Exeter’s Pioneering Sustainability Stores

World Environment Day is held on the 5th June each year as a flagship campaign to raise public awareness about environmental issues. To mark the day, I visited a number of pioneering stores demonstrating a sustainable ethos in Exeter…

????Zero Exeter

Zero is Exeter’s “first package-free food, home and design store”. A small, family-run business on Fore Street, Zero has been well-received by consumers since opening in late April.

Faye Jennings-Mosquera styling a hammock-chair as designed by her.

In interview, Faye Jennings-Mosquera explained her ambition to make plastic-free and ethical products an “inclusive space for everyone”. Faye draws inspiration from Columbia, the birthplace of her husband, where “plastic-free is not targeted to a niche, but rather the wider community”. For Faye, to make sustainable products affordable is a change which needs to happen in the U.K.

Faye views her Zero store as an ongoing project, which she hopes will develop into a “one-stop supermarket, but ethical”. This vision looks to add fresh fruit and vegetables to accompany the already wide variety of products – which include essentials, home supplies, decor and more.

Connect with ZERO Exeter: Instagram and Facebook.

Find the store at 127 Fore Street, Exeter.

The Real Food Store

Rob Dickinson, long-term employee at the Real Food Store.

The Real Food Store, located next to Exeter Central Station, is a community-owned grocery selling fresh, local produce, artisan bread, and store cupboard essentials. Initiated by Transition Exeter in 2009, the store opened in March 2011 following investment from over 300 community members.

I caught up with Rob Dickinson – a store employee of over 6 years. Rob explained the store’s commitment to ethical and locally-sourced produce. “It’s about less miles and less chemicals, boosting the local economy and community”. The store also strive for zero food waste – “surplus or damaged produce is used in the café, and all compost is returned to Shillingford to be recycled into fertiliser”.

Organic fruit and vegetables from local suppliers e.g. Shillingford Organics and Riverford Organics.

Two years ago, the store introduced refill stations, allowing customers to stock up on essentials, whole foods, dried fruit, coffee beans – the list is extensive. Options for plastic-free toiletries are also broad – including shampoo, body wash and hand-soap. As a consequence, Rob encourages customers to bring in their own containers from home and reduce household reliance on single-use plastic.

Connect with The Real Food Store on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Find the store at Central Station Buildings, 3a Queen St, Exeter EX4 3SB.


Leela founder – Annie Hargreaves

Leela is an ethical lifestyle store on Magdalen Road, offering environmentally-friendly gifts, homewares and clothes. The sustainability ethos is central to the personal values of the owner, Annie Hargreaves, for which Leela represents a 14-year project.

Annie explained how she drew inspiration from living and working in India between 2005-2008, having observed first-hand the positive impacts of Fair Trade on the local craftsmen. “My first love was Fair Trade,” Annie said, “but the store has evolved over time to mix with recycled, green products”.

A store packed with ethical clothes, homewares and gifts.

Annie takes pride in the number of exclusive products on offer. An example being the plant pots made from recycled plastics. Other products are locally sourced, whilst the majority are hand-made.

Connect with Leela on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Find the store at 69 Magdalen Road, Exeter, EX2 4TA.


The new Nourish branch at Magdalen Road opened in April.

Nourish gained a name as Exeter’s first zero-waste store, offering sustainable, eco-friendly package-free shopping. A newly-opened branch opened in mid-April following the instant success of Nourish of Topsham, founded in 2018. With the new store neighbouring Leela on Magdalen Road, it comes as no surprise that the sustainability theme was significant in Magdalen being named as one of 10 cool shopping districts around the world in the Guardian.

Connect with Nourish on Facebook and Instagram.

Find the store at 67 Magdalen Rd, Exeter EX2 4TA.

Honourable mentions go to both Sanchos (117 and 126 Fore Street) and Finisterre (57 High Street), who have made strides in the production of ethical clothing.

On World Environment Day, these organisations should be applauded for their respective commitments, their contribution to community, and the growing influence in pushing for a greener future.

All images my own.

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