This month is Plastic-free July – a global movement to encourage individuals and businesses to be part of the solution of plastic pollution. We’re lucky enough to have so many businesses in North Tyneside who take their responsibility towards the environment seriously and we spoke to one of those businesses to find out what sustainability means to them.
Jackie Sewell, owner of Buy the Kilo, chatted to us about her business, going plastic-free and….
Hi Jackie, tell us more about your business
I’m Jackie and I set up Buy the Kilo with my eldest daughter Rachael. We opened back in February 2019 after carrying out around 12 months’ worth of research into the viability of the business and what we could stock.
We have a small team of six ladies at Buy the Kilo. There’s me and my daughter Rachael, who is on maternity leave at the moment. Rosie joined us right at the beginning and has worked ever since then. She’s also an artist and brings loads of skills and personality to the business. Amanda works part time. She started in 2021 and stepped in when Rachael started her maternity. She’s an ex-teacher who took a sabbatical and never went back. She’s also running her own branding and website business alongside working with us. Then there are Maiya and Olive who work with us at the weekends.
What’s the story behind your business?
I used to work as a self-employed interior designer for more than 30 years but went back to university in 2006. I’d always been self-taught in interior design so I wanted to gain some qualifications to expand my services. I did my design diploma then got on to a fine art degree and never looked back.
I gave up my interior design business when I graduated in 2013 and decided to concentrate on my art. As an artist I have a real passion for highlighting the blight of plastic on the land and sea so that ignited a passion. At the same time, my other daughter Jayne was studying in Cornwall and living a sustainable life. She would shop at zero waste shops, get vegetables delivered and used butchers and fishmongers rather than shopping at supermarkets. Her life added to my passion.
It was when I held a solo exhibition at the Customs House, highlighting the detrimental effect of plastic and bringing my own use of plastic into sharp detail, that I realised I needed to change my life. I’d always been a conscious recycler but that wasn’t enough. That’s where this business started.
Rachael and I looked at how Jayne was living in Cornwall and started researching zero waste shops. There was nothing between Darlington and Berwick and that prompted us to open a shop to help us and other customers strive towards a plastic-free life.
The response was incredible. Our first year was amazing but the pandemic swallowed up the ethos of our shop and we’re working hard to get it back and encourage people to shop zero-waste again.
Will you be celebrating Plastic-free July?
We always promote Plastic-free July within the shop and by talking to and encouraging our customers. But actually we don’t only promote a plastic-free life for one month of the year. It’s the very heart of hour business and we help people change their lives one item at a time. So many of our customers are making their way through their houses, changing small elements and gradually going plastic-free. We’re immensely proud of our business in that respect.
And our business isn’t just about promoting a plastic-free way of living. It’s also about saving people money and avoiding food waste. When you shop at a supermarket, you’re forced to buy the size of packets they manufacture. At our shop our customers always tell us they’re saving money by buying from us because they buy the amount they need and no more. We’re all of avoiding waste of any kind.
How long have you been members of the Business Forum?
We have been a member since we opened our business in 2019. It was recommended to us by the Business Factory. We love North Tyneside and, especially since the pandemic, we have worked with many business who stayed open during this time.
We work hard to promote plastic-free shopping but we also share ideas and promote other local businesses through our pop-up shops every weekend. Because we are only a small shop, we are unable to sell all the products we would like to so supporting other businesses in this way helps us introduce various products to our customers. Being members of the Forum has helped reach a wider range businesses than we might ordinarily have been able to.
To find out more about Buy the Kilo, visit the website here.