As we’re becoming more aware of the severity of the climate change crisis, sustainable shopping is becoming something more and more people are incorporating into their day-to-day lives. When it comes to sustainable shopping, some UK cities are doing better than others at moving away from shops that sell only fast-fashion and mass-produced commodities towards stores that are more mindful of the environment, reducing waste and selling products designed to last.
SARRU Home has collected over 250 data points to calculate which UK city has the most and least sustainable shopping district, offering the best selection of vintage and charity shops, zero-waste shops, local produce and more.
Bath - The Best UK City for Sustainable Shopping
Taking all factors into account, Bath came out as the UK’s most sustainable city for shopping. Out of all the 23 cities included in the study, Bath offers the biggest variety of sustainable shops across all areas of shopping (clothing, furniture, food, entertainment, zero-waste & charity shops and cars & bikes). If you're hoping to make your shopping habits more sustainable and environmentally-friendly, Bath is the place for you.
For Bath to win, the city needed to score well across all areas; Bath scored highly across all categories but performed especially well for having the highest number of sustainable clothing, furniture, low-waste food shops, and zero waste & charity shops per 100,000 people.
Cambridge also performed really well in the study - it is the second-best city in the UK for sustainable shopping and has the highest number of sustainable shops per 100,000 people out of all UK cities, with 254 sustainable shops per 100,000 people. The city performed especially well in the transport category for having the highest number of second-hand car and bike shops with 100 shops per 100,000 people.
London - The Worst UK City for Sustainable Shopping
Notably, London came last in the overall results, as the UK's worst city for sustainable shopping. The capital city performed poorly across most categories and came last in 5 of the areas of shopping that we looked at (clothing, furniture, food, entertainment, and transport). London also has the fewest number of sustainable shops per 100,000 people in the whole of the UK, with just 21 sustainable shops per 100,000 people.
North VS. South - Which Region is Best for Sustainable Shopping?
The results of the study showed that the North of England is better for sustainable shopping - it beat the South of England in all categories except one (second-hand cars and bikes) which it drew with the South for. In the North of England, Nottingham is the most sustainable city for sustainable shopping. Nottingham came 4th in the overall results. It also tied for first place for the most sustainable entertainment shops and came in second place for the most zero-waste & charity shops. In total, Nottingham has 196 sustainable shops across the city per 100,000 people.
However, the top three cities in the study are in the South of England (1. Bath, 2. Cambridge, 3. Bristol). So if you do live in the South of England, these are the cities to head to for your next shopping trip.
London - The UK's Fast Fashion Capital
Clothing is one of the biggest contributors to landfill, which is why we felt it important to include in the study. In this area, Bath came out on top, with 29 sustainable clothing shops per 100,000 people. Shockingly, London is the UK’s least sustainable city for clothes shopping, with just 4 sustainable clothing shops per 100,000 people. On average, UK cities have 15 sustainable clothing shops per 100,000 people, so this result is almost 4 times lower than average.
Best & Worst Cities to Shop for Sustainable Clothing
Best & Worst Cities to Shop for Sustainable Furniture
Best & Worst Cities to Shop for Low-Waste Food Products
Best & Worst Cities to Shop for Sustainable Entertainment
Best & Worst Cities for Zero Waste & Charity Shops
Best & Worst Cities for Second-Hand Car & Bike Shops
Ask the Experts:
To get more of an insight into why shopping sustainably is so important, we spoke to some experts in sustainable shopping to find out why we need more sustainable options on the high street.
Madeline Petrow, Founder of MAMOQ (online marketplace for sustainable clothing, accessories and lifestyle items):
In order to see true sustainable transformation, across any sector, it’s important we tackle it from all angles. While it’s ultimately brands who are responsible for the change, we as consumers can drive a market transformation with our buying decisions. We need to vote with our wallets, and buy from brands that share our values and vision for the future. The more we vote with our wallets, the more companies will be incentivised to meet this growing market demand for higher ethics and sustainability and we’ll see continued progress.
Ideally living a sustainable lifestyle should to be accessible for everyone, but in reality, it can be extremely difficult to locate great sustainable options. We believe it should be easy and convenient to support brands that share your values for a cleaner future. Right now you can find a lot of great sustainable alternatives online, but we would love to see a world where this was also reflected on the high street and “sustainable shops” are just “shops”, because sustainability has become the norm.
To determine which UK city has the most sustainable shopping district, we considered the 6 main areas of shopping: clothing, furniture, food, electronics & entertainment, zero-waste & charity shops, and cars & bikes. We added up the number of shops each city had in each of these areas and calculated the number per 100,000 people to give us a whole number relative to the size of the city.
To assess the cities based on their performance across all areas, instead of just an overall number of shops, we created a points system that would take into account each city’s performance across all 6 areas in the final result.
To create this points system, we looked at 12 categories of shops in total (as listed below). In each of the 12 sections, we collected the number of shops per capita for each city and used these figures to rank the cities from 1-23 (highest to lowest result). Each city’s place was converted into a number of points (between 1 and 23) which were then added up across the 12 categories to calculate an overall result. You can view the raw dataset here.
(Each city was awarded between 1-23 points across each of the 12 categories below:)
1. Number of vintage & second-hand clothing shops
2. Number of shoe repair shops
3. Number of seamstresses
4. Number of second-hand furniture shops
5. Number of local carpenters and joiners
6. Number of farm shops
Electronics & entertainment
7. Number of second-hand book shops
8. Number of mobile phone repair shops
Zero waste & charity shops
9. Number of charity shops
10. Number of zero-waste shops
Cars & bikes
11. Number of second-hand car shops
12. Number of second-hand bike shops
zerowastenearme.me, yell.com, yelp.co.uk, wikipedia.org