Plentiful: Ramsbottom’s Plastic Free Shop
Since beginning my journey of plastic reduction just under a year ago, I have had the pleasure of shopping at a fair few of Manchester’s eco-friendly, plastic free stores. Manchester is great for those trying to reduce their plastic waste, and has a variety of stores that cater for all ages and budgets. From food refill stations to plastic free beauty and cleaning products – Manchester has it all! After sharing my product and store recommendations on my Instagram (@elm.mcr) since April 2020, and speaking to friends, family and followers, it became apparent to me that there is still a level of unawareness of the shops available on the people of Manchester’s doorsteps.
This revelation sparked the creation of my ‘Zero Waste Stores in Manchester’ Map. And while this map is far from being complete (new update coming soon with more shops added!) it really helped (I hope) to show my followers (you!) the zero waste store options that exist in Manchester.
In addition to the map, I have decided to start a new series: Plastic free Manchester: Meet the shop owners. This series will delve deeper into the lives and ethos’ of the plastic free shop owners in Manchester. To kick the series off, I spoke to one of Manchester’s original plastic free shop owners, Abbie Sellers, founder of Plentiful, Ramsbottom…
Tell us about Plentiful…
I opened Plentiful two years ago, then in a tiny little side street plastic free shop in Ramsbottom. It was the first of its kind in Greater Manchester and was super successful – quick. A year ago we began a Crowdfunder with outstanding support from our customers and the local community. We now stock fresh organic fruit and veg, the best sourdough in Bury (I’m sure others will back me up on that bold claim!), a huge range of dried food to buy by weight, Plentiful snacks and dried fruit, branded packaged foods such as tins, spreads, oils, cooking stuff and delicious goodies and gifts. There are about 600 products now – I think we’re definitely hitting a mini-market size range! We started off as purely plastic free, and that’s still very much at our core – but now the shop isn’t so exclusive. We welcome everyone who wants great quality delicious food without costing the planet.
Inside Plentiful! They stock around 600 different products.
Why did you decide to open the store?
I felt trapped into having to shop in a way I didn’t want to. I wanted to easily buy plastic free food (macadamias to be precise) and have someone explain which products I could switch to – like toothpaste etc. It was only 2 years ago but this information wasn’t at my fingertips. I remember having viewed my first premises, going to Tesco and almost having a meltdown over packaged peppers being cheaper. I’d just been on holiday to an island facing the Atlantic Ocean – I waded through a beach of washed up litter. Turtles couldn’t nest there any more. I knew I had to do it, I just knew.
If you could choose your 3 favourite products from the store what would they be and why?
Definitely our locally baked rosemary and olive sourdough focaccia – I’m so excited for my Saturday morning fix. A new one we only started selling a week ago (Sept 2020) is Ombar chocolate bars – honestly, the pistachio centre one is to die for. And lastly, I reckon our hair conditioner bars – I’ve used the same one for a full year (the same actual bar) which is insane – my hair has had a lifetime of bleach and that’s the only conditioner bar that’s up to scratch that I’ve tried! I could list about 50 favourite products – the joy of choosing what to stock, and oh the samples!
One of the refill stations in Plentiful.
What would you suggest is the easiest place to start for people on a budget who are trying to reduce their waste?
ONLY. BUY. WHAT. YOU, NEED. That was my main saving when I started out. We’re in this consumerist lifestyle and it’s so expensive and wasteful. Now, I wait a month before I buy things – half of the time I’ve gone off the idea. Shop at farmers markets for fruit and veg unwrapped, don’t give into the greenwashing hype (that’s a tricky one), and cook from scratch, making enough servings to freeze for easy meals. I’ve saved a fortune.
Can you tell us more about the Surfers Against Sewage: Plastic Free Ramsbottom Campaign you’re involved in?
A good friend and Plentiful colleague lead this. It was with Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) and we had to get businesses, schools and community groups in the area to switch out as many single use plastic consumables as they could (a minimum of 3). We hosted a mass-unwrap where we helped shoppers to unwrap the plastic off their supermarket shop outside Tesco to highlight the horrendous amount of waste they produce, and hosted litter picks in conjunction with Litter Picking Ramsbottom. It was such a wonderful thing to be involved in, and we’re super proud to have achieved status. I think after Covid, we definitely need to revisit this as the waste is creeping up so much again – not just in Ramsbottom, all over the world.
Refill jars & plastic free goodies!
Over the last few months you’ve been gradually moving away from the ‘plastic free shop’ title. Why is this?
It was lockdown that kicked me off thinking how wonderful it would be for our customers to not have to visit big scary supermarkets. There was so much anxiety in the air around going in them, and I knew Plentiful could be a safe space for our customers. We started with things like tins and jars, then educated ourselves more widely on all aspects of ethical living, from vegan alternatives to organic farming and Fairtrade. We already had the bread and veg, and the space to host a whole array of alternatives to big unethical brands – so if people were buying the plastic anyway, why not support companies we KNOW are doing good things? We’ve kept out plastic free where possible mindset for sure, but this new ‘Plentiful Wholefoods’ era is allowing so many more people to feel like the shop isn’t some eco-nut scary zone they daren’t set foot in. They come in for sourdough, some mushrooms, jam or local honey, and before you know it, they’re leaving with a whole basket of organic, local, plastic free goodies. We see it as a net reduction in plastic and an overall reduction of support for big, shitty corporations destroying the planet.
What’s next for Plentiful?
That’s a question I ask myself every day! I have so many ideas. I’ve just started working with an amazing female-empowering business consultant who’ll help me take Plentiful to the level. I’m eyeing up small supermarkets (I could definitely fill one, with all I want to supply!) but that’s a long way away. I want Plentiful to grow and to reach more people for sure – but to do it right and successfully. The world needs to see that environmentally conscious businesses can succeed. We don’t need to cut all corners and think profit over planet to make it work.
All of Plentiful’s veg is organic
Thank you to Abbie for providing such an amazing insight into the world of Plentiful! To find out more about them, visit the store or check out their website.