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Meet the woman inspiring others to live a waste-free life

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Hannah Keegan
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Work/Life is Stylist’s regular column about the professional routines of successful women. Here, Ingrid Caldironi talks us through her one-day diary, from morning latte to lights out.

Ingrid Caldironi, 36, is the founder of the zero-waste shop Bulk Market in Hackney, east London. She lives in northeast London with her husband, three cats and dog.     

My alarm goes off…

At 9am. I’m very strict about having my coffee before I look at my phone, so I’ll make one using my Italian moka pot while I feed my cats and dog. I’ll then eat a bowl of porridge at my computer, going through emails. My ‘uniform’ is an old T-shirt, jeans and Vans. Pretty much everything I wear is second-hand. Some days, I’ll be at my desk for the rest of the day, while others I’m out the door to work a shift at the shop.

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I’m responsible for…

Making sure Bulk Market is alive and breathing. My co-founder Bruna Martins and I do everything from looking after the finances to hiring people, overseeing the branding and mopping the floors. 

I got the job…

After deciding I couldn’t continue living the way I was. I was working in the oil industry, making good money, and was despondent about all the waste I was seeing. I started watching documentaries like Blue Planet and doing research on how to live waste-free. Everyone thought I was weird. In the end, I had a sudden, strong sense of what I was going to do. I left my job and crowdsourced the funding for Bulk on Indiegogo in 2017. 

There’s no unnecessary packaging in Bulk Market

My typical day…

Doesn’t exist. I have no routine. I work around 50 hours a week – 30 of them are spent in the shop and 20 working from my computer at home. Being a founder means everything is down to me and I’m constantly putting out fires. Just the other week, for example, our electricity went out as we had a queue of customers waiting to pay. On a Saturday! It’s our busiest day and I had to close. You learn to make tough decisions all the time.

Eating a proper lunch is a real luxury for me. Most days, I’ll pack fruit, nuts and cereal and nibble throughout the day. I spend time organising the projects we are working on, too. For example, we have started a composting scheme where people bring us their food waste, we put it into our composter and then local people pick it up to use. School children come to see how this works, too, which is lovely. 

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My most memorable moment…

Was when the head of environment at the United Nations tweeted about us. I thought, ‘Oh shit, it just got real.’ I’m so caught up in things sometimes I forget to be a proud mama.

The worst part of my job…

Is dealing with trolls. They’ll say we’re just hipsters and that we overcharge, not understanding what it takes to run a small, independent business. You work so hard and it hurts.

The best part of my job…

Is when people are impressed by what we stock. We started selling crisps in reusable barrels recently (after many suppliers told us no) and people love that. Those are the people that I go to work for. 

Mix your own body butter or face mask at the DIY station

After work…

I’ll take my dog for a walk then make something for dinner with wonky veg from the shop. I’ve suffered from insomnia in the past and my therapist told me to try sleep hygiene, which involves showering and no blue screens before bed. I’m asleep by midnight.

My Plan B: Activist

I’m an all or nothing kind of person, so I really focus on the plan A. But if this didn’t work out, I’d probably be an environmental activist. I’d be one of those hippies who lives in a van with no cash for a year and grows their own food – spreading the word about green living!

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Photography: Holly McGlynn

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Hannah Keegan

Hannah Keegan is the features writer at Stylist magazine.

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