Tuesday, 31 March 2009

New shopping opportunities...

It's been a busy couple of weeks... not much to report on the waste front but I have taken advantage of a couple of new (to me) shopping opportunities that score well on various green credentials including waste.

First up it's the HFG Farm Shop at the local garden centre. Their boast is that for most produce they can measure "farm yards" rather than "food miles" - everything is labelled with its origin and indeed there is lots of stuff from within 10 miles or so, grown on HFG farms. There were also goodies from local bakeries, meat producers and other food businesses. So, local credentials firmly in place, how do they do on packaging? Pretty well I think.

Almost everything we wanted veg-wise was unwrapped - including celery, which is uncommon. However, peppers were only available wrapped and on a tray, and herbs were in plastic boxes rather than unwrapped bunches. We also passed on the loose onions to buy a (cheaper) 5kg mesh bag, although I am confident we'll find a use for the bag or maybe just take it back and refill it. None of the manufactured/prepared foods were unwrapped, since they are not processed on the premises - meat, fish, cheese, bread and cakes all have plastic wrap and (for meat/fish) polystyrene trays. So I think we'll stick to the butcher and fishmonger for these. But there is an interesting selection of frozen goods - loose fruit and also bake-yourself croisssants etc. which Alex tells me can be put in your own containers.

One slightly offputting aspect was that bicycle access is not good. A cycle path runs right by the entrance, but it's an awkward turn to get in and you then have to run the gauntlet of the car park to find... no cycle parking. However, I sent an email suggesting that they might improve this aspect and got a positive response to say they are about to rethink cycle access so I look forward to it getting easier in future.

On to the next new discovery - Wholefood Planet. This was flagged up in our county council magazine lately, and is very close to where we live so we decided to check it out. They sell a range of ethically-sourced and environmentally-friendly products, including organic foods and Ecover refills, operate a coffee shop inside the store, and they also employ people with learning difficulties and are committed to fair wages.

The shop is located on a small industrial estate, a bit out of the way but well signposted. It's not really near other shops but it's more the sort of place to do a monthly stock-up so that's not a problem. I was delighted to find lots of Suma things on sale - just the sort of thing that I wanted to order direct but was unable to due to the minimum order cost. Prices were very reasonable too, and compared well with organic products on sale elsewhere. I was a bit disappointed by the packaging of these things as it didn't seem very efficient - the packs are very large and flat, which leads to a greater surface area (i.e. amount of packaging) for the same volume of goods. But I understand that the thick polythene used is accepted by Polyprint for recycling, so that is a plus.

We'll definitely keep shopping at Wholefood Planet, and will probably go to HFG occasionally, but the greengrocer we usually use is closer to other shops (butcher, baker, Co-op) and we have got to know the people who work there so feel quite loyal to it. But if you are off to the garden centre anyway then it is well worth a look!

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