Musing: Delicatessen Magazine (Feb 2018)

After a meeting with Chris McNeill – editor of The Delicatessen Magazine – in the margins of January’s Scottish Speciality Food Show in Glasgow, Mr Deli was excited to be asked to write a regular column for this increasingly influential independent trade publication.

In the first of his regular columns, Mr Deli takes a long hard look at what small businesses can do to improve their environmental credentials.


It’s Never Too Late to Change Your Thinking

Environmental issues are not just fashionable; they are fundamental to the capacity of our planet to support future generations. We all try to do our bit. Sorting the rubbish at home, bags for life, minimising plastic waste; we’re all taking small steps. At times it feels like young people are still miles ahead of the current generation of decision makers and influencers. So there is always more we can all do. Which brings me to small business and the challenge of ‘greening up’

We started our little high street delicatessen in a rush … the premises popped up unexpectedly (crikey, we didn’t even have the notion that we’d be running a deli) and just over 6 weeks later, boom, the doors opened!

I confess straight off, sustainability and eco credentials were not high on our list of Day One priorities.

We inherited paper bags, coffee cups and lids, waxed cheese paper, kitchen products and plastic cutlery. We used them all … we had loads of costs and only a small group of curious souls popping in. We had a pretty generic selection of products (with one or two handpicked stars of the show which have remained as constants to build the business around). Every penny counted. We used what we had.

Slowly though, the mindset changes. Underpinning principles become important. An identity emerges from the generic starting point.

We worry more about what happens with our rubbish. We start to acknowledge how much waste we generate as a small business. There’s a sudden “crikey, that’s a whole heap of rubbish, how can we cut that down” moment.

So, we take small but positive steps. The next coffee cup order, recyclable. Coffee grounds, collected, bagged and passed on to customers with green fingers. In doing so, we loudly acknowledge the efforts of Coaltown Coffee, our amazing Wales-based roaster who provides us with labels for the grounds.

We’re on a roll, so a trip to see Scott James at the roaster becomes an opportunity to explore other improvements. “Would we like a coffee, you bet! Are these new branded recyclable cups – nice one, Scott. We’ll take some of those off your hands. You’re switching to VegWare? … brilliant, we’re in for some of that action”! Perhaps we can set up a partnership with our local growing cooperative to compost cups that we encourage customers to return to us for disposal. Maybe a couple of raised beds in our Secret Garden (ssshhh, it’s a Secret!) so we can dig them in ourselves and grow herbs for our food service.

Now we’re really thinking and as the brains tick over and our collective mindset forces us to take personal steps towards a sustainable planet, there’s a whole lot more small independents can be doing to reduce their footprint. Blimey, but we’re late to the party.

We’ve added keep cups to our shelves and reduced takeaway coffee prices for folk who use them. We’re going one step further by selling keep cups at cost price and not passing on additional costs of biodegradable cups to customers. As a small business we need to be prepared to soak up some costs if we are to contribute positively to behaviour changes.

No doubt there are brilliant examples of environmentally-aware good practice that we haven’t even got close to thinking about. But we want to accelerate, starting to run before we sleepwalk to an unsustainable future.

Even small businesses can make a BIG difference!