The Italian deli saying goodbye to plastic, and saving money along the way.Girasole Taste of Italy is a small café and deli based in Finsbury Park looking for ways to reduce their waste and make the business plastic free. Thanks to a grant from Islington Council and support from ReLondon’s business transformation programme, Girasole purchased a milk dispenser to reduce milk bottle waste and introduced grocery refills to reduce single use plastic containers and packaging. In just six months, the business replaced 175 plastic milks jugs with nine bulk containers and reduced the number of bags of waste produced each month from thirty to eight, resulting in a saving of 73% on disposal costs.
What was the challenge?
Girasole Taste of Italy is an Italian deli focused on creating authentic Italian dishes, offering a wide range of recipes and handmade treats for takeaway and eating in. Already an active champion for sustainability within the local community, they wanted to become more environmentally friendly and role model what could be done by fellow local traders.
Girasole aspired to become plastic free and reduce waste in their business while supporting the local community to make more planet-friendly shopping choices. They planned to introduce small changes in the business like installing a water filter/dispenser; moving away from individual milk bottles and introducing refills for customers to avoid single use plastic .
“I always wanted to make a real difference. This is also a way of increasing customer engagement and loyalty.”
Eglel Gomma, Director, Girasole Taste of Italy
Girasole was awarded a circular economy grant of £5,000 from Islington Council to trial two plastic-reducing schemes:
- Installing refill stations for dry food items sold in the deli;
- Purchasing a milk dispensing machine for the café to replace individual milk bottles with bulk bags,
Along the way, they also tried out other sustainable, money-saving to become more circular, such as:
- Reusing their empty Tetra Pak oat milk cartons as coffee cup holders;
- Supplying water in glass bottles instead of plastic bottles;
- Selling desserts in reusable glass jars instead of single use plastic containers;
- Separating food waste from general waste;
Taking advantage of another Islington Council initiative at the time, they tracked their waste production and costs using the Fifty Shades Greener system.
What were the outcomes?
After six months, Girasole had cut down on waste and saved money along the way.
The business saw a big reduction in the plastic and cardboard boxes they used. The new milk dispenser – which holds 13L of milk at a time – helped them replace the 175 plastic bottles per month they would normally use with just nine bags of milk.
Overall, they reduced the amount of general waste they produced from 30 bin bags to just eight bin bags each month and were able reduce disposal costs by 73%. This means over the six months they avoided sending 528kg of waste for disposal.
Thanks to the savings achieved through this project, Girasole was able to safeguard one job despite the difficult economic environment.
Lessons for other businesses
Girasole showed that small businesses don’t need to overhaul their entire operation to become more circular. By making several small changes to your business, it’s possible to make a big dent in the resources you use and the waste you produce, and save money in the process.
It’s important to involve your customers in the changes you make, telling them how they can be part of the journey and making them aware of the impact they’re having. While Girasole found that regular customers were excited by some of the simple changes – like the recycled cup holders – changing their shopping habits to use refill was much harder. You can read more about encouraging reusable packaging here.
Switching operations to use a milk dispenser also took time as Girasole’s regular supplier didn’t always provide the bags of milk they needed. Sometimes making sustainable changes needs persistence with existing suppliers or research to find a new supplier that is able to provide the right kind of product on a regular basis, which is what Girasole did. However, as more businesses demand sustainable solutions, we hope to see more suppliers adapting to meet the need.
Girasole remains committed to playing its part to reduce waste, and is currently exploring other solutions such as:
- Taking part in a food waste audit support with ReLondon to track where their food waste comes from and make changes to reduce it;
- Replacing plastic straws with pasta and using edible cups;
- Looking into switching their gloves to bio-degradable and/or compostable ones;
- Joining the Refill campaign that aims to to encourage the local community to fill up their reusable water bottles in the café.
To see all of Girasole Taste of Italy’s changes in action, visit the café at 150 Seven Sisters Rd, Finsbury Park, London, N7 7PL. Don’t forget to bring your own packaging!