Buying from high street brands is really easy as they are widely spread. But by doing this you could be buying low quality items, which will end up creating more waste and foster the fast-fashion system we are trapped in. What can you do? You could venture down to your local businesses street and wander around independent stores. By spending a bit more, you will support real people who have slow-living close to their heart rather than corporate brands.

In Exeter there is the independent West Quarter, a fascinating part of the city filled with unique shops, involved in many great creative projects. It is a thriving shopping area that feels like one big community where everyone supports each other. The West Quarter is not the only area you can find indie shops, these businesses are popping up and here we are listing 6 of them you should definitely check out.

If you are not living in Exeter and you want to get involved and start helping your local scene thrive, look in local papers and join local Facebook groups to see what is on.

1. The Flat

The Flat is a pizza restaurant in Fore Street and makes vegetarian and vegan pizzas, freshly prepared, where possible, with locally sourced and organic ingredients. Gluten-free options are also available. The gluten-free dough, vegan mozzarella and parmesan cheese are all prepared by them. There is a wide-selection of pizzas, you can choose from classic Margherita to goat cheese and rocket, topped with balsamic vinegar and almond flakes. Due to Covid-19 the restaurant is not open to the public, but they do takeaways from Friday to Sunday from 5pm to 9.15pm. Follow them on Instagram or Facebook to stay up-to-date with all the latest news and special pizzas. You know how they say you can take a man out of Italy, but you can’t take pizza out of them, whenever I crave for pizza, they’re my first choice.

2. Sacred Grounds

Sacred Grounds is a plant-based cafe in the independent quarter of Exeter created by the graphic designer Becca Allen and Hayley and Nathan Maker, owners of the shop No Guts No Glory. The location in Exeter’s historic arcade is really cosy and the interiors reflect the eco-friendly ethos behind the cafe. Its brunch menu is 100% Vegan and offers everything from smoothies, coffee, waffles and seasonal organic dishes. Even if you don’t have a plant-based diet, you should try it and will be delighted in the end. The cafe also runs social events, such as talks, workshops and music sessions in the evening. Due to the global pandemic, the cafe is temporarily closed, but follow them on social media (Instagram and Facebook) so that you’ll be among the first ones to know about the reopening.

3. Finisterre

Finisterre is a sustainable outdoor wear brand originally from Cornwall with different stores across the UK, including Exeter High Street. Started as a surf shop, it has widened its product range offering now menswear and womenswear through customers and suppliers’ support, but always maintaining the distinctive green ethos. On the website, you can find a blog and a sustainability category where they talk about the brand itself and its sustainability journey. Due to Covid-19, all the shops are currently closed, but the online store is still open. Follow them on Instagram and Facebook and become a part of the community.

Earth Minutes has recently made a YouTube series “Now x Slow Fashion” exploring the importance of slow fashion and the opportunity consumers have to make the fashion industry more sustainable. The video features Sancho’s and Finisterre as leading slow fashion brands in the South West and gives an insight into sustainable business practices.

4. Bunyip Craft

There’s recently been a rising interest in DIY fashion among young consumers. According to Vogue Business, 30% of Gen Z consumers have taken up new hobbies during the pandemic, including tie-dye, embroidery and sketching. Upcycling your clothes is a fun process to give a fresh new life to your wardrobe. Online there are a lot of resources and tutorials that you can use to learn how to take care and fix your clothes. Fixing your old clothes not only reduces waste, but also gives a sense of empowerment and stimulates your creativity.

Bunyip Craft is an arts and crafts shop located in Fore Street. Due to the current situation, they are currently closed, but they offer local pick-up and deliveries in Exeter local area and in the UK. They sell fabrics, buttons, charms, patterns and everything you would need to amend your clothes and let your creative outlet flow. They normally offer workshops both for children and adults and craft parties to celebrate kids birthdays, however they are currently postponed. On the website you can find a lot of blog posts providing you with tutorials on embroidery, sewing and stitching. You can also find them on Instagram and Facebook for further fun ideas.

5. Lush Cosmetics

Lush is a popular British brand which started in Dorset and has always stood for animal protection, workers rights and environmental safety. The cosmetic products are cruelty-free, 100% vegetarian, handmade with natural ingredients and can be used both by women and men. They also come without packaging where possible. Located in Princesshay shopping centre, Exeter Lush shop along with the other branches across the UK and Ireland have been temporarily closed, but you can still buy online your favourite products and to make this easier they even offer free standard delivery within the UK on orders over £45. You can find the Exeter branch on Instagram and Facebook.

6. Nourish Zero Waste

One of the steps a conscious consumer should take is cutting down plastic consumption. Everyone who is starting with a zero-waste lifestyle will inevitably come across packaging-free shops. These shops allow you to bring your own bags and containers to refill, saving on waste. Besides the evident environmental benefits, you will also feel good about making a positive change. In this post I mention Nourish Zero Waste in Topsham, but it is not the only one. In addition, here you can find a list of zero-waste shops in the UK.

Nourish Zero Waste is a zero-waste store with two branches, one in Fore Street in Topsham and one in Magdalen Road in Exeter. The owner Sarah Martin explains the aim of the store is to make the transition to a sustainable lifestyle as simple as possible by making it easy to reduce household waste byproviding convenient alternatives to single-use plastic products. A range of food products including cereals, grains, pulses, beans, oils and vinegar, pasta, nuts, dried fruit, and pasta can be bought “loose”. There are also products such as cloth bags, stainless steel straws, reusable coffee cups, beeswax food wrap which help to cut down on waste. Both Exeter and Topsham shops are open from 9am to 1pm with safety measures in place. You can follow them on Instagram and Facebook to have further updates.

There’s also this website which should suggest other bulk shops once you enter your postcode.

While I was looking for information about buying from local growers, farmers and producers, I came across this article from Pebble Mag, mentioning that Farms To Feed Us has launched a UK-based database of farms, growers and other food suppliers, aimed at creating a more sustainable food system by simplifying supply chains and choosing direct selling.

The importance of supporting local businesses is huge, which needs your help more than ever, especially in this period. It is a sign you care about the community you live in and the want for local economy to thrive. I suggest you to visit these wonderful business and think about how in a small way, you can live more sustainably, even by doing one or two things differently. Remember to follow them on social media and share their news, buy a gift-card or a voucher to use in the future, leave positive reviews to build up their online reputation. After all, it is up to all of us to make small choices for the sake of our beautiful community, and the planet.

Written by Alice Vinardi