Sustainable Living

Sustainable and Ethical Consumption in the City of Leeds

Ethical consumption is growing in society. Ethical consumption refers to buying products which were ethically produced and/or which are not harmful to the environment and society.

On a sweltering day in June, before a sea of glittery revellers, David Attenborough walked out onto the Pyramid Stage to one of the loudest cheers of this year’s Glastonbury Festival. Appearing amidst a line-up of over 2,800 of the world’s biggest artists, he was there to deliver a stark warning: about the damage done by plastic to the world’s oceans; about the effects of climate change; and about the catastrophic impact of the continued use and disposal of harmful materials. But his speech was also buoyed by hope because, for the first time in its forty-nine year history, the UK’s largest music festival swore off all forms of single-use plastic.

Across the U.K. and beyond, the fight to save our planet from this climate emergency is slowly growing. From zero-waste shops and plastic-free stores to vegan eateries and pay-as-you-feel restaurants, in Leeds and its surrounding suburbs, an increasing number of businesses, eateries and enterprises are taking decisive steps towards making ethical and environmentally-friendly practice the norm. Here’s a handy round-up of the city’s best and most sustainable establishments and outlets. 

Eat Your Greens 

Situated on New York Street in Leeds City Centre, Eat Your Greens is equal parts restaurant, bar and organic grocery store, with heavy emphasis placed on sourcing its produce from local, sustainable suppliers. The site itself is the brainchild of local institutions The Grub & Grog Shop and Outlaws Yacht Club: two establishments known for their respective cultivation of a sense of community and inclusivity. The menu boasts an impressive selection of vegetarian and vegan cuisine, and even the alcohol is carefully sourced, with a substantial array of organic and local options. Perhaps best of all, Eat Your Greens couldn’t be more conveniently placed, with famous heritage sites like Kirkgate Market and the Leeds Corn Exchange – plus the city’s bus station – located just feet away. 

The Real Junk Food Project 

From humble origins in 2013 as a small cafe in Armley, The Real Junk Food Project has exploded into public consciousness, inspiring a global network and over 120 similar projects across 7 countries. The venture operates on a Pay-As-You-Feel basis, saving and redistributing food that would otherwise have gone to waste through its cafes, social supermarkets, Freegan food boxes and more. Through its ‘Kindness Sharehouse’ based in Wakefield, the project offers solely intercepted food, combatting food waste and allowing its users to pay whatever they can for their produce. The Armley Junk-tion Cafe lives on, as does the Rainbow Junktion in popular student area Hyde Park, each providing delicious food, catering for events and more; all whilst seeking to address the approximate 1.3 billion tonnes of food wasted globally every year. 

Roots and Fruits

Based in the spectacular Grand Arcade in the centre of Leeds, Roots and Fruits is a vegan cafe with vegetarian options, offering a wide variety of dishes. From spicy jerk jackfruit to hearty ‘Not Egg Egg Mayo’ sandwiches and vegan desserts galore, all of the food on offer here is made from fresh, locally sourced ingredients. Ethical consumption has never tasted so good! And whilst this cafe is a lunchtime favourite for locals and visitors to Leeds alike, Roots and Fruits is also open until 7pm, offering the option to Bring Your Own Booze at £1.50 a head. With a wealth of pubs, bars and live music venues within walking distance, it’s the perfect place for those seeking a plant-based menu with a local emphasis – right down to the art displayed on its walls, created by artists living in and around Leeds. 

The Headingley Green Grocer

A greengrocer’s has occupied the space at 50 North Lane in Headingley for over 100 years. So when the closure of RK Harris and Sons’ shop was announced earlier this year, locals were devastated by the news – until the Headingley Development Trust stepped in. Using its investment fund the social enterprise took over the premises and installed The Headingley Green Grocer, a shop with a heavy emphasis on plastic-free packaging. 

The site has gone from strength to strength, establishing links with other initiatives including The Real Junk Food Project and Plate 2 Plate, an organisation dedicated to creating compost using household food waste and coffee grounds. The Headingley Green Grocer is also committed to providing ethically-sourced, local produce wherever possible. This includes that of Whiteley’s Farm in nearby Pudsey, which itself offers affordable and largely plastic-free fruit and vegetable boxes for delivery. 

As an added bonus, The Headingley Green Grocer is located a stone’s throw away from the brilliant Cafe Lento, where you’ll find coffee, cake and home-cooked meals, all created with local, seasonable and fairtrade ingredients. 

The JarTree

Venture into the historic Kirkgate Market and you’ll soon find The JarTree Zero Waste shop, with a fantastic selection of loose dry food produce, vegan alternatives and plastic-free household items. Simply bring your own container (or purchase one from the wide array on offer), weigh it in advance to avoid paying for anything other than what you buy, and stock up on whatever you need. From lentils to pasta, coffee to herbs, organic toothpaste to vegan detergent, The JarTree offers competitively-priced options – all free from their dreaded plastic wrappings. And if you don’t find what you’re looking for, be sure to drop the team a message – they’re always on the lookout for new ideas and products! 

This isn’t the only zero waste shop in the heart of the city: conscientious shoppers can also head to the Central Arcade centre to visit ecoTopia, a plastic-free enterprise that also offers an eco-friendly CO2 Neutral delivery straight to your door! 

For the ethical consumption advocates travelling just a little further afield, options include The Refilling Station in Chapel Allerton, a grocery shop selling reduced or zero-waste products with the core aim of reducing unnecessary and environmentally-harmful packaging. In Kirkstall meanwhile, Seagulls Refills is open seven days a week, stocking washing up liquid, toilet cleaner, shampoos, conditioners and much more. The project’s zero-waste shop is adjacent to its paint Reuse paint store, where an average of 200 tonnes of paint is reprocessed and sold onsite. 

Scrap Creative Reuse Art Project

A different angle to ethical consumption, this social enterprise focuses on taking the waste materials generated by businesses and reusing them as resources for art and play. Based in the town of Farsley, the Scrap Creative Reuse Art Project’s mill shop is open to all, selling supplies at low prices to support local community groups, schools and individuals. But that’s not all: this initiative also offers creative workshops and activities, space for hire and Scrap Sheds – containers filled with recycled materials suitable for creative and eco-friendly outdoor play, to be replenished throughout the year. The site also has its own volunteer-led Community Craft Cafe, providing a space for like-minded crafters to get together, as well as offering activities for visitors including young people with learning disabilities. Membership of the Scrap Creative Reuse Art Project is free and open to all – simply sign upon arrival. 

Plastic-Free Me

It is estimated that over half of the plastic that the world consumes is single-use, equating to around 150 million tonnes of plastic being used for just minutes at a time. Plastic-Free Me is a community interest group seeking to spread awareness about the global plastic crisis through the creation of a network of like-minded individuals. From running upcycling campaigns and producing thought-provoking artwork to delivering training and courses at local businesses and schools, Plastic-Free Me empowers people to reduce their plastic consumption and to shop, work, create and live sustainably – a move towards ethical consumption. With an emphasis on the power of social media as a means of spreading their message, the organisation has now created the Plastic-Free Leeds Facebook group. Join for information about restaurants, shops and initiatives working towards an ethical, sustainable and waste-free Leeds for all.  

In recent years there has been a huge amount of research investment into food packaging and alternatives. The Skipping Rocks Lab are offering alternatives that are good for the environment. Ethical consumption coupled with improved food packaging will go a long way in protecting the planet.