The #justonebottle kicked off 2023 with a message to encourage us all to make a difference.

By simply refilling one bottle we already have, rather than buying another, it helps cut volumes of unnecessary plastic and waste.

With places to refill across Kent, behind each business there’s a story of hope, change and inspiration to a sustainable way of living…showing it really can start with #justonebottle

Emma-Louise Richards, who runs Zilch in Tonbridge (, is making positive changes.

After having her first child, Emma noticed the bin was getting fuller much quicker and she started to look at what was being thrown away.

“I was quite shocked at how much of it was packaging we just used to bring mostly food home in.

“I decided to see if there was a way we could shop package-free and found a refill business at the local monthly farmers market. We used them every month but I felt we needed a shop in town, shopping once a month for a family doesn't always work out. The guys at the market opened a shop in Sevenoaks (The Eco Pantry) so I decided this was a gap in the market here in Tonbridge I needed to fill. When Covid hit I was furloughed from my job and it gave me more time to research and plan.”

It was a friend who told Emma-Louise of an empty unit on Barden Road.

“We went to view it and saying my plans out loud made them make even more sense and I knew I would be the one to open it.”

Launching the website she had been building for months and a Crowdfunder to help with opening costs, the shop opened in August 2020.

Prior to opening Zilch, Emma-Louise was a registered dental nurse for 20 years.

“I really enjoyed my work but the more I thought about the unnecessary wastage in each surgery, the more I became uncomfortable with it. Some things most definitely do need to be single use, but there are lots that don't.”

Great British Life: Zilch in TonbridgeZilch in Tonbridge (Image: Emma-Louise Richards)

With around 1500 products, 450 of which available as refills, feedback has been positive.

“We've been overwhelmed by the support and have many returning customers and lots of new ones, too.

“Some people mention they feel a bit scared or put off by the process of refilling, but we hate to think people feel silly or any other negative way when shopping with us.

“We are more than happy to do refills for our customers and always on hand to help or advise. Just grab some pots/jars/tubs/bags or whatever other container you like and pop down.”

With two young children, the thought of leaving them on a planet that might not be habitable in years to come is terrifying for Emma-Louise.

“This in itself is enough for me to actively make changes and try to work at helping our local community do the same.

“When I think about the amount of plastic containers we are saving from opening our shop it’s incredible. They say one person can't make a difference, I beg to differ!

“No one is perfect, there’s not a single person living in this modern world that is completely zero waste. We just work towards it, that's what makes the difference!”


Great British Life: Inside RE:STOCK KentInside RE:STOCK Kent (Image: RE:STOCK Kent)

2020 was also the year for the opening of RE:STOCK in Folkestone, (

Emma Yelding who runs the shop and café said: “We were researching RE:STOCK before the pandemic hit, then set up an essentials delivery service, and helped refunnel food from caterers and restaurants to the people of Folkestone. That has grown slowly but surely to markets and pop-ups when we could. We opened on Guildhall Street in December 2020.”

Previously working as an event manager, Emma says: “There’s everything from washing up liquid to wine, snacks to pasta, lentils to herbs and spices, coconut washing up brushes, and plastic-free accessories to Kamboocha, coffee and vegan cake in the café. Many, many, many, things some 500 items!

“Our customers love the shop and often tell friends and neighbours; we work to build a friendly community vibe.

“The climate situation can feel overwhelming, in the next ten years, which is the most critical time, us the individual can make up for 27 per cent of the change.”

A welcome place for everyone, Emma encourages people to look at a movement created by researchers, scientists, parents, and teachers deeply concerned about climate change. Research behind personal empowerment and how small actions do and can make a huge difference, everyone is encouraged to take part.

Emma added: “There is plenty of hope, by making one small change at a time, like when your washing up liquid runs out or refilling your sunflower seed packet. Or, just come and have a coffee and a chat about small swaps.”

Great British Life: Kati Ramsden founder of Bare Bazaar in AshfordKati Ramsden founder of Bare Bazaar in Ashford (Image: Kati Ramsden)

For Kati Ramsden, an “eco-piphany around Christmas 2017” was the starting block for Bare Bazaar (

She said: “When I woke up to the sheer amount of consumerism, excess and waste, I vowed to do better for our family and started actively looking at ways to cut our waste, especially around plastic.

“I visited a refill shop in a nearby town which was a great experience but thought having to travel was possibly counter productive in terms of fuel.

“I started researching setting up my own in Ashford and market research showed people really were crying out for it.”

With a career in HR, Kati initially set up at Ashford Farmers Market in July 2018. She then worked part time and ran the business at Made in Ashford on Fridays and Saturdays.

“When I had my second baby in 2019 and returned to work in 2020, all the while I was working on my refill business part time. My contract ended in January 2021 and it was a case of now or never, I decided to make the leap to full time.”

