Em's Easy Eco: Bramhall's plastic free shop
This blog is the fifth in the series of ‘Plastic free Manchester: Meet the shop owners’ interviews. Previously, I've spoken to Lentils & Lather owners Carl and Paulina, Goodness Zero Waste owners Lucy and Tshepo, Plentiful owner Abbie, and Earth Friendly Rocker owner Lauren. You can read more about why I decided to start this series here.
In this blog I'll be chatting to Emily, the owner of Em's Easy Eco. The Bramhall based store opened in 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic and stocks a variety of refillable dried food, plastic free household goods, eco-friendly beauty products and more.
Tell us about Em's Easy Eco...
I like to think that I've been an 'eco warrior' for most of my life. When I was around seven I sent a letter to the then-Prime Minister Tony Blair, asking why he wasn't doing more to save the Amazon Rainforest after learning about it at school. I did get a letter back, basically saying that he was aware of the issues and he was trying his best. I still have the letter somewhere! But I think he had different priorities..
Fast forward a few years and I'm working in a car finance broker that's aiming to reduce its carbon footprint. They were looking for a voluntary 'eco-warrior' to help assess the areas of the business that they might be able to change. I used the same Tony Blair story to get anonymously voted the 'eco-warrior' and I got to work. Then Covid-19 hit. The car market came to a complete standstill and I was furloughed. While on furlough I was able to spend a lot of time in the garden at my mum's house. I revamped a compost bin, planted some vegetables so we could have our own produce, and started planning Em's Easy Eco.
When planning everything, my one issue was figuring out a name for this new venture. I asked my friend (also called Emily) who is much more creative than I am, and she came up with the name within about 5 minutes - Em's Easy Eco was born!
What made you decide to open a plastic free store?
I'd seen lots of zero waste shops through Instagram and I really wanted to be able to shop like that in my area. I don't drive at the moment so I use public transport or walk a lot. There are lots of great options around Greater Manchester for so many communities but I found it hard to access any without having to travel out of my way to get to them. I grew up in Bramhall so I knew that if I wanted to shop this way, lots of others would too, and thankfully I was right!
I have most of the staple foods at the moment; rice, pasta, flours, nuts, beans, chocolate, tea, coffee, herbs, spices, dried fruit, and seeds. Liquid refills; cleaning supplies, laundry products, shampoo, conditioner, hand soap, washing up liquid, body wash. Personal care products; moisturisers, face soap, body soap, solid shampoo and conditioner, toothpaste tablets, bamboo toothbrushes, electric toothbrush heads, menstrual care, deodorant, make up wipes, toilet paper, metal razors. Homeware; wax wraps, produce bags, candles, washing up supplies, cleaning products.
I've tried my best to go with suppliers that are also sustainable and plastic free. I think a lot of people can get sucked into the 'plastic free' path, but that doesn't always mean that a product is fully sustainable, e.g. something can be made from wood but it's not grown sustainably, a candle can be plastic free but not made from an eco friendly wax - so I've tried to do both sides as best as I can.
You opened the shop in the middle of 2020, how was it opening a store during a pandemic?
I think I might have found it easier opening in the pandemic, compared to shops that were open before because this is all I've known! I incorporated Covid rules and measures into my shop from the start, and I haven't had to change anything because of this.
I've had an amazing response from the local community, I have a lot of local friends and family that have really supported me. I've also had lots of interest in the shop from local people, even if they had no idea about the 'zero waste' movement before, and lots of people have been wanting to make certain changes but haven't been able to access any due to time/transport/family restrictions. Surprisingly, I've had a great response from the older population of the village, as lots don't want to travel on public transport or go to big supermarkets to get essentials and I have a lot of products in store that you couldn't get in Bramhall before, like lentils, different types of flours, spices and such. Many say 'this is how I used to shop when I was a kid!'.
For those just starting out on a journey to reducing their plastic waste, where would you suggest is the easiest place to start?
I only properly started focusing on my sustainable journey around a year ago, I think we have all incorporated sustainable practises into our daily lives without realising that they are actually beneficial to the environment as well as our pockets! Like using bags for life, tote bags, water bottles, taking meals in Tupperware etc.
Something I would definitely recommend is not feeling pressure to buy 'the' sustainable product of the week/month/year, instead replacing things with more sustainable items once you run out. I am trying to use up everything that I have that is 'less sustainable' before I purchase sustainable items, like using up old bottles of shampoo/conditioner/bodywash, using make up until it runs out, etc. It wouldn't be sustainable (environmentally or personally) to do a mass clear out and replace every single item. It's a gradual process and you have to try different ways of doing things to figure out what works for you.
What’s next for Em's Easy Eco in 2021?
For the first couple of months I've been trying to get a solid base of products that I know my customers love. I have an endless list of ideas that I want to add to the shop, but I have to pace myself! There are some lovely new products coming in to compliment what we already have. I'm hoping to be able to get fresh baked goods in the shop soon as this is something that I personally find quite difficult to find plastic free alternatives for, and (Covid-permitting) I'm hoping to be able to hold events and community events alongside a new group in my area - Sustainable Bramhall.