Recycling campaigner Karen Cannard welcomes the opening of a new environmentally friendly shop in Bury St Edmunds
On an average Monday just a few weeks ago, I was checking my phone as I left work, as is my usual routine. Normally, I have to swipe away the general digital chatter to find the key highlights. However, on this particular cold evening in February, just a glance at my FaceBook timeline instantly revealed hot news.
A new shop had opened in Bury St Edmunds and friend after friend after friend was sharing the story. I could understand why. The retailer in question was Clear to Sea, an independent shop that specialises in mainly plastic-free products with zero or minimal packaging. The photos looked great and the shop’s video on Facebook has even reached over 18,000 views. Having waited a whole decade for a shopping experience like this to arrive in town, I couldn’t wait to visit.
It took me five days. Can you imagine my anticipation?
Having spent years extolling the virtues of packaging-free shops wherever I’ve stumbled across them on my travels – from London, Greater Manchester to Vancouver – I was champing at the bit for the weekend to arrive. And I wasn’t disappointed. Clear to Sea is a haven for anyone who is actively trying to reduce waste. Located on the corner of St John’s Street and Sergeant’s Walk, near the library, it fits in well among the many other independent specialist shops.
Stepping into the store for the first time, it was noticeably busy. Customers were buying dried products that they had measured out themselves from modern dispensers – a wide choice from flour to sugar, cereals, pulses and nuts. There were also herbs, spices and specialist teas. Paper produce bags were available to transport the goods home but customers can also refill their own containers.
Clear to Sea also encourages refills through its range of bathroom, laundry and household cleaning products. Even though we can recycle the plastic bottles in which such products are usually packaged, these refillable alternatives provide a local solution to reducing our consumption of single-use plastic.
There are, in fact, many alternatives to single-use plastic around the store. As well as reusable travel cups, water bottles and produce bags, reusable metal and bamboo straws are available to replace the disposable plastic variety. Bars of soap, shampoo bars and shaving bars replace bottled products. There are also plastic-free toothpaste, tooth tabs and toothbrushes made from bamboo. The store even sells washable make-up wipes, hand wipes and sanitary pads which, for a small investment will save you hundreds of pounds in their lifetime of use as well as avoiding kilos of rubbish from entering the waste stream.
It was a real pleasure to finally meet Catherine Winn, the shop’s founder and owner, and it was easy to see how hard she has worked on pulling the store together. Catherine had wanted to do something that could create positive change ever since she had seen the impact of the society’s misuse of plastic on marine life and the environment. She is also passionate about ensuring that her products have social impact too, whether that’s investing in locally made items that support local producers or goods that help fund ethical projects overseas.
Clear to Sea is a real positive addition to West Suffolk. On both visits I’ve spotted a few familiar faces and it’s already feeling like a friendly part of the community, so you’re passing by, please do support it.
For more information, visit www.facebook.com/cleartoseaburystedmunds