A local grocery store with a heart and a mission
Imagine a world where humans are at ultimate peace with one another and with nature. A world where sustainable, cognitive action takes on a newfound importance in people’s everyday lives. A world where organic, locally grown plant-based food is accessible to everyone.
Reimagine Co., a London based package-free grocery store and refillery, is working towards achieving each of these things through community level education.
“To really change the world and to create a more beautiful world, we don’t need to have one or two people—or even one or two million people—doing zero waste perfectly. We need everyone doing zero waste imperfectly.”
The shop, which originally launched in December of 2020, offers visitors a wide array of toiletry items, kitchen and cleaning supplies, self-care products, along with its fresh food and beverages. Shoppers are advised to bring their own reusable containers including jars for bulk items like almonds and shampoo, mesh bags for produce and hard-shell reusable containers for frozen items and baked goods.
With a focus on community, Reimagine Co. teaches Londoners to reduce their waste through several programs and activities including its Zero Waste Workshops, each tailored for particular audiences including college and university students as well as other businesses and not-for-profits run in the surrounding area.
“Fundamentally for me, it’s about bringing awareness to your consumption and your habits and the way you live your life,” said co-founder of Reimagine Co., Heenal Rajani. “To really change the world and to create a more beautiful world, we don’t need to have one or two people—or even one or two million people—doing zero waste perfectly. We need everyone doing zero waste imperfectly.”
Living a completely zero-waste lifestyle is simply not possible in the world we live in. Rajani advocates for individuals to take the steps towards a more environmentally friendly life in moderation and with thoughtfulness, as opposed to an extremist method that is often unattainable. Simply having a recognition of what you consume and use is a beneficial habit within itself.
“Start with one thing—one area of your life where you can make a change—and make a game out of it,” Rajani said. “And the best thing that often helps with that is to find a buddy to do it with.”
Whether it’s a partner, a friend, a family member or a colleague, joining forces with someone throughout the journey that is creating a zero-waste lifestyle enables an extra layer of support. For Rajani, that person has been his wife, Kara.
Born and raised in England, Rajani has worked on four different continents before he moved with Kara full-time to Canada in 2017. They met five years prior on a green building project in Guatemala, where the two worked with a non-profit to help local communities build schools out of discarded plastic bottles and other kinds of inorganic waste.
Rajani described the move to Canada and seeing the amount of waste that was generated each week and forgotten about as “reverse culture shock”. His vastly differing approach to life in Guatemala and plentiful worldly experience encouraged Rajani to read up on minimalism and eventually transition to a package-free lifestyle.
But the transition wasn’t quite so smooth. Him and Kara soon realized London offered few options for people looking to refill their shampoo bottles or find good quality reusable containers. “We realized, what if there is a way to connect with more people who are into this?”
Through the London Environment Network, of which Rajani is now a Board member, the couple was able to facilitate effective discussion about their concerns. The network provided them the opportunity to host local workshops, which garnered popularity quite quickly.
Their experience in workshopping inspired the idea for a three-month sustainable grocery store pop-up, what is now known as Reimagine Co., open permanently on Piccadilly Street, Monday through Sunday.
But as with most small businesses, the COVID-19 pandemic took a toll on Reimagine Co.
“No one’s going out [of] their house, especially to a new grocery store in a place where people are not used to seeing one,” Rajani said.
Although difficult, Rajani doesn’t see the events of the past year in a completely negative light— rather, he sees them as an opportunity. For him, the radical changes that were made across the economy, our ways of working and our home lives, all demonstrate the resilience and adaptability of humankind.
“Things that maybe seem[ed] difficult in the past, like to imagine a circular economy or to imagine if every grocery store was package-free— that doesn’t seem so far-fetched.”
Judging by their nearly 13,000 Instagram followers and overwhelmingly positive reviews, Reimagine Co. has certainly made its mark on the people of London. Since having this supportive community is of utmost importance to Rajani, he would like the business to shift towards a more community-run model.
Through educational components including the continuation of their Repair Cafe’s, a monthly event where volunteers fix household items to be reused rather than disposed of in a landfill, as well as their consultations with organizations to encourage greener festivals and events, Reimagine Co. plans to serve the community and further build on its local success. In fact, when the future permits, Rajani speaks of doing on-campus pop-ups to enlighten students about the business and the importance of managing one’s regular waste.
“I think it’s really just trying to go with the flow, seeing what the community needs and what seems most appropriate at the time,” he said.
And just like humankind, Reimagine Co. has adapted too.
For shoppers who aren’t comfortable visiting in-store or would rather have the efficiency of delivery, Reimagine Co. offers curbside pickup along with a free shipping service for orders of $40 and over in London.
Reimagine Co. will also be launching their new website in the coming months that will enable all grocery items to be available online.
“We’re doing more deliveries and looking at different ways of serving customers,” Rajani said. “Now that we’re not doing so many in-person workshops, we’re trying to have more digital offerings that can support people through their journey.”
In terms of a post-pandemic world, Rajani is humble yet enthusiastic. With plans to create a community-hub cafe in the shop as well as renovate it to create an events space, Reimagine Co. is ready to tackle what the future holds.
“We don’t have plans for world domination or anything like that,” he said. “We want to support the community and do it in a good way.”
You can visit Reimagine Co. in-store at 206 Piccadilly Street or shop online at reimagineco.ca.