The East Midlands has a treasure trove of innovative companies making sustainable living easier in the East of England, with cafés like Nature’s Pantry now offering up a selection of eco-friendly fair trade toys to their customers after the owners became frustrated at the amount of plastic being brought into their own home or the refill station on wheels helping the people of Bury St Edmunds. We’ve put together a review of some of the best places to find Refill stations, plastic free and zero waste shopping experiences.
Arjuna Wholefoods – 12 Mill Rd, Cambridge CB1 2AD
Arjuna is set up as a workers’ cooperative, which means all workers have an equal share in the company. That means that when you speak to the person behind the till, they might be the secretary, accountant or buyer, as well as bag packer and vegan guru. They offer organic fruit and veg, as well as a great selection of vegan and vegetarian products such as chocolate, tofu, vegan pizzas or quinoa.
Arjuna understand their part in the local Cambridge community and as such work with and donate to charities which are important to the cooperative team. Some of the money you spend in store can go towards helping The Wildlife Trust, Cambridge Rape Crisis Centre, St Matthew’s Primary School and Jimmy’s.
One of the great things about buying local produce from ethical companies is knowing that the pound you spend will be re-spent locally either by their suppliers or charities that they support, benefiting the local economy.
Plumb Dairy – Unit 7, The Grip Industrial Estate, Linton, Cambridge CB21 4XN
A traditional milkman service offering fresh local milk and dairy products to your door. They made it onto our list because of the Greenscents natural cleaning products they offer, which make environmentally friendly cleaning in your home a lot easier.
The Daily Bread Cooperative – Daily Bread Co-operative Ltd, The Old Laundry, Bedford Road, Northampton. NN4 7AD
Daily Bread is another workers’ co-operative, owned by the employees and not accountable to any shareholders. This means that the staff are committed to providing the best possible service and healthiest food for their customers. They strive to fill the shelves with local organic or fairtrade produce with a good selection of gluten-free and free-from products. You’ll be able to stock up on refill detergents too.
Daily Bread has a long established history of high moral standards, seen in its product selection and co-operative status. They were founded out of the St. Peter’s Church group and continue to have close links with them, supporting charities such as the Hope Centre.
Soundbites – 11 Morledge, Derby DE1 2AW
Soundbites is another great workers’ co-operative offering ethical produce in Derby, you’ll find whole foods, fruit, veg and a refill scheme covering washing up liquid and detergents. Bring refillable containers and old printer cartridges for their recycling scheme. Soundbites went refill only back in 2011, offering bio-d laundry and fabric softener. You wont find any plastic bags here but paper bags can be purchased if you don’t bring your own. You can even save yourself a trip into town and have veg boxes delivered to your home.
Clean Earth Pantry – Berkhamsted Market
“Clean Earth Pantry is on a mission to bring Berkhamsted an alternative way to shop: plastic-free and without any unnecessary packaging.”
You’ll find Clean Earth Pantry at Berkhamsted Market on the first Saturday of every month. They offer a plastic-free way to shop for whole foods, liquid refills and sustainable reusable household products. Realising that one of the easiest ways to improve sustainability in our homes is to reduce waste, they encourage you to only buy as much or as little as you need.
Bamboo Turtle – 5 The Arcade, Letchworth Garden City SG6 3ET
“Passionate about the environment, zero waste, plastic free, sustainability, recycling, composting and of course turtles”
Bamboo Turtle is a large zero-waste store, making plastic-free shopping easy. Bring a container or borrow one from in store, weigh the container, and fill it with some of their fantastic selection of beans, pulses, cereals, coffee, dried fruits, nuts, seeds, rice or pasta.
It’s not just for stocking up on kitchen supplies; you’ll be able to stock up on refillable cleaning produce and everything you’d need for the bathroom. Order online and collect in store or pop in and see the selection for yourself.
Eat Wholefoods – 214C Hatfield Rd, St Albans AL1 4LW
You’ll find Eat Wholefoods down at the St Albans Charter Market and at their shop on Hatfield Road. It’s easy to see how this friendly team won St Albans Retailer of the Year award; their knowledgeable staff are passionate about the good nutrition and really focused on reducing packaging wherever they can.
You can get refills for all the usual grains, seeds, dried foods and nuts, and they also stock a range of eco-friendly washing up liquids, laundry detergents and bathroom products.
Refill Pantry – 26 London Rd, St Albans AL1 1NG
Another great asset for St Albans sustainability community is the Refill Pantry, open 7 days a week. There’s no excuse not to make the most of Celina and Tania’s store.
Celina has long been diverting reusable items from the waste pile, having been an upholsterer and saving dozens of chairs in the process.
