Starting small, buying in bulk

Making an impact at the neighbourhood level


A few months ago, a group of neighbours in Nunhead met up to see how we we might act collectively encourage environmentally friendly initiatives. I took responsibility for setting up a bulk buying scheme. We wanted to see how small initiatives such as this could deliver a reduction in waste including fuel and single-use plastic plus encourage positive community action on a neighbourhood level. In addition, it would also make buying ecologically friendly products easier and more affordable than would be the case individually.

The first task was to gauge interest via an online poll on the community’s social media page. Fifteen neighbours expressed an interest and a week or so later we placed the first order for the most popular items (washing up liquid, laundry detergent, dishwasher tablets, handwash and shower gel). The weekend after delivery from a single ethical online retailer we ‘set up shop’ and neighbours called by to collect their choice of products. 


It has been wonderful to see the results from just one initial order. First and foremost, by decanting the products we re-used sixteen plastic containers of all shapes and sizes. The bulk buying also made the sometimes expensive products more affordable - 250mls of eco washing-up liquid for just 50p. And coming together as a community - even on such a small scale - has given everyone involved a glimpse of what can be achieved. Already, neighbours are positive about what else we can do, acknowledge the real benefits of such a simple shift in how we behave and have no doubt that the scheme will grow.

There are surely ways to improve and the its success will be informed by starting small, talking and listening. We will build on success, learn from mistakes and evolve as we go. We would love to hear from others who have set up similar schemes and I am happy to share any learnings we have along the way. 

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  • Bartley Shaw
    commented 2019-05-12 10:18:00 +0100
    Have been meaning to update on this project. After the success of the neighbourhood scheme, our ‘shop-keeper’ days are now passed for a very good reason: our own Bring Your Own shop in Nunhead! Whenever I go there it seems always to be full of people keen to change the way they shop and make a collective reduction to the unnecessary single-use plastic that dominates so much of the consumer landscape. If you have yet to visit, it sits proudly on Evelina Road. Laura and Co. deserve every success and support. Surely there is space for similar enterprises in every neighbourhood?