Words: John Worsey
It’s been another long, hot summer on the Costa del Portsmouth. And from record breaking temperatures in the UK, to natural disasters around the world, and the success of Greta Thunberg in igniting global debates about the future, it seems a majority of people (though sadly not President Trump) are united in the certainty that climate change is real – and action must be taken!
Naturally, more and more of us are getting hot and bothered about the decline of our beautiful world. We’re desperate to make a difference. To do something positive, not sink into despair. One such group locally is The Package Free Larder. Over the summer, they successfully raised £43,765 through crowd-funding, to open a plastic-free supermarket and zero-waste hub.
The Larder team are volunteers. They’ll run the supermarket as a social enterprise, with profits reinvested in the shop and community projects. The idea originated with Delphine Laveyne, who envisaged “somewhere people could find everyday staples with no unnecessary packaging, at affordable prices.”
Delphine is passionate about resisting “pointless packaging – the type that ends up in the bin as soon as you get back from the supermarket. It’s used for 5 minutes but stays on the planet for 500 years.”
So, how does a packaging-free shop work? “To start, customers will be encouraged to bring their own containers to fill and refill. Then, we’ll work with suppliers to see if we can find alternatives to the plastic packaging products are delivered in. We’ll also teach people skills to help them reduce their waste and cook from scratch.”
The Larder team are not alone. Across Southsea you’ll find a host of businesses offering produce either free of excess packaging, in recycled and recyclable plastic, or in refillable form. Ron White’s Greengrocers, Southsea Fruit & Veg, Buckwell’s Butchers, Viviers Fishmarket Wild Thyme Wholefoods, Southsea Coffee, Southsea Deli, Southsea Bathing Hut – to name just a few.
It’s great that shoppers want to do their bit for the environment. But it’s important not to take the weight of the world on your shoulders. Especially because going green can come with shades of grey! For example…
Throw away your single-use plastic drinks bottle and it will spend centuries as harmful litter before it degrades. But in rural areas of developing nations, without piped drinking water, those bottles can be the difference between life and death.
Buy a reusable cotton tote bag for shopping, and you’ll be reducing the demand for throw-away plastic bags. But the emissions created in the manufacture and shipping of cotton totes are so much higher, you’ll need to use it thousands of times to compensate!
Of course, plastic has some environmental advantages over other materials – from its emission-friendly light weight, to the recyclability of many types. Its durability and potential for re-use can ease the burden on landfill. It reduces waste by extending products’ shelf-life, and protects public health by keeping germs from foods, cosmetics, medicines and surgical equipment. So you can change your relationship to plastic without having to get a divorce!
Like climate change itself, figuring out your response to it can feel overwhelming. The most empowering thing is to educate yourself and make choices that are sustainable. Stop eating meat altogether? Never make another journey by plane… or car? Those activities impact hugely on carbon emissions. But maybe you can’t go cold turkey like that (or, indeed, turkey-free). Don’t make perfect the enemy of good. Instead, place limits that work for you.
Delphine suggests, “Sign up to ShareWaste.com and drop your food waste off to someone with a compost bin, or register to collect other people’s compost for your own. Talk about reducing waste and the benefits of this with your colleagues, bosses, school teachers. A lot of the times if you see they can do things a different way that avoids waste at minimal or no cost, they will implement these changes. We should all help each other to reduce our waste.”
Ultimately, living more sustainably is about kindness. It’s about being kinder to our planet and its resources. So let’s be kind to ourselves, too. Let’s seek balance and make changes we can stick to. Start with a visit to one of the many local businesses doing their bit to reduce single-use plastic – and look out for the Package Free Larder, which hopes to open by early 2020.
If you’d like to find out more about Plastic Free Larder’s volunteering opportunities, find them on Facebook.