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Going plastic free

Plastic-free packaging, unpackaged dry goods, refillable cleaning products - welcome to the growing world of zero waste. Noel's Farmshop at Sutton Green is part of this quiet revolution.

Package-free refill shops are on the rise throughout the country, all part of a quiet revolution to help minimise the environmental impact of our consumer habits.

They chime well with Muddy – cool, quirky, saving the planet and supporting small local artisan businesses. And Noel’s Farmshop at Sutton Green is this to a tee. It’s a treasure trove of homemade artisan produce, locally grown fruit and veg and eco-friendly products. And of course, there’s the re-fill counter where you can buy anything from lentils and brown rice to washing up liquid.

But far from being a hippy hangout this is really just a more modern way of doing things the old fashioned way. And during the hour or so I spent in the shop, not one hippy did I see. A steady stream of eco-friendly shoppers (including a former Guildford mayor), yes! But free-spirited bohemian flower child, no!

For the uninitiated, zero-waste shops are really quite simple. You bring along your bottles and containers from home and refill them with whatever goods you need. As well as reducing the use of plastic, it also allows shoppers to buy in the quantities they need, so there’s also less food waste. Another win for the environment.

I was impressed with the range of dry goods which included every form of rice (white, paella, basmati, short-grain brown), quinoa, couscous, loads of different seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, mixed) and nuts (walnuts, cashews, macadamia, almonds) and oats. There’s also Himalayan pink salt and pepper.

A common misconception is that it costs more to shop ethically, but it’s just not the case – at Noel’s the prices of dry goods per 100g are less than you’d pay for the same amount in the major supermarkets.

You could do most of your weekly grocery shop at Noel’s Farmshop from what I could see. And many of the products in Noel’s Farmshop are locally sourced, made by small local producers.

When  I visit, Noel wanders around the shop giving me a mini tour – pointing out who’s made what. There are frozen vegan ready-made meals from Claire’s Veggie Kitchen in Woking; chilli sauces from Hot Pods in Woking; jams, chutneys, flavoured vinegars and cordials from Guildford-based Sister’s Preserves, juices from Sussex-based Folkington’s juices. Sausage rolls – both meat-based and vegetarian – come from a local producer, and three local bakeries provide artisan bread.

It’s a hive of cottage industry. And since we’ve mentioned hive – there’s local honey here too, naturally. Also eggs – from three different providers.

But as well as the food, there’s also plenty of environmentally-friendly products – natural and chemical-free skin and hair care products from Puremess, based in Guildford, as well as homemade natural soaps, shampoos and conditioners from English-made Faith in Nature.

One of the big sellers are the beeswax wraps, which you can use (and reuse) to cover food instead of clingfilm, and there are also bamboo toothbrushes and cotton wet-wipes.

The fridge too, is a treasure trove of goodies. Vegan cheese, anyone? But not just any old vegan cheese, this stuff is the best you can buy – naturally made with just five ingredients. There’s also a good choice of organic meat.

And of course there’s the fresh fruit and veg. Noel grows a lot of his own vegetables on a two acre plot just behind the shop – this season there will be courgettes, Swiss chard, cucumbers, runner beans, spinach, beetroot, french and dwarf beans, spring onions, normal onions… and more. Other produce comes from local farms – so as well as keeping the carbon footprint low, Noel is also supporting local businesses.

Noel’s Farm Shop, Sutton Green Garden Centre, Whitmore Lane, Off Guildford Road, Woking






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