Hayley Lambert is the proud owner of Packaging NOT Included, the zero waste shop that opened on 23 February in Hughenden Yard, Marlborough. Hayley lives in the town, with her husband Ed, a musician.
Are you from this area?
No, I’m from Essex originally. We’ve been in Marlborough about eight years, having moved from London.
Tell us about yourself
I grew up in a small village in Essex, which I liked, but as I got older found quite limiting, as you had to travel to do anything. I was always musical, and so applied to study music in London after my A levels. It was a shock to the system coming from such a provincial background. I felt out of my depth at first, as many of my fellow students came from specialist music schools and I felt I had a lot of catching up to do. Eventually I settled in, and in the end had a great experience – it really helped me build resilience, and a strong work ethic. I feel I really grew up whilst there, and learned a lot about the world and myself.
After leaving, I built up work as a musician – hard work, but I got more work over time, a combination of teaching work, orchestral gigs and work with my saxophone quartet. Subsequently I focused more and more on teaching, as I found the travelling and waiting around involved in performing work hard, and thoroughly enjoyed teaching others.
We moved to Marlborough when I got a teaching job at Marlborough College. Ed is a musician and jazz composer/arranger, working freelance. Luckily, nowadays you don’t have to be in London to get work, as more and more musicians are living away from the city – not really surprising as it is so expensive to live there. We’ve been very happy here.
It’s quite some career switch from musician to shopkeeper – how did that happen?
It was almost unintentional! About 18 months ago I happened to be searching on the internet for “nuts in bulk” (I was baking biscuits which needed almonds and walnuts, and could only find them in small, expensive packets in the supermarket). I came across Earth Food Love, the first zero waste shop in the UK, which is in Totnes, Devon. I was quite captivated by what they were doing, and impressed with what they had achieved. The idea of selling product to people who brought their own containers really appealed. I spent a while researching it on the computer, but initially dismissed the idea of doing it myself as pie in the sky – I’m a musician not a retailer.
However, I found that the idea just wouldn’t go away, and the more I thought about it the keener I became. Earth Food Love have had a lot of interest from others who want to do the same thing, and as they have no interest in franchising, they produced a guide for others on what to consider when thinking of opening a similar shop. Having gone through it, I decided that I would see if I could raise the money through the Government Start Up loan scheme. It’s a great scheme to help people get businesses off the ground, and provides help with writing a business plan and so on. It was a real thrill when I heard that the loan was approved.
Since then I’ve been working hard to pull everything together, finding premises, suppliers, planning and fitting the shop etc. Now I am just a couple of weeks from opening and very excited!
Tell us how the shop works
Essentially it is an organic grocery shop, with no packaging. Everything is sold loose or from dispensers, and people will bring their own reusable containers to buy the goods they want.
The majority of items will be long shelf-life products – rice, pasta, nuts, seeds, cereals, beans, chocolate, flour, sugar etc We will also have a selection of fresh fruit and vegetables, and fresh bread every day from Rudies, the new artisan bakers. There will also be a peanut butter maker, and a machine that produces nut milks. In addition, we’ll have a range of natural cleaning products and toiletries, and some containers/reusable packaging (eg beeswax wraps). In all there will be around 150 products.
When buying, you first weigh your container, and label it with a barcode. You then fill it with your chosen produce (one type per container), and then take to the till to pay, where the weight of your container is taken off the total weight.
How have you chosen the products?
It’s not just about lack of packaging, although it is important that the goods are delivered in reusable containers to ensure as little waste as possible on the supply side too. We also insist that anything we sell is organic, fairtrade and ethical. There will be no airfreighted goods, workers will be fairly paid, and no pesticides will have been used. It’s the only place locally that you will be able to buy unwrapped organic fruit and veg, and refill cleaning products.
Initially there won’t be any refrigerated or frozen products, although they may come later.
What have you enjoyed, and what have you found difficult about preparing to open?
Time management has been something of a challenge, as I have continued two of my teaching jobs whilst getting ready to open! There’s so much to do, I have been known to be in the shop until midnight on occasion.
On the whole I have loved every minute of it – researching products and suppliers and meeting many likeminded people who are keen to have quality goods. It’s been a huge learning curve, but I’ve involved finding solutions to problems that have cropped up as we’ve gone along. I’ve been careful to ensure that you don’t have to compromise on quality to buy ethically – all the cleaning products have been tested for effectiveness and they are great. People keep asking me if I’m nervous, but honestly, I’m just excited – it feels right. It’s wonderful to be doing something I have such a passion for.
What do you think your main challenges will be once you are open?
I think it will take a while to get the amount of fresh food right, as I am determined that there won’t be any wasted product. This might mean that we run out of the odd thing before the end of the day, but I’m sure we’ll get the balance right in the end.
Other than that, I’m sure that there will be issues we haven’t thought of, but that we will deal with as they arise. Ed has been a fantastic support through all of this, and together I think we can resolve anything unexpected.
What are you looking forward to the most?
Meeting all our lovely customers – we’ve had a lot of interest already, and I am excited for all the people that have been so supportive either in person or on social media to come into the shop. I’m also looking forward to seeing how the shop develops over time, as I’m sure there will be lots of tweaks to suit our customers.
What do you enjoy doing when not in shop mode?
My main interest is going to the gym. I go to The Fitness Space in Marlborough, where everyone is fantastic. When I first went it was because I thought I needed to get fitter, and I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it so much. I love my workouts there, they are a good distraction from work, as you can’t be thinking about dried goods or shopfitting while weight lifting!
I enjoy reading, although not much time for that at the moment. The last book I read was the latest Philip Pullman, the first in The Book of Dust series. Ed bought me a “How to be an entrepreneur” type book for Christmas, but haven’t had time to read it yet!
As a musician, I have a very wide ranging taste in music – from classical, to choral and rock and pop. I don’t play so much at the moment, but may go back to it later
Packaging is NOT Included is in Hughenden Yard, Marlborough – why not pop along with your containers and check out what’s on offer? You’ll find more info at www.packagingnotincluded.co.uk, and you’ll also find them on Facebook and Instagram