Plastic Free Shopping: Why Causing Disruption is Necessary to Cleaning up our Act

Being a conscious consumer has just become even easier with our online process. We’ve built in a brand new listing on our website to filter and show only those products that are plastic free. This means zero plastic is used in the product or its packaging. It’s a first in the world of its kind and we know it couldn’t have been an easy thing to bring about. We touched base with our founder, Robyn Smith, the incredible eco-warrior behind all the work we do around sustainable consumerism, to understand a bit more about her thinking around this and the bigger picture around her vision.

Q: There is a lot of buzz about the new ethical sorting features on FTN – let’s start with how you are feeling about it all?

Robyn: So, we have recently launched a 100% plastic free filter, as well as a palm oil filter. And like anything we pioneer I generally have a sleepless night or 3 around the launch. I feel hugely excited but also always quite vulnerable because I have learnt that change doesn’t come without feathers being ruffled – or positive disruption as I like to call it. We have 5 core values at Faithful to Nature, and I feel they are all guiding lights with initiatives like this – bravery, responsibility, action, love and caring.

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Q: Explain a little more about the “positive disruption” you referring to?

Robyn: Well, we have over 400 (amazing) suppliers – all change agents in their own rights, and tens of thousands of very caring customers. That’s a lot of people, with a lot of valid opinions and agendas. And I believe we are working in an extremely passionate industry – whether someone is supplying solutions to make the world a better and greener place, or whether someone is looking for support with their ethical shopping choices, they are generally committed and passionate about their efforts.

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Since both the plastic-free and palm oil free filters are a first of their kind, there is always a possibility that we may have made a mistake here and there, or that we offend someone by not including their product in our listing because our criteria for making that listing differs. That is the potentially disruptive part.

But the way it is positive, in a hugely, massively, paradigm-shifting kind of way, lies in the conversations and discussions that are created around incredibly important topics. For instance, should we classify products that have silicone or rubber lids as plastic free? Or, since palm oil can be snuck into products in hundreds of different ways, should we automatically assume that a product with “vegetable oil or “ascorbyl palmitate” contains palm oil if a supplier cannot give us a strong enough evidence that it does not?

Also, we have always recognized that “ethical shopping” means different things to different people. For some, it means buying vegan products, for others, it’s about only buying the most non-toxic (certified organic) alternatives they can while for others it’s about packaging and choosing plastic-free options. We do not believe it is our place to tell our customers how to shop – rather our intention is to create a platform that supports them in their ethical shopping. We also believe by highlighting classifications such as products containing palm oil, or being locally produced or plastic free, we are also educating both our customers and suppliers on potential factors to consider when consuming.

Q: Why did you feel that it was an essential step in the evolution of your company?

Robyn: A paradigm shift needs to happen if we are really going to change the destructive course we are on with our one and only home. We need to rethink how we consume almost everything we use. At Faithful to Nature, we believe the best way to support our customers and to empower our community is through transparent information. We have been totally inspired by the momentum the zero waste movement has generated as well as the growing requests from customers encouraging us and our suppliers to avoid palm oil that both search filter options seemed like the best natural step.

Q: So, why are we saying this is a first in the world of its kind?

Robyn: As far as we are aware (and we’ve done a fair bit of scouting) we haven’t found any other retailer that classifies there products like we do. By that, we mean the option to filter out products from a selection according to the type of filters we’ve made available. But of course, we hope many follow course very soon.

It must be said, however, that there are small retailers out there launching “plastic free” physical stores from our very own Cape Town, through to New York and Sydney which is beyond awesome and very exciting.

Q: Can you give us a little insight into what even needs to take place to create listings like these?

Robyn: It’s actually a mammoth task. We have over 11 000 individual products available on our store. We’re constantly managing ingredient and packaging updates from suppliers as well as listing new products – about 300 a month.

Step 1: We make contact with suppliers to see if they can give us more information on their products and of course because everyone is so busy, feedback here can be tricky.

Step 2: We then have to go through each product and determine whether it fits the listing. We always encounter big discussion here. Palm oil, for instance, can be hidden in so many different types of ingredient listings that we have to be sure we have covered everything. Or should we allow a supplier to call their product plastic free if it arrives in plastic at our warehouse? (The answer here is no.) Once the list has finally been created,

Step 3: Once the list has finally been created, it’s onto our developers and web admins to get it all uploaded.

Step 4: Then, of course, comes the second round of testing and feedback. For instance, if we have misclassified a product or not considered a different angle.

We have a core of customers who are incredibly knowledgeable and regularly keep us on our toes if they notice any errors. It’s a constant work in progress, but as the saying goes – “You don’t have to be great to start – but you have to start to be great.”


Learn a little more about our plastic-free shopping filter and please let us know if you have any feedback; good or bad, so that we may continue to strive towards an exceptional plastic-free shopping experiences.

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