Greener Living: With Cambridge's Zero Waste Path




Cambridge company Zero Waste Path is setting a new standard in planet-friendly products for home and body. To mark Plastic Free July, which galvanises people the world over to live a greener life, Velvet’s Riadh Falvo goes behind the scenes

With the game-changing Trash is for Tossers Ted Talk on their minds, a love for the environment, a degree in sustainability and £200 in their pockets, Bianca and Giulio set out to change the world. Officially launching in 2018, their company Zero Waste Path has already saved an impressive 217,084 plastic bottles from ending up in landfill.

Just a day after landing from my first visit home to Canada in five years, I hopped on my Cambridge Cruiser and made my way to Zero Waste Path’s unit near Stourbridge Common where I met Bianca, James, and Luana. I once jokingly posted that “I get lost. Often. But I always find my way”. Unfortunately, on this day, it was no joke. Considerable time had passed and construction had taken place since I last navigated the bike paths on that end of the river. Once I did find my way, though, Bianca and team very graciously invited me in from the rain with a loving mug of coffee!

The team and each individual within embodies all the values of the company, starting with a very genuine care for humanity, and I felt that immediately. As Bianca said in a recent Instagram Live: sustainability is not strictly about trees and plants, but more so about social justice, and it was while she was studying her undergrad in international law that she made the connection between sustainability and human rights.

ZERO WASTE PATH Bliss Beauty Oil - CREDIT Luana Burton (57149981)
ZERO WASTE PATH Bliss Beauty Oil - CREDIT Luana Burton (57149981)

I get the distinct feeling they do not see a separation between us and nature. Knowing that we are in fact very much a part of it - and that we are responsible for it and therefore to each other - affects every decision they make as a company.

All employees get paid the real living wage, all products are handmade in Cambridge, and all ingredients are palm oil-free, vegan and safe for the environment. The team do extensive research on every company or supplier they work with, with a particular attention to supply chains to ensure that all employees are supported and fairly paid.

Zero Waste Path Herbal Garden Candle - CREDIT Luana Burton (57149994)
Zero Waste Path Herbal Garden Candle - CREDIT Luana Burton (57149994)

While I was given permission to carry out the interview from abroad, it was because of this care and vision that I very much wanted to meet the founders and the people behind the company in person. It was important to me, and despite the article having a particular focus on July being plastic-free month, it is the company’s focus on human rights and humanity that distinguishes it from others who focus solely on compostable, reusable packaging, while forgetting about the people who make the packaging, do the farming, and process the raw materials and ingredients. That’s not a criticism, it is so easily done! I had questions, of course, which Bianca kindly answered:

Zero Waste Path Red Clay Soap - CREDIT Luana Burton (57149996)
Zero Waste Path Red Clay Soap - CREDIT Luana Burton (57149996)

The Canadian connection: you mentioned that Canada ‘changed’ you. Can you tell us more about that trip to Canada and what changed for you on that journey?

“I started going to a summer camp in Ontario called Wabikon when I was 14, where I went for four summers. It really helped me to open up, get a little more confident and start making friends; it was a place where I was very happy, so that made a difference to my quality of life, and it made me fall in love with camping and being in nature. I believe that it was the first step towards the lifestyle I live today.”

Zero Waste Path production shots CREDIT Matteo Tarascio Breveglieri (57149995)
Zero Waste Path production shots CREDIT Matteo Tarascio Breveglieri (57149995)

What have some of your biggest challenges been to changing your own lifestyle here in the UK - and what advice would you give to those wanting to change their lifestyle?

“I think the biggest challenges come from the fact that living ethically and sustainably is still a fairly niche thing. More ethical purchases can require a bigger investment upfront, even if in the long term they can lead to money savings.

“I think the most important things to avoid feeling overwhelmed are to find communities of people trying to make the same changes, so that we can support each other. And to focus on the successful changes.

“When I moved to the UK in 2016 I joined the Journey to Zero Waste in the UK Facebook group, which at the time had less than 100 members; today it has more than 43,000. There was one zero waste shop in all of the UK and now there are several hundred across all counties - change is definitely happening!”

Zero Waste Path 2in1 Shampoo + Conditioner - CREDIT Matteo Tarascio Breveglieri (57149977)
Zero Waste Path 2in1 Shampoo + Conditioner - CREDIT Matteo Tarascio Breveglieri (57149977)

Where does one start and how do we change minds?

“I think that starting with something easy and slowly integrating other changes is the best way to ensure long-lasting change. When you start making changes to your lifestyle, you will notice that the people around you will start to pay more attention too and will ask you questions.

“On a bigger societal level, I do believe that activism plays a big role and the responsibility is on governments and corporations.”

Zero Waste Path 2in1 Shampoo Washing - CREDIT Luana Burton (57149980)
Zero Waste Path 2in1 Shampoo Washing - CREDIT Luana Burton (57149980)

It had stopped raining and it was time to go. I wiped my bicycle seat off with my hat, or ‘toque’ as we call it North of 60, and I wondered if Bianca had ever heard the Canadianism ‘No Trace Camping’ while at Wabikon. I grew up with it, and was taught from the earliest age not to leave a trace behind in the world or, if needs really must, to leave a positive one. I was sure she had, because it is the way she lives.

Some other commonly asked questions are answered on the Zero Waste Path website and blog, where you’ll also find recipes, plastic-free suggestions and alternatives - see zerowastepath.co.uk

Pictures courtesy of Zero Waste Path and Riadh Falvo


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