Reimagining the way we shop for everyday essentials

This week PFS is catching up with one of our most recent Plastic Free Champions, Michelle Martell from The Eco Shop, a newly opened refill shop just outside Stamford in Great Casterton. Here you’ll find a wide range of household essentials from dry foods and snacks to cleaning products and bathroom favourites, but without having to overload on plastic.

The Eco Shop is anything but your standard local store and Michelle is working hard to make refill shopping accessible to everyone…..

Plastic Free Stamford: Can you tell us a little bit about what motivated you to focus on opening a refill shop and going plastic free? 

Michelle Martell: I noticed Stamford had no options for people to refill on products and reduce plastic waste*. My motivation was around the oceans, the pollution and waste of single use plastic, that is not necessary but significantly damages our world – polluting our oceans, land and harming wildlife.

PFS: Can you tell us a bit about what people can expect from coming to your shop?

MM: They can expect a friendly personal shopping experience, with plastic free, quality products that have not been stored in a supermarket for a long time. I stock sustainable products where possible, that are vegan, cruelty free and with no nasty chemicals.

PFS: And how do people shop with you?

MM: Customers can order online and choose a slot to visit to fulfil their orders, or message me directly to book. Since lock down has lifted, customers are now able to visit after 1pm on Tuesdays and Fridays without appointments. You simply bring your clean containers – ice cream tubs, jam jars, margarine tubs, anything you already have at home, you can bring – and I do the rest. You can even leave containers with me to sort while you get on with your day. You then pay on fulfillment and collection of the order.

PFS: What about the bulk packaging you have – can you tell us a bit more about this?

MM: Most products come in FCS approved packaging that can be recycled, or is naturally biodegradable. Some items do come in plastic, but my wholesaler will take these back and recycle. Some other products are on a closed loop system, so they reuse the containers over and over again.

PFS: Are your products more expensive than in regular supermarkets? 

MM: No, they are comparable with Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and Tesco and if I can sell the products cheaper I do. My aim is to reduce plastic waste and make it affordable for all.

PFS: What do you see as the biggest barriers to people using a refill shop and how can you help them overcome this? 

MM: People feel overwhelmed, not sure what to bring package wise or how it works. I advise people to bring plenty of containers and I will do the rest. During their first visit I explain the process and hopefully make them feel at ease about it.

PFS: What has been the most challenging thing about setting up The Eco Shop? 

MM: My location and people finding me. I use social media a lot to promote my business as people will not naturally come across me as I am not in town, so keep an eye on social for updates!

PFS: And the best thing?

MM: The support I have received from customers, my family and friends. Most importantly, my recycling bin is so much lighter now and it’s great that people are really showing an interest in reducing waste.

*Stamford is incredibly lucky in that it now has three refill options – joining The Eco Shop, Refill Revolution offers a local refill delivery only service and ALL GOOD on St Paul’s Street has also recently opened. Each has their own distinct selection of products and unique selling points – they are all of course Plastic Free Champions.


Inspiring positive change in the home fragrance market and beyond

This week, Plastic Free Stamford caught up with Beth Pattison, from one of our local Plastic Free Champions, Freckleface Home Fragrance. Situated on the corner of Red Lion Square opposite All Saints Church, Freckleface make and sell their handmade vegan, environmentally friendly wax melts, candles, diffusers and bath products.

They are a family run business with a keen focus on sustainability, so we decided to find out more about their commitment to going plastic free and the positive impact it has had on their business…..

Plastic Free Stamford: We would love to know a bit more about why going plastic free was so important to you.

Beth Pattinson: We want to help create a more sustainable industry and help improve the future of our planet. Every day you hear about how we are damaging the world we live in and plastic plays a huge role within this. Plastic now seems like an obsolete material to use within our industry, and we hope we inspire other companies to do the same – after all we only have one world, and we need to look after it! 

PFS: How has going plastic free improved your business?

BP: For us, being plastic free was always going to be part of our ethics as a business. We want to build a business that is ethical and that we can be proud of. Being sustainable has always been important to us and even more so now we produce home fragrance in such large quantities. Our customers and stockists are also so much more aware of the damage that plastic is doing to the world, so they are looking for sustainable brands, so it’s a no brainer for us to improve our business and the planet at the same time.

PFS: What are your next steps on your plastic free journey?

BP: We want to continue to support our customers and other businesses in becoming more sustainable and plastic free. We are planning to offer easily accessible advice across our social media platforms and in store, as well as promoting other companies who have the same ethos as us. Long term, we are encouraging our staff to live more plastic free lives outside of work and we only want to engage with suppliers who share our values. 

PFS: How have people responded to your plastic free changes?

BP: The response has been overwhelmingly positive! The attitude towards plastic free living and sustainability is becoming more of a core value in many people’s lives and they love the fact Freckleface is playing a part in this. People appreciate the effort we have put in and as result it has attracted more customers to our brand.  

