The more you listen to Rebecca Lodge talking about JarFull and the care for the environment that underpins her online shopping scheme, the more you hear the quiet determination that underpins her ambition; “One-stop plastic-free shopping,” she says simply.
The idea is a simple one and borne out of Rebecca’s frustration about how some food products – mostly dry foods – always come packaged in non-recyclable plastic. Back in 2017, she one day had what she calls a “light bulb” moment.
She explains: “A huge amount of resources go into making single use plastic packaging. Then a big vehicle picks the recycling up and takes it to a processing plant which again uses a huge amount of resources. I wanted to see how we could just not use the stuff in the first place and reduce the waste we were creating.”
The way JarFull works is simple, like most good ideas. With the first order, shoppers can select all the items just as they would for any other online shop. Their foodstuffs will be delivered in either 100% recycled paper bags or surplus glass jars that JarFull have collected. With subsequent orders, any glass jars provided by customers will be put aside and refilled or if the first delivery was with organic cotton produce bags, then JarFull will refill alternative bags, collect the original ones and refill those and so it goes on.
At the moment, deliveries are only taking place in the HG1 postcode area because they are made on foot or by bicycle. As Rebecca says: “We are trying to be environmentally-friendly so driving around in a diesel van is just too contradictory.” She adds that they are looking for more collection points where customers can pick up their orders; these are flagged up on the JarFull website.
The foodstuffs available are wide-ranging; flour, cereals, grains, legumes, dried fruit and nuts which JarFull buy in bulk in huge 25kg paper sacks. It also stocks non-food items such as bamboo toothbrushes and body care products, which actually can be delivered anywhere in the UK because they go in the post.
In its own local way, JarFull is part of the global sustainability movement. Pictures that shock of plastic pollution in the oceans that helped to intensify concerns about the impact humans are having on planet Earth, have kick-started schemes aimed at reducing our reliance on non-recyclable materials.
And as it turned out, Rebecca’s light bulb moment could not have come at a better time. She explains: “In September and October of 2017, Blue Planet 2 showed millions of television viewers just how much we really need to reduce plastic use. It was brilliant timing.”
Rebecca’s passion for the environment goes back to her childhood: “From a young age I was always into nature, playing with caterpillars and grasshoppers. At school in geography class, we learnt about climate change and I developed a keen interest in the environment and the natural world.”
She was so keen in fact that she went into environmental management as a career, becoming at one stage, an environmental consultant for the waste industry. “That really opens your eyes,” she observed.
And with her eyes still open, what of the future? Rebecca and her partner still have full-time jobs meaning running JarFull and running everything else is a “bit of a balancing act”. She is hoping to be in premises in the coming months where customers would bring their own jars and fill up with rice, pasta, lentils and other dried food from gravity dispensers. The aim is to have a zero-waste shop. As Rebecca says: “A sustainable, plastic free life is better for everyone.” And that includes those caterpillars and grasshoppers.
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