CEO Series

In 4 Months, This M’sian Store Has Done More For The “No Plastic” Movement Than Most Businesses

  • NUDE is a household supply store in Petaling Jaya founded in 2018 by Cheryl Anne Low, Wilson Chin, and two other partners.
  • They have a heavy focus on reducing waste to zero and offer most of their products without packaging and absolutely no plastic.
  • In an attempt to educate others, customers are encouraged to bring their own containers when shopping at NUDE.

Somewhere in the well-stocked PJ neighbourhood of Seksyen 19 is a shop with an unassuming facade called NUDE.

In operations for just over a half a year, NUDE’s mission is singular and simple—to reduce waste, and reduce the carbon footprint, and help save the planet.

Image Credit: NUDE

To be more specific, NUDE sells an eclectic selection of products ranging from skincare, soaps, and essential oils to nuts, and dried fruits to household cleaners and insect repellents.

The difference between them and other stores is the way they deal with packaging, or lack thereof.

The Last Straw

When you walk into NUDE, the one thing you’ll most likely notice is how most of their offerings come without boxes or wrappers. Mostly, customers come in carrying their own bottles, containers, and bags, and in the rare instance a product does come with its own packaging, NUDE gladly offers rebates when customers return them on their next purchase.

“This return programme supports the circular economy, which means that the packaging will be cleaned out and reused,” said co-founder Cheryl Anne Low, who runs the business alongside her other co-founder Wilson Chin. “So no packaging gets thrown out and the energy and resources that were used to make them are put to good use, and their lifespans lengthened.”

Co-founders Cheryl and Wilson. / Image Credit: NUDE

Although just less than a year old, the idea to begin NUDE had begun taking shape a few years back when Cheryl came across the viral video of a plastic straw being painfully extracted from the nostril of an Olive Ridley sea turtle.

“That was my wake-up call—I did my research, talked to people, and realised just how badly the plastic pandemic was getting out of hand,” she said.

The fact that she was also a scuba diver with many environmentally conscious buddies also helped broaden her understanding of the problem, and eventually she took the first step by going completely plastic-free.

“The amount of waste being generated is reaching peak levels and is affecting the environment, marine and wildlife, ultimately coming back to affect us through the ecosystem,” she said while explaining the sad but real way plastic puts the planet and its inhabitants in danger.

“We’re seeing the effects when we read articles of whales washing up ashore with plastic in their stomachs. This is happening everywhere around the world.”

Buy Only What You Need

Speaking on the products they sell, the co-founders explain that most of the stuff sold on their shelves is sourced locally as much as possible.

“This is to reduce the carbon footprint as much as possible—we also make sure that our transportation and packaging methods are zero-waste,” Cheryl said. “This means we reuse the same packaging over and over again and we reject and refuse plastic packaging.”

Locally procured insect repellent is also available / Image Credit: NUDE

As mentioned previously they sell a variety of items ranging from snacks to soaps, with their shop divided into three sections.

There’s the MOODS section with all of the soaps, skincare, and essential oils; then there’s the FOODS section with cereals, dried fruits, pastas, and other kitchen essentials. Finally, you have the GOODS section where you’ll find household cleaning products and insect repellents, as well as the PETS section where they have natural dry pet food and treats free of salt and preservatives.

Image Credit: NUDE

But regardless of what you buy, the principle remains the same: bring your own containers.

“It’s always preferable to use your own containers, but if you forget to bring your own, we provide containers on loan for RM2 and you’ll get your money back when it’s returned,” Cheryl said. “We understand that sometimes people will forget lah, so we’re here to help with the loaners.”

Additionally, NUDE also sells paper bags at 50 sen each, although they strongly discourage this due to the problem of deforestation.

Image Credit: NUDE

Change, A Little At A Time

Despite being less than half-a-year old, the founders are pretty stoked about the impact they’ve managed to make within close-by community, no matter how big or small.

“When we first opened, we got a lot of kids from the tuition centre upstairs coming in wanting to buy snacks,” Cheryl said. “They had no idea of zero-waste, and neither did they bring containers.”

“So we allowed a grace period of two weeks where we provided paper bags at no cost while educating them.”

Next they recounted how these kids then went home telling their parents about their business and how they’d be required to bring their own containers in the future.

NUDE also constantly educates children in reducing waste and the use of plastics / Image Credit: NUDE

“We then started getting curious parents coming to NUDE to find out more, and they also thanked us for educating their kids,” they added. “It’s not a milestone per se, but we are very proud that the kids are spreading the message to their parents.”

Looking ahead, their goal is more of the same—to continue on their plight to alleviate the waste problem and educate others they meet along the way. But between now and the end goal, their business must also deal with a few speed bumps—including the challenge of finding like-minded partners.

“Being grounded in zero-waste principles, scaling isn’t as straightforward as other businesses,” Cheryl explained. “We need to source and find the right kind of suppliers that are on the same wavelength as well as come to a solution that remains zero-waste but doesn’t affect them negatively.”

“There needs to be a lot more consideration taken before we decide on a supplier,” she added. “We’re constantly on the look-out for good suppliers who have good values and quality sustainable products.”

Still On Track

And in terms of lessons learned, Cheryl thinks that learning to listen and be patient has so far helped her plenty as an entrepreneur.

“It’s helped me understand human behaviour even more and adjust my communications with different people while still getting the message across,” she said. “We’ve had some customers come in and scoff at our efforts, and there are customers who just take advantage of the affordable prices without wanting to understand the bigger picture.”

“But hey, as long as they bring their own containers, they’re also preventing plastics from ending up in landfills, so that’s okay.”

For Cheryl and her team, it’s also encouraging to know that their idea indirectly has backing from people with influence, and they hope that this sentiment of going the sustainable route will continue for a long time.

“The signs that we’re moving in the right direction are already showing—effective and active ministers like Yeo Bee Yin and Puan Zuraida who recognise the issues are making immediate efforts to ensure those issues are addressed.”

Cheryl also pointed towards things like the reduction of plastic straws in Malaysia as more proof of their concept becoming more widely accepted.

“Governance is as important to push the Malaysian general public into the environmentally-conscious sphere,” she added. “It’s not something that can be done overnight, but it starts with the awareness and consciousness which lead to action, as long as the options are accessible and known to them.”

Finally, when asked about plans for the immediate future, Cheryl immediately remarked that they would like to become a one-stop solution for all their customers’ household needs. And in order to get there, they’d need a bigger premises.

“We have a growing demand of customers who visit us regularly, and while we stock up on the basic necessities, the ultimate goal of becoming a one-stop shop means we still need to expand,” she said. “That also means expanding our offerings to include everything you find in supermarkets.”

“So we’ll hunt down like-minded suppliers, and stock their products in NUDE!”

Feature Image Credit: NUDE

 

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