Zero-waste Comes to Cardiff: A Chat With Ripple Founder Sophie Rae

Be part of #therippleeffect. Photo via Ripple
By Nadine Pinnock

Zero-waste is an environmentally conscious way of living that’s becoming increasingly popular, to combat the over production of plastic that continues to pollute our planet and our oceans. A zero-waste shop typically offers an easy solution to the excessive plastic packaging found in supermarkets, by selling bulk wholefoods by weight, so you can bring your own containers to reuse again and again. Unfortunately, you can’t currently find a zero-waste shop in Cardiff, but Ripple is going to change that.

Ripple is a zero-waste, not-for-profit shop that aims to open its doors in Cardiff this year. At the moment, a Kickstarter campaign is underway, raising the money needed to make Ripple a reality. You can check out the Kickstarter page here, and find out more about what’s in store.

Quench decided to chat with Sophie Rae, Ripple’s founder, to find out exactly how the idea of Ripple came to be, and what we can do to bring it to life. 

Sophie Rae, founder. Photo via Ripple

Hi Sophie! Please can you tell us a bit about who you are and what gave you the idea for Ripple?

My name is Sophie Rae, I was born and bred in Cardiff in 1988 and lived here until I went to University in 2007. Then I kind of wandered away from Cardiff, I didn’t think it had what I needed for my creative life and I ended up in London like so many people do. I was in magazine publishing as a Deputy Editor and my last magazine was Veggie Magazine – when I was working on that it just opened my eyes to how many amazing people there were doing amazing things for sustainability. I was hearing from people who were making the most incredible natural beauty products and finding really sustainable alternatives to some of the big mass produced materials we were using, such as plastic. So I came back from London and Colchester in February this year and in the time I had been away I’d seen a real rise in these zero-waste shops that were popping up all over the place in London. When I came back, I naively thought that Cardiff would already have one – I know that Bristol has 3, Wales already has one in Crickhowell – and I was really shocked that the capital city didn’t have one. So I did what I’ve always done, which is if I couldn’t find it, I’ve created it, and that’s really where we are with Ripple!

My time away really built the sustainable foundations for me to be able to do this, I’ve been in touch with a lot of sustainable brands in the last two years I’ve made some terrific contacts within that industry. I really wanted other people to feel that excitement, that when they heard about a product they would never look back and never need to use something as mass produced or destructive as plastic when they found out there were some incredible other sustainable alternatives. So that’s really where Ripple came from, I’ve been trying to live a zero-waste life for the last few years. I’m certainly not perfect! I’m not encouraging anybody else to be either. But what I want people to know is that really small changes do have the greatest of impacts if we all can make them together.


The term “zero-waste” can seem intimidating – what does it mean to you?

I completely agree actually, back in 2017 when zero-waste started to become part of my vocabulary, it was intimidating. It made me think of a great big bunch of hippies out in the woods wiping their bum with leaves and living off their own land, not having much connection with society. And that’s not what I’m about with Ripple! I don’t want people to think you have to completely rid your home of plastic, it’s not achievable for so many people. It’s certainly not achievable for me and my husband and I can only imagine that if you’re a family with children it becomes harder. So really what zero-waste means to me now is being a conscious consumer and looking at ways that you can reduce your waste. If you don’t want to think of it as zero-waste, think of it as low-impact. ‘How can I reduce the impact that I have as I live day-by-day?’. That’s really what I want Ripple to be, a place of non-judgement, we’re zero-waste but I’ve said before we are zero-tolerance to hate or prejudice. There is never going to be judgement from me, if you can make one small change, and that’s as much as you can do for the next few years, that is going to have a tremendous impact on our environment. And locally, it will have an impact on Cardiff, I’ve seen the impact that litter is having on the city, it’s really sad. We live quite close to lots of parks, we’re on the Taff Trail, roads and lakes they’re littered – let alone the coastline. Small changes, that’s what zero-waste means to me, it means being a conscious consumer and taking the time to be aware of your buying power. Every time you eat a meal or share your money with a company you’re expressing what values you stand for.

Photo by Fatima Teixeira on Unsplash

As you mention on the Kickstarter page, one ripple can create waves. What positive impact can you see Ripple creating within Cardiff?

So much – it’s hard to put into words! The impact right now blows my mind because the fact that there’s not something like this already really made me question if people were going to be on board. But the reason we are doing a Kickstarter is because the community were so eager to collaborate and help. They were so passionate about the project when I launched online in May, they asked how they can be a part of it. That’s why we’ve gone not-for-profit, it’s completely down to the community who want this project. I might be the one man in the ship but it’s all of the community who are going to make this happen. The impact it will have on Cardiff is extraordinary because at the moment there is no one place that you can go to try and reduce your plastic footprint. So at the moment, I myself have to go to a few different places, I have to go to a greengrocer to buy non-packed fresh food and then maybe a butchers or a fishmonger – it’s so difficult and time-consuming when you can’t go to one place. Also there’s not very much education at the moment as a community where you can just ask ‘how can I make these small changes?’. That’s what Ripple will be.

