Quick, easy swaps for more sustainable living
Many of us are looking to make more eco conscious choices and reduce the amount of waste we create. Although I have started to make some small changes at home, I’m very much beginner so spoke to six local businesswomen in Derbyshire, each running pioneering eco businesses. Between them they cover pretty much the whole of Derbyshire, but via very different business models ranging from a traditional market stall to milkman style doorstep deliveries.
All of the businesses are operating in a covid secure way, for instance offering bookable appointments to ensure social distancing and with enhanced cleaning procedures.
What sets these Derbyshire eco businesses apart is the genuine sense of female solidarity. The zero waste movement is female dominated anyway, but these five local business women have put aside any sense of competition and instead have forged an amazingly supportive network. They genuinely help each other, from giving advice and honest reviews of new products to providing a sounding board for new ideas.
I asked each of them to explain what they do and each to give a ‘top tip’ for small, easy swaps we could all make for the benefit of the planet.
“We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.” Anne-Marie Bonneau
Let’s meet the eco businesses
Kim Willett of Plastic Free Clowne and founder of Local Loop Clowne
As a passionate activist, Kim started Local Loop Clowne to help the local community reduce their plastic waste. She admits it’s been a steep learning curve and that has sometimes felt overwhelming. “My mission is to make reducing waste less confusing, more convenient and get people started on what is honestly an empowering lifestyle change.”
Local Loop Clowne sells eco-friendly products and provides a closed-loop system for refilling liquids in Clowne and surrounding villages. Customers order through an easy to use website for local delivery or for click and collect. In addition to the popular refill liquids, they also stock safety razors and re-usable sanitary items. Lots of customers combine their necessities with treats from Welbeck Bakehouse. The ‘closed loop’ system means there is effectively zero-waste because all the bulk containers are also re-used rather than being recycled (or worse still, going to landfill), you can read more about how this particular closed loop refill system works here.
Since this article was originally published, the running of the local loop has been taken over by Happy Roots Farm but the basic model is still the same.
Switch showel gel for soap. Carry a re-usable coffee cup and go without if you forget it! It’s the quickest way to get into the habit.
Darcie Cousins of Refills on the Road, near Ashbourne
Refills on the Road is a mobile zero waste shop that travels to various locations mainly in the Derbyshire Dales, and offers a wide selection of dried foods, cleaning products and toiletries, and even Belgian chocolate Brazil nuts, to customers who want to reduce their single-use plastic consumption. Darcie was inspired to set up Refills on the Road by a David Attenborough documentary and a particularly harrowing scene of a sea turtle having a plastic straw pulled from its nose. There and then, she resolved to reduce her own plastic waste, but soon found that there weren’t any zero waste shops nearby to buy products packaging-free. After losing her job in 2019, she set up what is now one of Derbyshire’s leading eco businesses.
Conserving resources is the key to sustainability so you can start saving the planet (and money) immediately by switching lights off, taking shorter showers, and resisting the urge to impulse buy.
Cathryn Wilkins of R3-Fill, Allestree, Derby
R3-Fill offers a selection of ethically and sustainably sourced, vegan and cruelty free refillable personal care and cleaning products. Products are ordered online and delivered to Derbyshire doorsteps, with refills being delivered in reusable glass bottles. The empty refill bottles are then collected, to be washed, reused and refilled, helping local communities reduce their plastic waste. A bit like a milkman but without the milk!
When Cathryn started her zero waste journey, like many of us, the problem she encountered was trying to find the time to get to a store, during an already very busy week. Cathryn spotted a gap in the market and came up with the idea of bringing refillable products to people’s doorsteps, to make it as easy as possible for the local communities of Derby and Belper, to lead a more sustainable and ethical lifestyle. “Once people start making a few sustainable swaps at the beginning, they seem to want to make more and more changes. People say how good it makes them feel.”
One quick and easy way to make a change right now, is to ‘cut the wrap’ and pledge to stop buying cling film. We survived without cling film in the past, times when covering a bowl with a plate did the job perfectly well, and the planet no harm. Use reusable microwaveable Pyrex dishes with lids for reheating food and consider purchasing alternatives like beeswax wraps for storing food and eating on the go. “I have had the same roll of cling film for about two years now, since I made the pledge. If my husband dares to bring a new roll into the house…!”
Bunmi Scott of It’s All About Eco, Dronfield
It’s All About Eco sell eco-friendly and sustainable products from their Dronfield shop and nationwide via their website. They sell everything from zero waste store cupboard foods to refillable household, cleaning and personal care products and a wide range of plastic free alternative products for everyday living.
Bunmi started the business due to a growing concern about the amount of waste she was seeing everywhere. “As I started to research how could change, I realised that I could help others to do the same too.” It’s All About Eco has pivoted over time and evolved into one of Derbyshire’s leading eco businesses which Bunmi juggles with family life (and the recent demands of home schooling).
Start with the easiest change for you. I started by changing from shower gel to soap bars. It’s different for everyone but will only have a lasting affect when it doesn’t feel like hard work.
Emma Barnett of Nature’s Weigh, Swadlincote
Nature’s Weigh simply exists to help the people of Swadlincote and the surrounding area cut the amount of plastic waste their household produces. Emma’s business started with the desire to use reusable nappies, which initially seemed like an impossible task. Spurred on by advice and support from some lovely ladies at a local breastfeeding group, Emma gave it a go and caught the bug! “Something just clicked. I felt the urge to push forward and help other people cut their plastic waste too.” Emma now runs a successful eco business that also sells online.
Don’t be scared to give cloth nappies a go.
Steph Mannion of Steph’s Sustainable Stuff, Chesterfield
Steph’s Sustainable Stuff is an award winning zero waste shop on Chesterfield market. The stall sells refills of household products, toiletries and a wide range of dried goods including an extensive selection of herbs and spices. Steph is also Derbyshire’s premier manufacturer of beeswax wraps which are sold on the stall, online and wholesale to other eco businesses. You can read more about beeswax wraps here. Pop along to the market, or send Steph a DM on Facebook or Instagram if you’d like to order one.
Steph started the business after being made redundant. Starting with just one box of upcycled and eco-friendly items, the business has blossomed into a van full of refills, food and eco-friendly gifts, to become one of Chesterfield’s leading eco businesses.
Take your own cup or bottle of water when you go out. Refill your basic household items rather than buy new bottles.