Written by Joanne Barrett
... in areas such as women’s suffrage and gay rights, world sporting events, climbing and conquering Mount Everest and making political and environmental stands for being nuclear free. The list goes on.
We are a small country, so is it some of that pioneering spirit perhaps, or because we are located ‘down under’, that gives us the determination to reach out further than others to make our mark and achieve big on the world stage?
Whatever it is, there are visionary people in our communities who continue to do extraordinary things that make the difference. One such person is Ponsonby local and owner of GoodFor Wholefoods Refillery James Denton.
Denton is making bold and definitive steps towards a sustainable and lasting change, and his ambition is for Aotearoa New Zealand to take up the challenge to be the country that leads the way towards plastic-free, waste-free living.
This comes at a time when the dire state of our oceans, polluted with plastic and packaging waste, is under the full spotlight of worldwide attention. And at no time in the past has there been more visible evidence of the devastating effect this waste pollution has on marine life and the planet as a whole.
The message is very clear. We must get on with eliminating plastic and non-decomposable packaging. If we don’t, a global environmental catastrophe is imminent.
I spoke with Denton to see what inspired him to create GoodFor, what it meant as a brand, and where he was taking it in the future.
“I wanted to create a business that would actually have a positive impact on the world, and not just be another ‘green wash’.""For some time, I mulled over ideas and eventually a concept for GoodFor developed into something that was super appealing to me. The idea was to allow consumers to make a sustainable change in the way they shop and ultimately sort out our plastic waste issue. We obviously have a very long way to go until everyone has access to a GoodFor store, but we will get there,” he says.
The impact plastic and packaging waste has on the environment has become top-of-mind, and while steps are being made towards reducing the use of plastic bags, the question must be: is it too little, too late?
Denton says from his perspective he see that “big business runs the world and unfortunately because everyone has had their eyes closed for so long, we do have a catastrophic plastic use issue that isn't going away and will continue to get more out of control for decades to come. Only now are we beginning to see there could be a positive future ahead if we act without delay. Anything is possible.”
GoodFor’s food products are not packaged and you won’t find a plastic bag in sight. The idea is to bring your own reusable container or, alternatively, brown paper bags are available for the dry foods. You will need to bring your own containers or purchase glass bottles from GoodFor for the liquids that are on tap. Liquids include the entire Ecostore product range and pantry staples such as oils, syrups and vinegars.
If you buy online, the dry food orders are packed in brown paper bags and sealed with paper tape. However, liquids cannot be bought online as it would require them to be shipped in containers and this defeats the purpose of what GoodFor are trying to do… reduce waste!
Eighty-five percent of the GoodFor offering is certified organic, and where possible local produce is sourced and stocked. “It is evident from the sales data we collect that our customers like to buy local produce,” says Denton. “It is an exciting prospect that the majority of GoodFor products will continue to be locally sourced in the future.”
For now, its range of food products includes a variety of beans and pulses, a choice of dried fruits and around 37 different baking ingredients including flours, sugars, salts, cacao, coconut, almonds, and more. There is coffee and tea, cereals, grains, and delicious, organic confectionery. Some of the flavours include goji berry dark chocolate and almond dark or milk chocolate. Go to www.goodfor.co.nz to see the full range.
GoodFor is building its non-food offering. It has a selection of zero-waste wooden and stainless steel homeware products and, in addition to the Ecostore range, it has other personal hygiene and household cleaning products on tap. There is a collection of branded GoodFor reusable bags and containers being developed now which will be available within the next two months.
As the name suggests, the values behind GoodFor are exactly that. Denton wants to do business that is genuinely good for people and planet earth and he sacrifices the bottom line to do the right thing, every time. The underlying philosophy is sustainability. And sustainability is good for everything and everyone.
“Names are funny things,” Denton comments. “They are really difficult to come up with and when you get a good one, there is a chance it is taken or trade marked! GoodFor was the brain-child of my older brother, Greg. I’m extremely excited about the name as it encapsulates our values as well as the brand philosophy, and it didn't scream out ‘organics’ or ‘environment’, which was great as we are not here to preach, we are just here to do."
An amazing group of people make up the GoodFor team. Denton’s other brother, Paul, has been with him from the start and is the company general manager. Denton says, “We wouldn't be here without him. Paul is system and detail focused which I am in serious need of. Our store managers, Tori and Frances, are super-cool young ladies who are pivotal in the success of each store. Then we have my partner, Georgie, who takes care of digital marketing and Amanda runs our accounts. We have eight part-time staff, and we hope to have some full-time staff members in the future.”
To launch the first GoodFor store, Denton knew location would be important. The decision was to position it in a high-profile area. The building on the corner of Ponsonby Road and Williamson Avenue is highly visible and the idea of being around other food-based businesses seemed a logical step. GoodFor opened on 5 March 2017 and almost 18 months on, Denton confirms the location was a great choice.
GoodFor recently opened in Parnell as the home base from which they distribute their online orders and where they hold bulk stock. There is also a retail store in Parnell located in the car park beside La Cigale, the French market and, although it is a little off the beaten track, it is a hidden gem and worth visiting.
Denton says, “We have three more stores that will open in the next six months, and if these work, we will look to open more in 2019. Then we will begin broadening our horizon to international markets as we think we have something very special in terms of our brand and offering.
“We understand the importance of continual improvement and innovation.""It is crucial we listen to the market, to adapt to what is needed to stay current and be the best in the market. Obviously, our values of zero waste and anti-packaging will never change, but we feel we have only scratched the surface in terms of the quality of our offering.”
Getting the word out there is a big focus for Denton and he believes that education and changing mindsets are key areas to be worked on. Just as wearing a seat belt or driving sober has become the norm so, too, will using alternatives to plastic and packaging, where living waste free becomes just what we do, and the next generation grows up in a waste-free world.
“To propel this, we absolutely want to provide education,” says Denton. “Up until now we have been very limited on resource. However, we will soon be making a concentrated push towards educating in schools and through public speaking.
“It has been amazing being part of Ponsonby for the past year – we have been welcomed with open arms. It is heartening to see other businesses making positive changes in the direction of sustainability by taking big steps toward changing the habits of consumers and the way they purchase food and household items.
“I have a cool one-year-old son and it would be amazing if he could grow up in New Zealand where the absolute normal was to live waste free and drive electric cars charged off self-sufficient energy homes. This will take some dramatic changes to happen in my child's younger years but eventually it must happen, which excites me. I'll keep pushing to make it happen as fast as possible.
“If we can use New Zealand as a test pilot for sustainable living, where our core industries are more horticultural and technologically based, then we can take our ideas to the world with a new story we are proud to tell.”