Plastic-free Me: Psyching up for Plastic Free July

Finally I’m getting my arse in gear for Plastic Free July! Time is running out so if I don’t get organised now then I won’t do as well as I’d like.

Yesterday I took a trip to the New Leaf Co-op to do another reccy so that I know what I can purchase from there next month (read my post on this amazing shop here).

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I noted that they do Ecover refills for my non-bio laundry liquid (I’ve got as far as buying a few bottles of this stuff, but have not yet done the crucial refilling!)

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I picked up some bar soap and a new bamboo toothbrush – a different brand this time (read this post on my past experience). It cost me £2.85 and the bamboo is biodegradable.

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Back at home I got onto the internet and ordered some more Onyabags like this one (which unfolded is almost the size of a supermarket shopping bag).

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Recently I’ve found myself in shops without a bag (bad planning!) and have had to either accept a plastic bag or carry items precariously in my arms – not easy when you have small children who need close supervision! I love Onya bags as they fold up small enough to tuck inside a pocket or attach to a keyring so with my new extras, I can now make sure I have one on me at any time.

I also bought myself a water bottle so that I have a drink handy when we’re out and about, in case plastic bottles or cartons that come with straws are my only option.

I then hopped over to Lush and bought the solid shampoo and conditioner bars I’ve written about so often, yet never tried. Plus I picked up some toothytabs – I went for a different flavour this time (I hated the last ones I bought!) – maybe I’ll get used to them after a month…

Last week I finally found the solution to plastic-free toilet paper thanks to @polytheenpam in the form of these tissues.

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There is no plastic at all in the box so I will be popping them on top of the toilet for July. I so wish they weren’t bought at Tesco (even though they cost a mere 65p) as I’m trying to reduce my supermarket use. As I’m discovering all the time though, there are so many conflicts of interest with my environmental goals, so for July, I will prioritise being plastic-free but keep searching for the perfect plastic-free loo roll!

Finally, this morning on Twitter while browsing through the #PlasticFreeJuly hash tag, I was delighted to discover that Kake who tweets as @croydn has also committed to go as plastic free as possible in July – check out her blog post here. This was exciting as there are only three of us that I know in the UK taking part in the challenge (@ecothrifty & @polytheenpam) so welcome on board! Kake, and for anyone who wants to join in, cut down on your plastic use, or simply follow our progress, look out for the #pfjuk hash tag on Twitter.

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Supermarket-free Me: New Leaf Coop

I have finally paid a visit to the New Leaf Coop and, to celebrate, I’m writing a post dedicated to it!

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This is a shop I need to support – it’s exactly the kind of place I wish existed everywhere, but not as a chain! Let’s see lots of quirky independent shops with the same ethos (read more about that here) and let us be their dedicated customers – bringing our own bags and the kind of enthusiasm that, quite frankly, it’s hard to muster in the supermarket…

The New Leaf Co-op is in Edinburgh in an area called Marchmont, which I can get to within about 25 minutes from my home. I’ve blogged about Marchmont before in this post (which, if I may say, I enjoyed rereading. It shows me what a difference a year has made in my ability to shop without the supermarket!)

I digress…The New Leaf Co-op is easy to find on Argyll Place, nestled amongst other independent businesses.

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Even before you enter, you know it’s going to be a bit special as it has a bicycle hanging in the window. I’ve no idea why it’s there, but seeing it made me smile.

Prior to the bicycle though, I knew I was going to like the shop as I’d spotted this page on their website (if you can’t see it in the photo properly, click on this link):

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The canisters of unpackaged goods got me more than a little excited because I’m taking part in Plastic Free July and, between you and me, it’s still looking less like a challenge, and more like a nightmare! Those canisters though suggested that they might answer a few of my prayers…Here they are in all of their glory!

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The front of the shop had a variety of goods including fruit and veg, chilled products, biscuits, pasta and even candles. The prices I saw seemed cheaper than comparable wholefood shops that I’ve visited recently. 

This is a relief. I want to be able to justify ditching supermarkets on financial grounds, as well as for ethical reasons. So far though, I’m finding that if I’m spending less then it’s because I’m buying different things than I did at the supermarket, or because I’m using things I had anyway, not because the prices in the independent shops I’ve been to are lower. Some things are lower of course, but I’ve struggled to accurately assess whether I’m actually spending less overall.

Entering the back room of the shop, I felt like Alice going into Wonderland. Finally, here I was in a room full of unpackaged products – all I had to do was scoop them up, pop them in my Onya bag and weigh them. (The New Leaf Coop Shop have Onya bags! I have Onya bags! It’s a sign – I don’t know what of, but surely it’s a good sign!)

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Now I don’t want to burst any bubbles here but because this is my blog and because I do consider honesty to be important, I must confess that I was a bit overwhelmed with the choice of products, and the fact that I actually had no idea what some of them were. Clearly this shop has customers who take their cooking far more seriously than I do!

I was a rabbit caught in the headlights and I didn’t want to start scooping up bags of small black beans that I didn’t know how to soak, so I had to take a moment to calm myself down and think about what I might be able to buy that would be useful.

Moment over, I found there were quite a few things I recognised and that I could certainly stock up on in July, such as dried fruits, spices and oats. There were also products, like those in the picture below, that I didn’t know existed but knew what they were.

 

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Maybe in July, some Exotic Muesli may just be what I need to cheer myself up when I can’t wash my hair, do the dishes or use deodorant because there’s flipping plastic involved in all of these products!! (Kidding, I’ll find alternatives – I really hope I’ll find alternatives!)

I duly filled my bags and weighed them.

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It was easy to work the scales and a label was printed out, showing the full details of each purchase.

I was super-impressed by this, as actually (shopping geek that I am becoming) I do care about what country my product has been flown from and it’s great to be able to see what I’m paying per kg, so that I can price-compare on the internet with the supermarket.

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Of the loose products I bought, two thirds of them seem to be cheaper at the New Leaf Coop than the supermarket equivalents I usually buy.

I left the shop with a spring in my step. Although I won’t be visiting regularly because of my journey time (and because parking in Marchmont is difficult and expensive), I will be back. I’ll be organised so that I can stock up – if you buy a product in bulk, the price per unit of weight comes down.

I’d love to know how well the New Leaf Co-op is doing financially. It certainly had a reasonable number of customers while I was in but my worry about shops like this is that they aren’t appreciated as they should be. Although there are many good quality, special, independent shops in Marchmont, I notice that a Sainsbury’s Local has opened since my last visit, which is bound to have an impact on the area.

Here’s my final word for this post…If you have a special shop near you, then visit it! Spend money there, tell your friends about it, shout about it on social media – let’s love those places and keep them going because if we don’t, then the supermarket may be our only choice in the years to come.