Chatting With Abbie Sellers of Plentiful
Zero waste living seems unattainable outside of major cities like New York and London. But lucky for us here in Manchester, adopting a zero waste lifestyle is now much more accessible and possible thanks to the opening of stores like Plentiful. Meet Abbie Sellers, a conservation biologist and ecologist turned founder of Plentiful, a zero waste lifestyle store who's more than determined to change the way we consume goods.
Since the store first opened back in the summer of 2018, Plentiful has already helped save over 150,000 plastic pieces from ever reaching landfill or the ocean. Like many zero-waste stores around the world, Plentiful offers a simple and fuss-free approach to shopping that eliminates all plastic packagings. For those unfamiliar with this concept, shopping at stores like Plentiful is as easy as bringing your own containers to buy a range of household and food staples. Whether it's cleaning products, nuts, spices, cereal or fruits, snacks and even grains... Plentiful welcomes all customers to buy as much or as little as they want in the container of their choice. “I absolutely love seeing the same plastic tubs come back again and again. I have to laugh at some of them though, a ketchup bottle full of washing up liquid came in today!” said Sellers.
So how did it all began? Let's rewind back to how the idea of Plentiful came about. Sellers explained: “there was an exact moment that really helped tuned me onto climate change and our duty to make a positive impact on the planet. It was a Vivienne Westwood interview from about ten years ago.”
“She spoke passionately about the risk to the planet if it warmed another two degrees — and of course, where we were heading with the fast fashion industry. She mentioned my now favourite scientist, James Lovelock (the brains behind the Gaia Theory, about how the earth and it's living inhabitants are interconnected) and there was no going back. I read all his books and decided I simply couldn't stand by. And I've been mad about the environment since I was a child. I mean, how could I not? So my goal was to make a positive impact on the planet however that may be.”
“I studied conservation biology and ecology while living in Cornwall then moved to Wales to study bottlenose dolphins. Later, I worked at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) which then ignited a determination in me to make an impact on a personal level that was tangible and also visible. That, along with my years of sheer frustration of not having anywhere nearby to shop plastic-free, I thought that if I was going to do it, it was this year. 2018 was the year for plastic pollution awareness. We had TV documentaries, China's partial ban on waste importation, the constant news headlines... the timing was perfect.”
Fast-forward to today, Plentiful is quickly gaining traction amongst increasingly conscious consumers and is at the forefront of leading Manchester's green revolution. According to Sellers, Plentiful's success signifies a much bigger change in society; a positive shift from over-consumption to more conscious and environmentally-friendly living overall. “I think we're awakening,” she said.
“I read in a study that for the first time in many years, people's buying habits prioritised the ethical and environmental impact more than saving money. If this continues, we're heading in the right direction. I really hope that for many people, zero waste living can become the norm. And hopefully, Plentiful can reach all sorts of people.”
As for what's in store for this coming year, Sellers said that she's working on making food available for online delivery. And, “fingers crossed for a larger shop too so we can venture into fresh food and more ethical living items!”
Abbie's advice to all zero-waste newbies:
"Take stock of where you are now, list all the plastic you use and don't expect change to happen overnight. One change a week or a month adds up. Don't beat yourself up but enjoy the wonderful feeling of knowing you've made a good swap from plastic or harmful products."
"Also, don't freak out if something seems expensive! Reusing one item over the years is the most sustainable thing you can possibly do and it saves money in the long run. Oh and don't fall for the 'biodegradable plastic' trap. Chances are, your local recycling facility isn't quite there yet."