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The Package-Free Pantry: Fair-Well in London Delivers Bulk Organic Staples


The Package-Free Pantry: Fair-Well in London Delivers Bulk Organic Staples

October 3, 2022

Concerned about your household’s single-use plastic and other packaging waste? The package-free movement has been gathering momentum: bulk goods stores and farmers market stands have been cropping up all over, and most groceries now have bulk sections—all of which allow customers to fill up their own containers. But does carrying your own jars and marking tares feel like a mission impossible? Fair-Well in London is out to make package-free shopping much easier.

Three years ago, the two friends purchased a 1970s electric “milk float,” a milk van that they named Charlie and converted into a home delivery shop of bulk organic comestibles and staples, such as compostable cling wrap and coconut dog shampoo bars. Charlie roves London making scheduled stops and spreading the word about mindful ways to consume. Customers, including designer Mark Lewis who tipped us off about Charlie, place orders online at Fair-Well. They then come greet the truck or leave out empties on their doorstep to be picked up and refilled. Come see how it works.

Photography courtesy of Fair-Well.

fair well co founder, claire, and team member jo, polish charlie, a vintage, \1 17
Above: Fair-Well co-founder, Claire, and team member Jo, polish Charlie, a vintage, 100-percent electric “milk float” (the vehicles were so named because they float through neighborhoods soundlessly). The business, they note, is a social enterprise “inspired by the way the previous generation food shopped: locally, without plastic, and with a much more custom approach.”
charlie is fitted with a wide range of food and household staples, including ri 18
Above: Charlie is fitted with a wide range of food and household staples, including rice, oats, pasta, quinoa, beans, cereal, nuts, seeds, dried fruit, oils, vinegar, herbs, tea, and coffee, as well as beauty and household products (linseed floor cleaner, anyone?).

Fair-Well sources its offerings largely from food co-ops—among them: Infinity Foods, Planet Minimal, and Suma Wholefoods—and applies “strict criteria to ensure the products we offer reflect our values.” Fair-Well only works with businesses whose “supply chains are ethical and fully traceable…The day Fair-Well was born, we made a promise to always put our values before profit.”

charlie the fair well bulk food and supplies van london. 19
Above: Charlie makes stops in specific London neighborhoods—check out the Fair-Well catchment area—and welcomes orders from individuals as well as groups (you can jump in and add to your neighbor’s order). There are no minimums and the advance ordering is just so the truck is stocked—you can add or subtract on Charlie’s arrival. Delivery is included and pricing is intended to make the service as approachable as possible.

claire decants olive oil. fair well&#8\2\17;s own olive oil containers get  20
Above: Claire decants olive oil. Fair-Well’s own olive oil containers get collected, washed, and reused by their supplier.

“We have never claimed to be a ‘zero waste’ shop,” Claire writes on the Fair-Well site. “As a business, we have some waste and we are always transparent about this. For example, we buy our range of muesli, oats, rice, pulses, and grains in bulk, in 15-25 kg paper bags. Similarly, our dried fruits, pasta, and nuts come in 6-20 kg liner bags and cardboard boxes, which are collected by our council recycling scheme.”

fair well team member susan puts together a delivery. customers supply their ow 21
Above: Fair-Well team member Susan puts together a delivery. Customers supply their own bins and containers, and are encouraged to make use of what they already have lying around—in their recycling bins, for instance.
a fair well delivery. 22
Above: A Fair-Well delivery.
the company refills customers&#8\2\17; own containers of all sorts, and doe 23
Above: The company refills customers’ own containers of all sorts, and doesn’t offer backup options: “You can reuse what you have at home, which could be Tupperware, jars, empty bottles…,” they write. “If we were to offer paper bags, we feel we would simply be moving rather than solving the problem.”
pantry inspiration from fair well. follow the company @fair well london. 24
Above: Pantry inspiration from Fair-Well. Follow the company @fair_well_london.

In the US, find nationwide lists of stores offering bulk shopping at Litterless and Bea Johnson’s  Zero Waste Home.

For more on reducing household waste, see:

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Frequently asked questions

What is Fair Well?

Fair Well is a zero-waste delivery service in London that provides package-free pantry staples to customers.

What kinds of pantry staples does Fair Well offer?

Fair Well offers a wide variety of pantry staples, including grains, pulses, nuts, seeds, dried fruit, herbs, spices, teas, and more.

How does Fair Well deliver package-free pantry staples?

Fair Well delivers package-free pantry staples by using reusable containers and glass jars. Customers can return the containers and jars to Fair Well for reuse.

Is Fair Well's delivery service available only in London?

Yes, Fair Well currently only delivers package-free pantry staples in London.

How can I place an order with Fair Well?

You can place an order with Fair Well on their website. You can choose your desired pantry staples and select a delivery time that works for you.

How much does Fair Well's delivery service cost?

Fair Well's delivery service costs £4.50 for orders under £20 and is free for orders over £20.

What happens if I don't return the reusable containers and glass jars to Fair Well?

If you don't return the reusable containers and glass jars to Fair Well, you will be charged a refundable deposit for each item.

Can I cancel my order with Fair Well?

Yes, you can cancel your order with Fair Well up to 24 hours before your scheduled delivery.

Does Fair Well offer any discounts or promotions?

Fair Well occasionally offers discounts and promotions on their website and social media channels.

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