All the hard work finally paid off and Earthkind became a permanent fixture of the Horsham Food Market, offering plastic-free refills of organic whole foods.
Starting off small wasn't just a business decision but a necessity. As a graphic designer, juggling two businesses was always going to be a balancing act.
I never planned on being a market stall holder, or indeed a shop keeper of any kind, not least of food products - but here I am, trying to make a difference in some small way.
After realising there just wasn't the availability of plastic-free organic wholefoods near us, like many others frustrated at how slow awareness was increasing - I had to take matters into my own hands. At first I thought it would be impossible to start a business with little to no investment (or clue about how to run a shop) but I soon realised that I didn't have to start off with a brand new electric van to make a difference. Instead I went right back to basics; what are the main products that people buy regularly? Rice, pasta, raisins, seeds - these were what I stocked first and I joined the Transition Horsham and Sussex Green Living groups, volunteering with the kids on a Saturday and trying to establish whether people in Horsham are even looking for the service I had in mind.
Sussex Green Living and Horsham refill and repair cafe welcomed me with open arms and suggested that I could start off in their cafe on the first Saturday of each month at the Quaker Meeting House. I launched the stall with only six products and soon, like minded people came through the door with their empty containers ready to fill. They bought their staple foods and patted me on the back for bringing such a service to the town, which gave me the confidence to take the stall to market.
Reality setting in
Unfortunately the market was, and still is, nothing like the repair cafe - people don't see Earthkind and "get it" straight away. There are a few lovely regulars that always brighten the day, but the truth of the matter is that so many people still have their blinkers on when it comes to the plastic crisis and are too busy to take time to do the research necessary in understanding it.
If you are embarking on this journey yourself, whether it's setting up a food business, selling sustainable lifestyle products or dog treats, it's important to remember that encouragement and positivity is what will help to gain momentum towards conquering our current environmental issues. Yes we are small, and one person won't change much but if everyone refuses to consume in the way that we have become accustomed, we can make a huge difference. To make change at supplier level, consumers have to create a trend, if the trend is to stop shopping at supermarkets, they will soon get the hint that we want plastic-free products, local, organic, fairtrade and most importantly a guarantee that the investors and shareholders are holding environmental impact in as high a priority as profits.
"Once destroyed, nature's beauty cannot be repurchased at any price."
Join the revolution
There are always alternatives and we, the consumer have all the power - after all it is called the plastic revolution for a reason. Throughout history people have revolted against what they believe to be wrong and in this case the supermarkets and corporations are not listening to experts and environmentalists, so for now shopping elsewhere and stopping their profits is the only way to get them to hear us.
If there's no food refill service near you, buy in bulk, buy with recycled bags or send off your own containers to people like zero waste club, buy from farmers markets or farm shops, shop in Asian food markets or make a monthly trip to buy staple foods from a zero waste shop in your county - alternatively, why not start your own zero waste stall, Earthkind was started with 6 jars and a tiny amount of stock, borrowed trestle tables and homemade signage, we had to make a difference in our area and no-one else was going to do it for us. Change is never easy, but evolution is change and our legacy needs to inspire our children and show them how to thrive.
Inspiring each other
Every time I've met a hurdle and feel like my efforts are getting nowhere, I am inspired by new faces. I remember every single person that's told me how grateful they are that I am offering this service, and those who've said "well done" or "thank goodness someone is doing something". You are the ones that keep me coming back to market, so thank you for making the changes in your lives necessary to inspire others.