The days when people darned socks may be in the past, but the ‘make do and mend’ philosophy seems to be re-emerging into modern thinking. Here’s how one woman’s eco-friendly shop is showing how we can lessen our impact on the planet.
When Emily Attwell decided to live plastic-free, she couldn’t find anywhere nearby that sold every day, ethically sourced goods. So this enterprising 23-year-old from Redditch decided to open her own zero waste shop.
It was while she was working on a recycling scheme that Emily read a report about how plastic can only be recycled a limited number of times. “It changed my life,” she recalls. “My recycling mindset just disappeared.” It became clear to her that recycling was not the answer to the problems resulting from our mass reliance on plastic. For Emily, the solution was simple – do not have any plastic waste in the first place.
“I looked for a shop nearby where I could buy vegan friendly and plastic-free products, but there wasn’t anywhere. A place in Totnes, called ‘Earth Food Love’ had a website page on how to create your own shop and that gave me a good base to work from.” It took her six months to find enough suppliers to meet her criteria for being local or UK-based, vegan friendly and free of plastic packaging. A friend pointed her in the direction of a vacant shop in Bromsgrove High Street and in July of 2018, Nature’s Intention opened its doors.
Since then, the word has spread and Emily has extended her product lines to include everything from nuts to nappies, aftersun and other ethical skincare. Brown paper bags on strings alongside neat rows of food dispensers, feature the serve-yourself food, from pasta to confectionery. You can make your own oat or nut milk in the shop too. Even her honey is sourced from companies that do not take all of the food produced by the bee colony.
Her eco-friendly shop is a model of orderliness. “I am a clean freak,” she admits. And her personal approach reflects the days when people spent time perusing goods, instead of stressfully rushing between aisles to do the weekly shop. Emily is so determined to run an ethically tight ship that she changed from one supplier when he sent reusable straws in plastic packaging. “I pointed it out to him and it was as if he hadn’t realised. He just said they came like that to him. I have a new supplier now.”
With social media and television programmes highlighting the damage to the planet and more people wanting ethical choices in their shopping baskets, Nature’s Intention is gaining new customers every month.
“I have tried to keep everything as reasonably priced as possible. Some things may be a little more expensive, but most items are cheaper than in supermarkets, so people say it balances out to what they would pay overall in a big store.” The shop also provides donated containers and packaging for customers who forget to bring in their own.
Emily feels that recycling is becoming more of a last resort. Recent reports reveal some of the plastic waste we export to be recycled is actually being dumped in other countries, such as Malaysia. But she agrees that it is difficult to go plastic-free overnight and she advises people to take simple steps, perhaps starting with the bathroom. “I would just take little steps and focus on changing something each week,” she suggests. “So for example, toothbrushes one week, then maybe your haircare.”
Emily has two people working with her but does a lot of hours herself. Although it was difficult setting up, she says her work is fun and people are very supportive. With a passion to make change, this young businesswoman is certainly fulfilling her own vision of how she would like to help the world.
“When you find something you love, it is easy.” says Emily.
Emily’s eco-friendly mantra
Refuse – do you need to buy it and if you do, is it compostable?
Reduce - cut down on waste by only buying what you know you will use
Reuse – can you use it again or find a different use for it, for example as a container for something else?
Recycle – if you really cannot find a use for it
Emily gives lots of advice and tips on her Facebook page /NaturesIntentionLtd and her products are listed on www.natures-intention.co.uk
New legislation is coming into force in 2020 which will ban the use of plastic straws, cotton buds and stirrers. With ethical alternatives flooding onto the market, think about what other ways might we reduce our use of plastic?
What you can do:
Plastic water bottles:
There is an app available, called Refill, which shows you where you can take your reusable bottle to fill up with water. Thousands of local businesses and outlets have signed up to help encourage everyone to reuse their water bottles. The refill.org.uk website says, “In the UK, less than 30% of people refill their reusable water bottles, even though we have some of the best quality tap water in the world.”
Its slogan is: “Individual action, global impact. 10 million. The number of bottles saved if all our Refill Stations are used just twice a day.”
Look for alternative packaging:
If it has to be wrapped, then look for alternatives to plastic packaging when you buy goods, such as fresh fruit and vegetables from market traders who use brown paper bags to package their products.
Wet wipes contain plastic:
Most wet wipes contain plastic resins such as polyester and so are not fully biodegradable. They just break into smaller and smaller pieces releasing microscopic fibres into the environment. Help by becoming more aware of which products are fully biodegradable.