Last Saturday, a woman enjoyed browsing in the shop while I played with Playmobil on the floor with her four year old son. Having made her purchases, she remarked 'I love it here. I'm so glad I found you. What you're doing is ahead of the curve, you know. I haven't been anywhere like this before.'
Her feedback set me thinking. You see, Green Heart Collective does not easily fit into a box: it's not a charity shop or a vintage store. It's different. There aren't many people out there doing what we're doing. And so yes, people don't know what to expect when they visit and they don't know what they're missing when they don't!
Other stores have some of the elements of what makes Green Heart Collective so special, but we've yet to find somewhere else that has it all (please get in touch if you know of that place as we'd love to connect with them). Here are ten reasons why Green Heart Collective is (probably) unique.
1. Green Heart Collective is not modelled on anything else that is out there
It's crazy, right? When Green Heart Collective moved into its premises in January 2021, there was no fixed plan. There was a clear objective: reduce waste to landfill. We simply followed where that led. We developed our own website and started selling on eBay, Depop, Vinted and Marketplace. We developed a concept store in our premises of curated collections that offered the customer the opportunity to discover the joy of buying preloved. We developed an online presence on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter that shines a light on sustainability, fast fashion, climate emergency, innovative upcycling and recycling ideas and much more.
As we are constantly evolving, we never look to anyone else for direction; we never follow the market or latest trends. We do what we do because we believe it is the right path for us. We cannot be sure of where what we are building, but we enjoy wrestling with the questions rather than holding out for the answers.
2. Green Heart Collective is a certified social enterprise
Most shops that sell a similar range to us are charity shops. They exist to raise money for a particular charity. Green Heart Collective is not a charity shop. It's a social enterprise certified by Social Enterprise UK which on its website describes social enterprises as "businesses that are changing the world for the better."
As a social enterprise, Green Heart Collective is legally obliged by its articles of association to restrict how much profit can be paid as dividends (currently set at 50%) and to have a “lock” on the business assets so that they can only be passed on to a like-minded organisation if Green Heart Collective were to cease trading. Read our blog WE’VE BEEN CERTIFIED – AND IT’S A GOOD THING to find out more.
Being a social enterprise really matters to us here at Green Heart Collective. We are here to bring about positive change.
3. There is no hierarchy at Green Heart Collective
Here at Green Heart Collective, all employees are paid at the same hourly rate which will always match the current Living Wage or beyond. If one person gets a pay rise, everyone gets a pay rise.
We hold weekly team meetings where everyone has the opportunity to be heard. As a small organisation, we all step up into various roles where required and undertake a variety of different roles.
OUR VALUES underpin all that we do: all the decisions we make, every interaction we have, every action we take. These shared values of Respect, Compassion, Integrity and Courage are the foundation we build Green Heart Collective upon.
4. Green Heart Collective is independent and transparent
Here at Green Heart Collective, we don't have anything to hide. We have no secret owners, have accepted no funding or grants, have not taken out any loans. Not that these are bad things in themselves, of course, but Green Heart Collective benefits from being completely independent.
We value integrity and transparency and created SOCIAL ACCOUNTS 2021 for our customers to see exactly what we have been up to.
5. Green Heart Collective only uses re-used packaging
We have never bought any packaging for any items, other than parcel tape. Here at Green Heart Collective, we rely on donations of boxes, envelopes and plastic packaging to send out all our orders in, as well as bubble wrap, brown packaging paper etc.
We cut larger boxes to send out yoga mats and bolsters, even to make shoe boxes when we ran out of those!
6. Green Heart Collective aims to buy nothing new
The aim here at Green Heart Collective is to buy nothing new as far as this is possible. So many of our desks, desk chairs, display stands and bookcases etc have been donated or bought secondhand on Marketplace. The same with our tech - where possible, we have bought secondhand items on eBay. Racking shelves have been bought new for Health and Safety reasons.
Nearly all the items that we sell in the shop have been donated and we occasionally top up our ranges with items bought in charity shops. The only new items we have bought have been food, drink and refill household products from Suma, an ethical wholesale wholefoods co-operative.
7. Green Heart Collective exists to bring about lifestyle change
Here at Green Heart Collective, we take the climate emergency seriously. Climate anxiety does keep us awake at night, but we find that doing something, however small, can bring the light of hope into the darkest corners of despair.
Systemic change has to happen on a national and global scale, but there are things we can do as individuals and in community that can make a difference - the main three being eat less meat, fly less and buy nothing new. There has to be a shift away from fast fashion and over-consumption.
We aim to make buying preloved a pleasurable experience by curating our displays and online collections, so that there is something for everyone. We are welcoming and take time to connect with our customers, face to face and on social media platforms. We shine a light on other small businesses who share our values. We share articles and news from around the world and write informative blogs about how to create a more sustainable world going forwards.
8. Green Heart Collective throws as little away as possible
Throwing something in the bin or taking it to the tip is very much a last resort here at Green Heart Collective. Any items in good condition that we cannot sell here, we take to other local charities, schools and community groups.
We keep damaged items of clothing and use the fabric for upcycling projects. Anything we cannot use, we put in rag bags for a local charity. We've slimmed down the range of items that we do take in line with what we are able to move on and you can access that list here.
9. Green Heart Collective has an innovative donations scheme
Green Heart Collective needs donations of good quality clothing, books and ornaments and aims to encourage customers to bring in donations by giving them a £5 voucher to spend in store when they do. This scheme aims to create a sustainable circular relationship between the collective and the individual.
Building relationships matters to us: for this vision to work for us all, we need you all: your donations, for you to buy things and for you to bring in packaging.
10. Green Heart Collective is looking to work collaboratively with local community groups and businesses
Green Heart Collective has a vision for connecting with community groups to work on exploring what regenerative culture would look like in Gateshead.
We're not interested in rivalry or competition but in shared vision and collaboration. The current climate (financial, political and actual climate) we find ourselves in is far from easy and this is likely to get worse rather than better. We have to face the reality of living together on a finite planet where resources are running out and parts of the world are already becoming uninhabitable.
Collectively we will ask the questions; collectively, we will seek the answers.
Green Heart Collective will be constantly evolving because the world we live in is ever-changing. We seek to find a new way of being in the world, a new way for a business to thrive in the world, a new way for our local and online community to develop in the world.
Every day is uncharted territory. We learn to be comfortable with uncertainty and give our all to Green Heart Collective, wherever the path may lead.
So that is Green Heart Collective.
We haven't heard of anywhere like it, have you? We'd love to hear from you if you have.