Thu, 09 May 2019
JUST over a year ago, Hampstead Norreys Community Shop committee became increasingly concerned about the amount of plastic coming into and going out of the shop.
They called a meeting to discuss what steps they could take to operate more sustainably and in June launched just three products at their summer market – shampoo bars, beeswax wraps and bamboo coffee mugs.
These all sold well and their big display showing different types of plastic and what can and can’t be recycled generated a lot of interest.
Their product range now includes chilli bottles, bamboo toothbrushes, toothtabs (replaces toothpaste) and SESI laundry liquid and conditioner and washing up liquid – all of which can be refilled at the shop.
The shop also offers money off if people bring in their own containers for salad or hot drinks and is a ‘watering hole’ – offering free water.
Just before Christmas, the shop won a national competition, run by the Plunkett Foundation, in the category Diversifying to Make a Difference.
Their entry focused on their initiatives to become more eco-friendly, sourcing non-plastic alternatives and reducing the amount of plastics used in the shop.
They were particularly commended for encouraging the community to eco-brick, to create eco-benches for their local primary school.
They have also got through to the regional finals of the Countryside Alliance Awards in the category village shop/post office and if they reach the finals they will be going to the Houses of Parliament – overall the competition had 17,000 entries.
The eco-bench project came about when the shop heard that Hampstead Norreys primary school children needed more outdoor seating. The school is federated with The Ilsleys primary school, so a team from the shop went into both schools to explain about eco-bricking.
The class that packs the most waste plastic will choose the design of their bench (one for each school) and paint it.
Lesley Ravenscroft explains more: “As a result, all plastic waste from the shop is now eco-bricked. We currently have about 300 bricks, with people eco-bricking for us in their own homes, using plastic that can’t otherwise be recycled.
“We run workshops in the café and in surrounding towns and villages. All ages, from four to 94, take part – we have a leaflet that we email out to anyone who would like a copy to support them – but there are minimum weights and stuffing the bottle sufficiently is a challenge.
“Some give up, but at least they are learning about the problems of plastic on the way.”
The shop has applied for a grant for the materials needed for the cob (a natural soil-based building material) and paint – and local experts have agreed to help. They hope to build in the spring and are aiming to be the first in the country to undertake such a big project with eco-bricks.
They are also setting up a collection point for certain plastic products – crisp packets, biscuit and cake wrappers, and plastic from pet food – before sending them to TerraCycle for recycling.
Lesley adds: “We have just set up a community group looking to create bags made from unwanted fabric –and these will have the Hampstead Norreys Community Shop logo on and will be ‘borrow and bring back’ bags for customers.
“Our aim is not just to be more environmentally friendly, but to extend understanding and broaden that all-important community feel of our village – we’re working with people from Newbury, Thatcham, Hungerford and other villages.
“In just a few months we are astounded at what we have achieved – and are hopeful we can achieve even more. If any readers would like to join us, or have suggestions, we would love to hear from them.”