It really does need to come from the community though, because a shop can come and go very quickly if the community aren’t behind it. The impact it will have on Cardiff will be to help push it to become the true green city that it should be. It’s the capital city of Wales and it has big, big power. It has power to affect change and that one small Ripple to create the wave can start with a mum of four who is busy and not too sure they have enough time, but also the CEO of a big company. Cardiff has a lot of fantastic businesses, a lot of independents. I’m hoping that positive impact can be felt far and wide.


How accessible (*cough* affordable *cough*) will Ripple will be for Cardiff’s student population? 

 This is something that’s so important to me. I myself am living on a very tight budget at the moment as I try and take off this new business idea. There seems to be a little bit of a misconception that being zero-waste is linked to going organic, being vegan, which it isn’t. I myself am vegetarian but I hold no prejudice against anybody and how they want to eat. Again it’s going back to that consciousness, you can consume as you wish as long as you are doing it consciously. So I want to make sure that Ripple is completely affordable. It has to be a cost-effective way to shop. And, accidentally, it is a cost effective way to shop because packing actually accounts for a fifth of the value of your weekly shop if you were to shop in a supermarket. You’re paying extra for the packing that they’re putting your product in. So when you come to ripple and you bring your own containers what you’re doing is only paying for the weight of your product and not any of the packaging. So it really is going to be a budget-friendly way to shop.

I certainly can’t afford organic food, I’m not even sure I would say I want to. It feels like I need to create a way to shop that is accessible to absolutely every budget in the city. I was recently at a sustainable food summit in Cardiff and Fair Food Cardiff helped us understand that there are some terrible statistics in Cardiff down to the divide and the life expectancy of those who have access to good healthy food and those who don’t – it’s staggering. I certainly don’t want to contribute to that, I really want to help that instead and shorten that gap. I think healthy food should be available to all, and it also becomes accidentally healthy to shop zero waste. You’re naturally buying things from scratch which means you’re probably cooking with whole foods and not peppering your body with additives – you’re cooking from the ground up. So, yes, to always keeping our product and stock as low as possible and making it as budget friendly as possible. It also ties in with where I’m looking for location at the moment with Ripple, I’m very keen to getting into highly student populated areas. I’m certainly looking around Cardiff and trying to make that a priority.


You’ll be selling a huge range of environmentally-friendly products from 120 bulk wholefoods to cruelty-free beauty and ethical fashion. What product – if any – are you most excited about?

Oh, my gosh, I have so many! The biggest thing for me right now is, I’ve been eating like this now for quite a long time, cooking from scratch. So even though the food excites me, I’m probably so in the bubble I forget how exciting it is to shop with a gravity container. It’s a very fun and interactive way to shop – it’s kind of like going to a sweet shop when you were younger. You bring in your own jar, go to the scale and weigh it empty. And then you go around and pull the lever and put as much food as you can into your container, then go back and weight it again. So it’s a really fun and interactive way to shop and I’m sure children will love it – I hope they do anyway! I’m just excited to see people interacting with this way of shopping.

But in terms of product… I’m very excited about all the natural beauty at the moment. I am a real advocate for beauty products that really help nourish your body just as you want your food to. We’re very fortunate that we take so much time to care about what food goes into our bodies but we’re not very good at thinking what we put on our skin. It’s the biggest organ altogether and it actually absorbs into the body so much quicker than any food could, so I advocate body products that are free from parabens and SLS, and completely cruelty-free. And accidentally, lots of the stock that’s going to be in Ripple is going to be made in Wales. That happened by accident, I thought I would keep everything made in the U.K. and champion British produce but there are so many amazing people who are creating wonderful things in Wales and I’m really going to champion them and be a stockist for some people who might not even have been on the map yet.


How can Quench readers help bring Ripple to life?

Please, please, please take the time to watch the video I’ve made [viewable on the Kickstarter campaign], it’s about four minutes of your time but it says everything I wanted to say about what Ripple is and the mission I want it to do. The pledging – I understand that for a student on a budget pledging might not be an option – but I really need people to use their biggest power of all, and that is the power of their voice. And if that means starting tricky conversations with friends, I understand peer pressure is hard, I’ve been there myself. What I need people to do is ask questions. Ask questions about what the norm is. Ask people do they understand why something like Ripple is needed. Do they understand the environmental impact that our over consumption is doing to our locality, but also to us as a nation, and globally. Most of us probably watched Blue Planet and Blue Planet II – David Attenborough would ask you to support Ripple, I’m sure he would!

So, readers, if you can share, if you can like and promote our page, if you can pledge that would be amazing! I’ve worked really hard to get the most incredible rewards from lots of local brands and businesses in Wales. So actually you’re supporting two people with one stone: you’re supporting us so we can launch, but you’re also supporting another small business to promote themselves and their value and craft. So please promote, pledge, and fingers crossed we hit that target on Sunday night! And if we do, I can’t wait to see you all in the shop. 

Start keeping your jars and containers ready for Ripple! Photo by Jess Watters on Unsplash

 To learn more about Ripple and pledge, click here.

Follow @ripple_living on Instagram / Twitter