PFS: What would you say to other businesses out there about going plastic free?

BP: Going plastic free is one of the most rewarding experiences to do as a company. In business, we all have a moral responsibility to help ensure we are creating a better future for everyone and going plastic free is a great way to do this. Plastic free living is becoming the social norm and your business can play a key role in this change in attitude. 

PFS: What are your 3 top tips for going plastic free?

BP: 1.    Do your research – find out what companies and suppliers offer plastic free services, learn from others, and implement into your own business. 

2.    Start small- going completely plastic free does not happen overnight. Starting small can lead to big changes. Even simply switching to paper bags from plastic can make a huge difference for the environment.

3.    Ask for help- you are not alone! We are more than happy to help and advise any business who wants to become plastic free and there are lots of free resources out there now.


All Good Market

Helping Stamford stock up on staples plastic free

This week PFS took some time out to catch up with local Plastic Free Champion, Annabel Britton from ALL GOOD Market on St Paul’s Street – a lovely refill shop that also sells a wide range of local produce. ALL GOOD gives you the opportunity to stock up on a wide range of staples – pasta, rice, flour, herbs and spices, dried fruit, even washing up liquid and shower gel, while massively reducing the need for single use packaging.

Starting a new venture during a global pandemic is no mean feat, but with such a clear focus on reducing single use plastic, we couldn’t help but want to find out more….

Plastic Free Stamford: Can you tell us a little bit about why you started your refill business and what motivated you to focus on helping others reduce their single use packaging?

Annabel Britton: After graduating uni, I lived in Paris and used a zero waste shop there, which was brilliant. I came home for lockdown and started to notice how much more packaging waste we produced as a family, compared to how I had been living. However, there wasn’t a shop local to us where we could buy refills. I felt this was a glaring gap in the market in Stamford and a quick survey posted on Facebook confirmed my suspicions.*

PFS: So what can people expect from a trip to ALL GOOD and how does it all work?

AB: I look to offer a really personalised service and an enjoyable shopping experience – this is not like going to the supermarket! Usually until a customer is a regular, I serve them or help them and tend to ‘walk people through it’ to begin with. I’m there to help, so there’s no need to worry about what not having shopped in a refill shop before.

PFS: And what should people bring?

AB: Any bags or containers they can remember. They don’t need to be pretty Kilner jars – you can bring old bread bags, egg boxes, takeaway containers, gin bottles… the best thing I’ve refilled so far was the plastic packaging of an Easter egg. I do also have paper bags and sterilised containers which people are welcome to take for free.

PFS: What packaging do your products come in and what happens to it?

AB: Good question! I will answer with full transparency. It pretty much falls into three camps.

For eggs, coffee, oils, cleaning products, milk, tea and kimchi, any packaging is returned to the supplier to be reused, so it’s a completely closed-loop system.

For dried products (rice, oats, flour, etc.) I am saving the sacks and have grand plans to upcycle them. Don’t want to give the game away!

Spices, nuts, dried fruit and some seeds come in plastic packaging which isn’t recyclable. This is regrettable but mostly necessary to preserve the quality. However, I think that one 5kg bag of cashew nuts is preferable to 20 250g bags.

PFS: What do you see as the biggest barriers to people using a refill shop and how can you help them overcome this?

AB: From my customers, I perceive the biggest barrier being a lack of time. A lot of people have so much on their plate – this year more than ever – and remembering to bring containers, or go to more than one shop to buy food, is a bit too much to ask sometimes. This is part of the reason I offer delivery, I really want to reach as many people as possible. 

PFS: Tell us a bit about your mission to champion local producers and why this is so important.

AB: It dawned on me that we live in a part of the country which is almost defined by agriculture. Perhaps this is particularly immediate to me because it is my Dad’s career. But I just thought it’s completely doolally that a farmer could produce eggs or potatoes or milk locally, and sell them to Tesco, and they end up being sold in Carlisle. And then a farmer in Cumbria producing the same thing might sell their’s to Waitrose and they end up in the Stamford branch. It’s just nonsensical.

PFS: What has been the best thing about setting up on your own?

AB: The best thing is having complete control! The shop is such a creative outlet and if I want to post something on Instagram, sell a gingerbread kit or launch a delivery service, I don’t have to consult anyone. I can put my ideas into action as quickly as I want.

PFS: And finally, what’s next for ALL GOOD? Any exciting plans and ideas up your sleeve?

AB: Since Christmas I’ve launched a lot of new products, a delivery service and takeaway filter coffee with locally produced Two Chimps coffee, but my focus now is on trying to improve the existing website and doing lots of marketing as ever.

*Stamford is incredibly lucky in that it now has three refill options – joining ALL GOOD, Refill Revolution offers a local refill delivery only service and the Eco Shop at Great Casterton has also recently opened. Each has their own distinct selection of products and unique selling points – they are all of course Plastic Free Champions.