A 'free' supermarket? His pay-what-you-feel restaurants prove the model is sustainable.

What if you could walk into a store, take what you need, and pay whatever you want for it?

And what if you could help others and save food waste by doing so?

That’s the premise behind The Inconvenience Store, a unique supermarket that opened in June 2018 in Melbourne, Australia. The store collects produce that stores plan to throw away because it’s not fresh (or pretty) enough to sell and "sells" it by donation.


It receives throwaways from a local bakery — breads that aren't good enough to sell but are still perfectly edible — for its patrons to take home. Other things that stores are prepared to toss, like items that are dented or just past their best-before dates, also stock the store's shelves.

There are no cashiers and no set prices — a contribution box sits near the exit as an unassuming invitation to give what you can in exchange for what you take. People can also volunteer at the store as a form of payment and support for the store.

Sounds like do-gooder, people-before-profit stuff, right? It is.

And the founder has already proven that the model works.

The Inconvenience Store is an offshoot of Lentil As Anything, a chain of vegetarian restaurants that has been in operation for 18 years under a similar pay-as-you-feel model.

Founded by Shanaka Fernando, a Sri Lankan immigrant with a passion for food and social justice, Lentil As Anything is on a mission to make meals that serve everyone, regardless of socioeconomic status.

"Restaurant culture separates us from the group at the next table," says the company's website, "and finances separate some from the table entirely. Lentil as Anything believes everyone deserves a place at the table."

Like the store, most of the people who work at the restaurants are volunteers who donate their time because they care about food, culture, and community.

"The underemployed, the homeless, refugees and the disenfranchised are all given an equal opportunity to gain skills and help their fellow humans at Lentil as Anything," says the website.

With no set prices on the menu, diners choose what they pay for their meals based on what they can afford or what they think is a fair price. Key staff are paid, but there's no goal to make a profit. Produce for the restaurants is grown in community urban gardens or collected from stores prior to being thrown away. All extra funds get funneled back into the restaurant.

Fernando has created a community-oriented business model based on integrity, trust, honesty, and shared humanity.

Practically everything about Lentil as Anything and The Inconvenience Store flies in the face of the traditional, profit-based business model.

So how do they stay in business? A question like that has to be asked with the business's goal in mind — not to make a steep profit but to create a cooperative community based on food and culture sharing. It's not about making money but rather about being able to stay open through community effort.

It comes back to the fundamental belief that we're all in this together.

"We call ourselves the human race, but this is not a race," said Fernando in his 2012 TED Talk. "This is not a competition. I prefer the term 'humankind.' It implies kindness. We share an affinity. There is a richness that awaits us and it relies on us, on our individual sense of leadership, on our ability to embrace, be open to each other. And all the answers to environmentalism, to the improvement of humanity, lies in this."  

Putting people and our planet before profits may not be common, but high fives to Shanaka Fernando for proving that it's possible.

Watch Fernando describe his travels around the world that led him to his pay-as-you-feel model:

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Amazon

Shopping sustainably is increasingly important given the severity of the climate crisis, but sometimes it's hard to know where to turn. Thankfully, Amazon is making it a little easier to browse thousands of products that have one or more of 19 sustainability certifications that help preserve the natural world.

The online retailer recently announced Climate Pledge Friendly, a program to make it easier for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products. To determine the sustainability of a product, the program partnered with third-party certifications, including governmental agencies, nonprofits, and independent labs.

With a selection of items spanning grocery, household, fashion, beauty, and personal electronics, you'll be able to shop more sustainably not just for the holiday season, but throughout the year for your essentials, as well.

You can browse all of the Climate Pledge Friendly products here, labeled with an icon and which certification(s) they meet. To get you on your way to shopping more sustainably, we've rounded up eight of our favorite Climate Pledge Friendly-products that will make great gifts all year long.

Amazon

Jack Wolfskin Women's North York Coat

Give the gift of warmth and style with this coat, available in a variety of colors. Sustainability is built into all Jack Wolfskin products and each item comes with a code that lets you trace back to its origins and understand how it was made.

Bluesign: Bluesign products are responsibly manufactured by using safer chemicals and fewer resources, including less energy, in production.


Amazon

Amazon All-new Echo Dot (4th Gen)

For the tech-obsessed. This Alexa smart speaker, which comes in a sleek, compact design, lets you voice control your entertainment and your smart home as well as connect with others.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.


Amazon

Burt's Bees Family Jammies Matching Holiday Organic Cotton Pajamas

Get into the holiday spirit with these fun matching PJs for the whole family. Perfect for pictures that even Fido can get in on.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

Naturistick 5-Pack Lip Balm Gift Set

With 100% natural ingredients that are gentle on ultra-sensitive lips, this gift is a great gift for the whole family.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.


Amazon

Arus Women's GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Hooded Full Length Turkish Bathrobe

For those who love to lounge around, this full-length organic cotton bathrobe is the way to go. Available in five different colors, it has comfortable cuffed sleeves, a hood, pockets, and adjustable belt.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

L'Occitane Extra-Gentle Vegetable Based Soap

This luxe soap, made with moisturizing shea butter and scented with verbena, is perfect for the self-care obsessed.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.

Amazon

Goodthreads Men's Sweater-Knit Fleece Long-Sleeve Bomber

For the fashionable men in your life, this fashion-forward knit bomber is an excellent choice. The sweater material keeps it cozy and warm, while the bomber jacket-cut, zip front, and rib-trim neck make it look elevated.

Recycled Claim Standard 100: Products with this certification use materials made from at least 95% recycled content.

Amazon

All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

Make it even easier to access your favorite movies and shows this holiday season. The new Fire TV Stick lets you use your voice to search across apps. Plus it controls the power and volume on your TV, so you'll never need to leave the couch! Except for snacks.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.