad quality, ripped or stained.”
A focus on the planet is important, but so are wider global issues. The company was founded by two Nottingham Trent graduates back in 2010 after being inspired by the works of the Aegis Trust charity in Rwanda, a charity that recognises the issue of climate change and works to prevent genocide and mass atrocities worldwide. Profits go towards supporting the trust’s vital work and the store itself is named ‘White Rose’ in recognition of a WW2 Nazi resistance group set up by Munich university students in 1942.
Jess continued: “If a donated item isn’t fit for our store, we either send it back to the main warehouse in Nottingham to filter through to our White Rose outlet stores. If the item is not right for the outlets, the item will get tagged and sent to a developing nation. None of our items end up in landfill – they always get used somehow.”
“What someone doesn’t love anymore, someone else will love now and I think that is the way we should shop.”
THRIFT & BITS
This sustainable clothing brand focuses on delivering customers quality and individuality through their re-worked pieces.
The Thrift and Bits ethos aims to give clothing a second chance, encouraging sustainable shopping to help look after the planet.
Looking for a vintage sports jumper or a new bag to style out an outfit? Thrift and Bits has you sorted. Some of their tees even have Sir David Attenborough quoted on the back of them: “The future of humanity and indeed all life on earth depends on us.”
The Thrift and Bits team love fashion, and it’s what motivates them to do what they do. Laura and Ed Grosvenor, a married couple and co-owners of the store, told me: “Shopping sustainably is important because the impact of fast fashion on the environment is extremely damaging.”
“You don’t have to buy new items to look and feel great and this way, you can feel even better knowing you look good and that your purchase was another small piece of change.”
“It’s important that we all try to change the way we view buying clothing and aim to reduce waste.”