I went to Unpackaged the other day. John Grant and many others have talked about Unpackaged before, but briefly, it's a shop where all the stuff they sell has no packaging.
I'll admit I was hugely sceptical. It just sounds like some twee, middle England, poncey London, greenwashing fest. After all, anyone can sell this sort of stuff with no packaging.
But I'm pleased to report it's a lot, lot better than that. Sure - it's small and it's expensive, but it's also brilliant. And it looks great.
Those little boxes hold flour and nuts and dried banana skins and what not. They're all designed to be easy to clean, even the tags can be wiped clean and reused for another product. That's good sensible design.
So you bring your own bag / box / jar and you save 50p. They will even refill olive oil bottles, which is pretty impressive.
There are some things they can't unpackage yet. Ecover won't give them a great big vat of washing up liquid for example, but you can leave all the packaging there for recycling. I understand this is common practice in Germany?
There's lots of great little ideas here. Yes, it needs to be bigger (in size and scale) and it needs to be cheaper to have a big effect, but it's a great start and it's a glimpse of how things could be. Surely all packaging designers should (nowadays) start with the goal of having no packaging and then work backwards from there?
More pictures on Flickr.
UPDATE: Catherine Conway from Unpackaged has just emailed me to clarify a few points.
Firstly (and importantly) the shop was designed by Multistorey
Secondly she's asked me to correct an inaccuracy,
"you mention that some things can’t be unpackaged- the Ecover example is wrong as they do provide us with vats of cleaning products" "most people buy it [Ecover] in refills from us." "an example of something we can’t unpackage currently would be cotton wool or toothpaste."
We also had a little discussion about what I meant by expensive. Cath says, "The question of whether it’s expensive is a moot point- our prices compare pretty favourably with like for like products (organic, fair trade) in supermarkets but are obviously more expensive than their value counterparts…"
I guess I should have been clearer. What I really mean is that for an unpackaged concept to be adopted across the whole country it would have to cater for the people that shop in Iceland as well. Do you know what I mean?
Anyway. Happy to clear all that up.