Modern day parenting can sometimes look and feel like the creation of a huge plastic mountain from plastic bottles and plates, cling film wrapped sandwiches, baby wipes – to the plastic glitter sprinkled on top of it all – the list goes on. So I am really excited to introduce the founders of The Refill Larder Christina Ward and Kate Chesshyre. They were frustrated by the lack of plastic-free options currently available for day-to-day household items and food in the supermarkets. ‘
As a consumer, I increasingly share their concerns and frustrations. One of my goals for 2019 is to shop more sustainably and try throughout our home to reduce our plastic consumption. It’s a goal I believe much of our community shares; regularly through the feed I discuss this issue with other parents and like minded followers. So today’s guest post couldn’t be at a better moment. I love the work Christina and Kate are doing: it really has to be the future for how we shop. So, I am excited to introduce you to them both and their brilliant shop.
“We believe there is an appetite for change and since opening we’ve met many people locally that are fed up with the limited options available to cut back on plastic reliance. We need to do more than ban plastic straws and bags and show supermarkets that consumers are keen for more plastic-free options. We want the Refill Larder to ignite conversations about alternative ways to shop and ways to cut back on plastic on a day-to-day basis”
~ Christina and Kate
introducing the refill larder concept: shopping smarter & shopping locally ~
The last 18 months has seen environmental concerns around plastic move into the mainstream. David Attenborough’s Blue Planet 2 woke many to the alarming levels of pollution created by micro-plastics in the oceans and how this is affecting earth’s fragile eco-systems. As a result there is a real movement away from single-use plastic taking place; more and more families are looking for simple ways to reduce their reliance on plastic.
The Refill Larder is small refill store located in Teddington, South-West London set up by Christina and I. We are both from Teddington and were driven by the desire to have a local option to shop packaging free - as there was nothing of its kind in the whole borough of Richmond we decided to open our open store! The premise is to sell kitchen cupboard basics in bulk so customers can bring in their own containers and we fill them up and charge by weight. We offer an alternative to the plastic wrapped options found in the supermarkets and through online shopping.
We stock dried organic food, bathroom essentials like shampoo, conditioner and body wash plus household cleaning products such as washing up liquid and laundry liquid. All of this is sold on a refill basis so customers bring in their own containers and we fill them up and charge by weight. In-store and online we sell lots of handpicked alternatives to help people move away from plastic reliance in the home such as beeswax wraps, reusable cotton makeup rounds, bamboo toothbrushes, wooden dish brushes, reusable coffee cups, palm-oil free soap and shampoo bars and water bottles. For children we have lots of cute bamboo meal sets, plastic-free baby and toddler bottles, mini-nail brushes, eco-glitter, biodegradable wipes and nappy bags. Since we've opened we have responded to requests from customers and have expanded what we offer, recently adding dried mango, delicious Greek extra virgin olive oil on a refill basis and a locally made spicy marinade.
It has been a delight getting to know people locally and swapping ideas and tips on more sustainable ways of living and running a home. We have a little play area for kids whilst parents shop and older children are inspired by the shops approach to shopping without packaging.
Recognise your power as a consumer to drive change and support small business and producers.
Don't be daunted - there is lots of talk of zero waste which is often unrealistic and off putting for people, especially parents (!), who are trying to reduce their plastic footprint. We recommend aiming to change a couple of habits each month. As you start being aware of avoiding extra packaging, you realise how much single use packaging we are sold and really don't need. Below are some tips for reducing plastic reliance on a day to day basis. These are general tips below not just relating to what we sell in our shop.
Tip 1: Reuse as much as you can
Save resealable containers like large yogurt pots, olive jars, takeaway containers: use them to store leftovers instead of using clingfilm
Switch to beeswax wraps instead of clingfilm are an easy win - 100% natural and compostable, they keep food super fresh and can be reused again and again. We stock lovely organic cotton ones that combine beeswax and pine resin (to keep food sealed tight) - perfect for sandwiches, leftovers, non-sweaty cheese and loaves of bread. No more screwed up balls of non-recyclable plastic in the bin.
Tip 2: Find a good source of plastic free fruit and vegetables
Take along your own bags, paper, cloth, reused plastic. Local markets, greengrocers, supermarkets can provide a mix and match or plastic free options - also veg boxes are great for avoiding plastic - farmdrop are particularly good for organic family boxes . Equally for meat and fish, butchers and fishmongers are fine if you bring your own containers and most supermarket deli counters accept people handing across their tupper-ware boxes to fill up. The more people that shop in this way, the more notice supermarkets will take to the demand for plastic-packaging reductions.
Tip 3: Consider the packaging from online deliveries
Before buying something on online consider whether you can get it locally and buy it packaging free whilst supporting a business in your local neighbourhood. Some of the big online retailers are particularly bad at packaging: often sticking a product in a huge box surrounded by masses of packing materials. We have all grown so used to the convenience of everything arriving the next day but do we always need everything so quickly.
Tip 4: Switch to bars of soap instead of liquid hand wash in plastic bottles
Find a plastic free soap - annoyingly most of the soap in the supermarket has plastic packaging inside their cardboard boxes. There are lots of beautiful, handmade soaps around now. We stock Soap Daze in-store and online, made by Sharon from her garden workshop in Devon, Soap Daze use plant oils, botanicals, essential oils, herbs and spices - they are really moisturising unlike more commercially available palm oil based soaps. Her 'Soap on a Rope' are ideal for showers in a hurry and discourage kids from using a whole bar in one bath!
Tip 5: Find your nearest refill store and try it out
Pick four or so cupboard essentials you get through fast and start there. Take along your containers and get refilling - pasta, rice, oats, your kids favourite nuts or dried fruit are all great first purchases.
Further tips for avoiding waste in daily shopping:
Use the local charity shops for toys and kids clothes etc and pass back to the shops when you are done with them
Switch to milk in reusable glass bottles from milk and more https://www.milkandmore.co.uk/
Always keep a few shopping bags in the car or your bag so you don’t get caught out
Get in the habit of carrying a reusable water bottle or coffee cup
Refill cleaning products such as laundry liquid, washing up liquid, fabric conditioner, rinse aid
Switch from takeaway plastic wrapped sandwiches when out and make lunches etc at home stored in reusable containers. Take your own cutlery with you to avoid getting caught out when on the move!