The Sustainable Store is a plastic-free, chemical-free store with a range of Irish handmade vegan cosmetics, based in Blackrock Market. “We try and support as much Irish business as we can. We sell practical alternatives to plastic and don’t sell anything unless it’s quality, all the while trying to gently and positively help and persuade people to make those little changes that the world needs.”
Speaking to The University Times, one half of the eco-duo that run the Sustainable Store, Jonny Horn, chats about how business operates. We get a coffee to wake ourselves up and I ask Horn if he always comes into the market this early. It seems he does. Every morning, Thursday to Sunday, Horn gets the train into Dublin from Wicklow, and then the DART out to Blackrock, carrying his stock in wooden crates, and lays out the store to be opened for 11am. He “dosses around” with the other vendors, lays out the stock and gets the music on and the energy going before getting some all-important coffee.
This all sounds like a rather gruelling morning routine to me, but Horn says that the sense of community in the area gives him his energy. He says that community is really important in a market: “It’s a special place. Everyone here is their own boss so they really care about their business and the environment. That sense of community is critical – people crave it in business and in life and it’s something we’ve lost touch with.”
From the sounds of things, community was what brought them to sustainability in the first place. It was while WWOOFing (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) with his partner Katie O’Connell that they discovered permaculture. In his own words, permaculture is “a set of principles designed to work with nature’s own rhythms, not against them. It’s give and take and give and take with very little waste”. It showed them a new way of life, living in communal spaces working together with common goals. It was with this in mind that Horn and O’Connell opened The Sustainable Store around these principles – community, giving and taking from local sources, and minimising waste.
All of us for the last 50 years have been living this convenient, wasteful, disposable lifestyle and in recent years we have completely lost touch with where our food and products come from
“The fact is that we absolutely need a shift at government level but we cannot wait for that to happen”, he says, sitting forward in his seat. “All of us for the last 50 years have been living this convenient, wasteful, disposable lifestyle and in recent years we have completely lost touch with where our food and products come from. This, at an individual level, is what has brought us to the situation we are in now. We need to start living more consciously and kindly – to each other and to earth – and we will see a drastic change from negative to positive.”
For students he has this message: “You may feel that as an individual you don’t have any power but you do and in college and on campus you’re lucky to be around people who may have similar interests and ideas to you. If you get together you really can make a difference. Where you put your money, you put your power. Support local shops, boycott big business, small changes lead to bigger things.”
The Sustainable Store couldn’t be a better example of a local business. It’s small (just 4m x 2.5m) with pretty packed shelves, but everything is carefully curated and displayed. When I ask him what his favourite products are, he sighs: “I love them all – I really do.” He says that while they were setting up the business, Horn would work in the shop getting it all together, while O’Connell would spend hours researching products. He describes it as a “real skill” that she has: communicating with people, finding products that are plastic-free, chemical-free, organic, vegan and predominantly from local sources. All of their cosmetics are made in Ireland – they ensure that all the products have consistent packaging that is recyclable, or no packaging at all. They support ethical businesses such as Jerry Bottle who donates their profits to clean water projects in India and Tanzania.
They have keep cups, make-up wipes, toothbrushes and toothpaste, produce bags, soaps, shampoos and even stainless steel baby bottles. It begs the question: how many coffee cups do you buy in a week and throw out? How many shampoo bottles, how many makeup wipes – is this waste necessary? The answer is that nowadays, with all of these fantastic products available, reducing your waste has never been easier, and it has never been more important.
The Sustainable Store’s products are designed to help you make this transition. They work on the basis of giving and taking from the earth in equal measure, and if you give them and other eco-friendly businesses your custom, I promise you will be taking away much more than just a new keep cup.