“Buying products using my own bags and containers would be the way forward , but it made me aware of a gap in the market in St Albans. After much research, several shop visits and six months of planning, I am thrilled that The Refill Pantry is up and running”
The Refill Pantry stocks dried goods including rice, lentils, oats, pasta, cereals, nuts, seeds, chocolate and dried fruits. Sustainable products such as reusable bags, jars, metal straws and beauty products. They also stock a range of liquid refills for shampoo, conditioner, cleaning products, oils and vinegar.
Less Waste – Leicestershire
Less Waste is a resource for all things zero-waste living in Leicestershire, from info on community fridges and tool sharing to furniture recycling and info on zero-waste community programmes.
Nature’s Pantry – 3 Church Street, Market Harborough, LE16 7AA
Market Harborough has Nature’s Pantry, which offers classes on nutrition and other great resources on making a zero-waste kitchen. Their café has some delicious treats, but what really earns their place on our list is their selection of sustainable toys. Realising that their children’s toys were not only entirely made out of plastic but also bringing huge amounts of plastic into their home with their packaging, Nature’s Pantry decided to offer parents a sustainable alternative with a range of fair-trade sustainably sourced toys.
Refill Revolution – Food Hall, Indoor Market, Market Harborough LE16 9HB
Starting out life as a pop up shop in Market Harborough this now established refill shop has come to provide a massive range of eco-friendly sustainable shopping alternatives and a great range of bulk buying option. Beth set up this amazing space whilst on maternity leave when she got frustrated at the difficulty of building sustainability into everyday parenthood; what an example of being the change you want to see!
They offer alternatives to the traditional plastic items in your home such as toothbrushes, razors and even kitchen sponges. At the liquid refill table you’ll find vegan-friendly and cruelty-free shampoos, conditioners, shower gels, laundry detergents, fabric softener, washing-up liquid, toilet cleaner and multi-surface cleaner.
Don’t forget the Tupperware or glass jars for the dry foods section; many of the dried foods are organically grown and are sourced from ethical wholesalers. Its always worth popping by just to see what’s new in their constantly evolving selection as they find more new products to bring to store. One such newcomer is the locally handmade snack pouches made by a local Harborough lady.
Wonky Veg Boxes – Leicestershire
“Great taste less waste”
Not wanting perfectly good food to go to waste, the Wonky Veg Boxes rescue unwanted fruit and veg and then deliver it to your door. Up to 40% of a vegetable crop can go to waste because of the aesthetic requirements of supermarkets, and when you consider the energy required to produce those wonky veg, it’s astounding that so much would go to waste. 10% of the saved produce goes towards local charities and food banks.
The Green Grocers – 2-4, Earlham House Shops, Earlham Rd, Norwich NR2 3PD
Since 2008 the Green Grocers has provided a refill station for shoppers to stock up on washing up liquids, floor cleaner, multi surface & toilet cleaner, non-bio laundry liquids & fabric softeners, hand soap, shampoos & conditioners. In their hopper section they have over 40 organic nuts, seeds, pulses, cereals and rice.
The Green Parrot – Market Pl, Swaffham PE37 7AQ
You wont find anywhere else on our list where you can stock up on household refills and get a Swedish massage. The Green Parrot is primarily a health food store, but it also has calming treatment rooms with wide range of therapies; homeopathy, acupuncture, aromatherapy and Swedish massage, osteopathy, healing, nutritional therapy and allergy testing, hypnotherapy, counselling, clinical psychology and foot health. What started out as fill ’em up Friday you can now go into the Refill Room to stock up on loose grains, nuts, seeds, dried fruit, rice, beans and oats.
The Nottingham Zero Waste Collective – Nottingham
The best group in Nottingham for zero-waste living, they regularly update with events, classes and inspiration on how to live a sustainable lifestyle and also have the very latest guides on which markets have the best zero-waste store.
Bury Wholefoods – Bury St Edmunds
Dawn does business a bit differently to other wholefood shops, and if you live within 10 miles of Bury St Edmunds they’ll bring the wholefood refills to you.
Whilst there is a certain environmental cost involved with driving refill stations around Suffolk, it is a vital link for people who find it hard to be sustainable from their home, with new mums, the elderly and some disabled people finding this service invaluable.
With an extensive range of locally produced dried fruit, veg, seeds, grains and environmentally friendly cleaning products, the Bury Wholefoods site will keep your cupboards stocked.
There are some really innovative companies bringing sustainable shopping to the East Midlands. If you’ve been to any of these shops, or if you found this blog helpful in tracking down a sustainable store for your favourite eco-friendly product, please comment below; we’d love to see your feedback.