Local high streets are changing. How we shop is changing.

If Glasgow is to contribute to the transformation needed to ensure a sustainable planet for the future, the city has to change.

Which means the people, living in the city have to change.

How we have lived out lives for the last 30 or 40 years can’t continue. We have been using far too much resources and in the process creating far too much waste both from creating the energy we use to the products we consume.

The generation of the late 20th century, early 21st century has taken far more of its share of the earth’s natural resource than it should.

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Often it is seen as an issue for others to sort, for governments and big corporations that are remote to people, communities and our daily lives. The sort of people who will be coming to Glasgow later this year for the United Nations conference of the Parties or COP 26 as it is known.

But the battle over climate change can and has to be won in communities and by the people. It is us who use the resources.

It is us who heat our homes, choose which mode of transport to travel on and how and where we shop for food and household products.

There have been two developments this week of models of shopping that are very different to how we, as a society, currently shop.

One is big tech, big business, data driven shopping that moves us towards a cashless society.

Amazon launched its first amazon fresh store in the UK. It is a hi-tech, super surveillance, shop where you go in, with an app on your phone, pick your products and leave. There are no tills, or check out staff, and cameras, sensors and scanners are everywhere to detect what you have taken from the shelves calculates your bill and instantly takes it from your bank account.

If it takes off, there would be amazon fresh stores all over the place the way there currently are Tesco Metro and Sainsbury’s Local.

Glasgow Times:

Given the tech giant’s domination of the other markets it has moved into you wouldn’t bet against it. If it takes off it will force the big supermarkets to follow suit, investing more money in technology that makes the self-check-out seem Victorian in comparison and which hoovers up more data about you as you go.

The stores will be selling the same goods we already buy, the big difference is you don’t wait at a check out to pay for your purchases.

The selling point is customer convenience; quicker, slicker, smother shopping.

The money goes to the same places as before, big brand corporations, the packaging industry and global capital only this time amazon takes a chunk of it.

The first store, in London is a big step into the physical high street world of retail that could chance how people shop.  

Another development is from the small-scale sustainability supermarket, Locavore, which is looking to expand from its two Glasgow stores to more accessible neighbourhood shops.

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Its model is locally sourced or organic and fairtrade food, and greatly reduced packaging waste. 

The founders are looking to raise £3 million from loans and crowdfunders to open more shops in areas where people want them and create another 90 jobs.

They said it is shops that will pay above the Living Wage and promote local suppliers and producers and where goods come from further afield, in a sustainable, fair-traded way.

The selling point is sustainability and ethically sourced essentials.

Glasgow Times:
There are other independent ventures trying to operate a similar model, trying to promote greater consumption of local produce and reducing the need for packaging waste.

They are all up against it as it costs more to shop this way. They don’t have the buying power of the big chains or the negotiating weight that drives down the price paid to suppliers to the lowest possible, nor do they want to as that would defeat one of the objectives.

It is the choices we all make that will determine whether we are able to effectively deal with the climate emergency engulfing the world.

In the near future there could be high streets with the super hi-tech stores from the market disrupters, like amazon, dictating how we shop.

Or a different type of disrupter could grow. One that challenges the manufacturing, distribution and retailing of groceries, helping create sustainable local neighbourhoods that you can walk or cycle around and get what you need.

One difference for the shopper between the two models mentioned is the perception of convenience.

Does it seem to be easier to walk and out of a cashless, staff light store with technology whizzing around in hyperspace around doing all the heavy lifting than it does to pick your own unpackaged veg from the shelve and take your own container back to refill?

Quite possibly, but then again, we have been sliding conveniently, ever deeper, into a world where we are devouring natural resources at a rate that is having a catastrophic impact on our environment that is threatening its very existence.

It is our choice.