Feature: Zero-waste store promotes environmentally sustainable practices in Namibia-Xinhua

Feature: Zero-waste store promotes environmentally sustainable practices in Namibia

Source: Xinhua

Editor: huaxia

2024-01-27 01:10:15

WINDHOEK, Jan. 26 (Xinhua) -- Zero Waste Store Namibia, in Windhoek, the southwestern African country's capital, is transforming the shopping habits of locals to promote environmentally sustainable practices.

Brigitte Reissner opened the store in 2019 to help cut waste in the environment.

Unlike ordinary retailers, the store operates under the principle of waste minimization, offering items for sale without any packaging. It also advocates the consumption of organic products.

According to Reissner, customers bring their own containers and fill them with the desired quantity of products, minimizing the need for single-use packaging.

The weight of the container is measured and recorded, and each product is assigned a unique code corresponding to the container filled.

"The unique feature of the store is that customers take what they need, avoiding an excess of products at home and inspiring individuals to take responsibility for their environmental impact," she said.

The store also promotes reusable paper bags, which, unlike plastic ones, can be composted.

The practice supports the government's pollution control efforts. Namibia implemented a ban on plastic carrier bags in all "Protected Areas" in 2018, followed by the introduction of a plastic bag levy in August 2019.

Reissner, now in her 50s and having worked previously as a hairdresser in Windhoek for over 25 years, opened the store after witnessing the negative impact of waste on the climate and environment.

To prepare for this endeavor, she conducted extensive research in neighboring South Africa, at the time witnessing a boom of zero-waste stores. She also consulted with zero-waste enthusiasts like United States-based author Bea Johnson and later completed an online course on establishing zero-waste stores.

"I was also looking for something new that, coupled with my passion for environmental protection, would make a positive impact," Reissner said.

While zero-waste stores have gained popularity in various parts of the world, they are relatively new in Namibia, with only two known such stores. The other one is in the country's coastal town of Swakopmund.

"Namibia, in particular Windhoek, is the perfect location to promote sustainability, hence this store," she said.

Over the years, the store has experienced significant growth, expanding its trade to include more than 120 high-quality spices, flour, snacks, seeds, health products, cleaning products, cosmetics, and some manufactured items.

For Reissner, this approach also helps promote organic and locally sourced products. About 90 percent of the cosmetics products come from local suppliers.

Customers can also order items online via the store's website, zerowastestore.com.na, cutting its carbon footprint.

The store has two employees. Emilia Khristian, who joined the shop in 2019, has witnessed the changing shopping habits of residents who have enthusiastically embraced the concept of zero-waste.

"I can earn an income while emphasizing the importance of eco-friendly choices and encourage a more conscious and responsible shopping experience... which you cannot do at other shops," Khristian said.

The store also serves as an educational platform. Each visitor presents an opportunity to educate on the impact of packaging waste and the importance of sustainable living, Reissner said.

In the meantime, despite the significant impact and growth, the store faces several challenges, including limited expansion funds and product importation hurdles.

These challenges posed difficulties, especially in the first three years, but were overcome through social media marketing and online ordering platforms, diversifying the store's product offerings.

The growing clientele in the last two years has helped profit margins improve year-on-year to sustain the store and her livelihood, Reissner said.

"Transitioning from the salon to this store has been much more rewarding, income-wise, and contributing to society," she said.

Looking ahead, Reissner hoped that her store will significantly influence business models in Namibia.

"The goal is to encourage the transition of conventional trade toward adopting similar practices and to foster a greener environment, contributing to a more sustainable country," she said.

Romeo Muyunda, spokesperson for the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism, said initiatives driven toward waste management serve as catalysts for change and the adoption of sustainable practices, and align with national goals for a greener environment.