Bare Bazaar, in Ashford’s Park Mall, stocks cleaning liquids and toiletries are available on refill as well as dry goods including pasta, rice, grains, beans, snacks, nuts, herbs and spices. There’s eco-friendly home and living products, from bar soaps to coffee cups and wooden toys, too.

Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive as customers feel the prices compare favourably to supermarkets.

“I adore my customers; I have many loyal regulars from all age groups from busy working families to retirees. Some use really old containers, filling their baby formula tins and fabric conditioner bottles that are 20 years old! Think how many plastic bottles were saved by keeping that bottle in use all that time! We sold 318L of laundry liquid last year, up to 318 individual bottles saved from entering the recycling system…reuse is always better than recycling.”

Still need encouraging? Kati has a few points to inspire.

“The beauty is you can buy as much or as little as you want, shop to a budget, or a meal plan of a specific recipe. Not sure if you're going to use mung beans again after this curry you're trying? Just buy the 200g you need, rather than a whole bag.

“Start off slow. Make it part of your routine to pop into your local refill shop with a couple of jars. Discovering new products you will feel empowered to make further changes as you go.”

Kati says it’s easy to feel helpless with news of environmental woe and escalating climate crises.

“Running the shop alleviates that feeling of helplessness for me. I am proud I have developed this business and can enable other people to make changes in their own homes to reduce waste and therefore the impact of this actions on the planet.

“We also run a community fridge which is open to everyone. Fareshare delivers surplus food weekly and members of the public can donate unwanted food and take whatever they want, too.

“There is a donation tin for those who can and want to put in some pennies to contribute to the ongoing costs. The aim is to foster community spirit and to prevent good food going to waste. We only started the scheme at the beginning of December, but we've already redistributed 146kg of food.”

Great British Life: The Refillable Van travels around south east Kent The Refillable Van travels around south east Kent (Image: Sue Bates)

Sue Bates has taken eco refill to an even more accessible level with The Refillable Van (

When it visited the village where she lives, Sue was simply a customer but thought it was a fantastic initiative.

She said: “Like many, I became more environmentally aware and frustrated with the sheer volume of plastic I was forced to bring home with my weekly shop.

“I wanted to do something but wasn’t sure what I could do beyond reducing my own plastic consumption.

“Then the van visited and I recall commenting they were living my dream, little realising my dream would become a reality not so many months later!”

Sue took on the van in September 2021 and travels across south east Kent as well as at farmers/artisan markets in Sellindge, Lyminge, Bridge, Deal, Sandwich, Whitstable and Herne Bay. Aiming to grow the business she feels there’s lots of educating still to be done.

“For this reason I currently still work part time for a local charity supporting adults with learning disabilities and am fortunate to follow two passions in my life.”

The Refillable Van has a range of zero waste, environmentally and vegan friendly products including household cleaning, self-care products as well as dry foods. In addition, a range of plastic-free household, cleaning and self-care ‘swaps’ enable people to replace their plastic items with sustainable alternatives.

The product range has surprised customers and Sue supports local products produced or supplied by Kent businesses where possible.

Sue added: “Making a difference doesn’t have to mean changing everything we do overnight. Switching to refilling is an easy first step to reducing individual consumption of single use plastic.

“Every bottle refilled is a bottle saved from landfill or recycling. It is easy to believe from the messages we have been given over the last decade or so that recycling is the answer. However, people don’t think about the process of recycling and its environmental impact in terms of energy. We have also not yet reached the point of all plastic being recyclable, and even that which is, can only be recycled a certain number of times before it ultimately ends up as waste, degrading into the earth and sea.

“When I see someone appear at the back of the van with empty bottles and boxes to fill, my heart does a happy little dance… its another piece of plastic not in landfill, leaching its micro-plastics into the planet.

“We can all do something to help reduce the plastic problem, even if it’s a pledge to regularly refill one bottle of something or switch one plastic item to a compostable version.”


Kent has many Fairtrade suppliers, including The St Andrews Fair Trade Shop ( in Paddock Wood.

Started in 1976, more than 30 volunteers help to ensure stock is from Fairtrade origins and any profits made are donated back to charitable endeavours both at home and in some of the world’s poorest areas.

Several suppliers are available, and it stocks more than 70 food and cleaning products and hundreds of craft products. Also stocked are Zaytoun products (olive oil, Za’atar, dates and almonds), Meru Herb sauces, as well as Divine and Cocoa Loco Chocolate, Cafedirect coffee, Traidcraft tea and much more.

Good And Green ( opened its second, flagship store in Tunbridge Wells in 2021. Offering a vast range of organic, gluten-free and specialist health foods as well as supplements, there’s all you need to help live a more natural and sustainable way of life.

Popular brands, including MooGoo, &Sisters, The Raw Chocolate Company and Clearspring have a good range of products on offer, all of which can be bought online.