New initiatives at The Healthy Life

Local business The Healthy Life has recently started selling many dried goods without any packaging. Timed perfectly to coincide with the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust's "Waste Free February" campaign, this means you can take along your own containers when you buy grains, pulses, nuts or dried fruit. I met with Justina Pettifer, owner of The Healthy Life, to learn more about this and other initiatives at the shop.

                  HL Dispensers                   HL Packets

The refill your own containers scheme is just part of Justina's vision to eliminate plastic packaging from the shop as far as possible. Some dried foods will remain in packages, however the supplier of these has switched to a new biodegradable film in place of the previously used plastic. The first two weeks of this scheme appears to have been a great success. As a result Justina is planning to switch many of the products into larger dispensers, to reduce the need for the shop staff to refill them quite so often!

For customers the scheme is easy to use. You simply weigh your containers on the way in and attach the weight label to the container, then after filling you weigh it again and the scales print the price label.

HL Weigh 

Behind this simple customer experience lies a sophisticated IT system. This automatically tracks stock levels and reorders supplies on a daily basis. Allied to this is the newly launched shopping website, specially developed to match the exact requirements determined by Justina. This web store presents a huge range of products (over 14,000 if I remember rightly), but has some great filters, e.g. vegan or dairy free,  to let you find just the products that you are interested in. Items ordered there can be delivered to your home or can be collected in the Devizes shop the next day (for orders before midday).

The Healthy Life has been trading in one form or another for 35 years, with Justina running it for the last 11. We like the comfort of visiting shops that we remember from way back. So it is perhaps tempting to view local small businesses as stuck in a bit of a time-warp. That is clearly not the case here, where the sophisticated stock tracking and ordering systems are a vital tool to remaining viable in the modern era, even if there is a certain element of 'Back To The Future' with the refill your own containers!

For anyone looking to reduce their impact on the Earth whilst taking care of their health I'd recommend checking out The Healthy Life website and Devizes shop.


Visit to Caenhill Countryside Centre

On Wednesday 25th April a group from Sustainable Devizes visited Caenhill Countryside Centre and were kindly shown round by Chris & Helie Franklin, plus a kid called Lucky and a lamb called Snowy - both born during the cold snap in March.

Lucky & Snowy  Group from Sustainable Devizes at Caenhill Countryside Centre

Based at the farm where Chris grew up the Caenhill Countryside Centre is now bringing agriculture and horticulture to children and young people by providing courses and hands on experiences. In particular they are able to provide an engaging environment for those who have struggled within a more academic institution. There is however much that we could all learn from what is going on there...  

Two things that struck me were:

a) How such a wide range of animals were living together peacefully. In the pen with the young lambs there were chickens, cats and turkeys, whilst a line of geese wandered about the barn. All the animals there seemed really calm and at ease living with each other.  This seems contrary to the narrative of 'survival of the fittest' and competition. Clearly they do not need to compete as their needs are being met.

b) Chris and Helie run the centre on a charitable basis with a very low budget and this directly leads to a very sustainable approach to running it. Clearly nothing is wasted and 'waste' from other people is given a new lease of life there. As one example a newly erected section of post and rail fence was constructed from the remains of a fence that another farmer had removed. This wood was going to be burned, but with time and effort from volunteers it is once again serving a useful purpose. In economic terms the effort to salvage the fencing didn't make sense to the original farmer, however once the cost of labour is removed the true value of the material was evident.



Musings on the 'Beast from the East'

The cold and snowy weather that hit at the beginning of March was a poignant reminder of the challenges that Sustainable Devizes are trying to tackle, and of the resilience that comes from people in a community helping each other out.


Photo from Wiltshire Police Twitter feed

 We have all seen winter weather before and this wasn’t so extraordinary. However to those concerned about climate change the causes of this particular event are interesting. For some days beforehand climate scientists had been posting on social media about the extraordinarily high temperatures in the Arctic. The temperature at the North Pole was above 0°C on 25th February.

This video explains a little of how warming in the Arctic can cause cold air to move to lower latitudes.

 Essentially the reduced temperature difference between the Arctic and mid latitudes gives less energy to the jet-stream, which then slows down and begins to meander more. These meanderings push lobes of cold air further south than normal and allow lobes of warm air to push further north than normal. This is likely to get more frequent and severe as the Arctic ice dissapears.

 Regardless of the cause the temporary paralysis of our transport systems highlights just how dependent we are on this for our everyday lives. Within two days farmers were having to throw away fresh milk, whilst stocks in shops were exhausted. For such a short while this is a minor inconvenience to most of us – perhaps less so to the farmers who have lost valuable income? However it gives cause to ponder how we would cope if supplies of fossil fuels were to be suddenly disrupted for a long period.

 What was heartening is the way in which the community pulled together in this difficult time. From farmers helping to clear roads, to 4x4 owners offering to take healthcare workers to hospitals, to neighbours offering to collect shopping for those not able to get out. This points the way to how we may be able to transition to a future where fossil fuels are not widely available, or are made hugely more expensive as efforts to tackle climate change become more serious. Perhaps such community spirit could be harnessed towards transitioning away from fossil fuel dependence, thus reducing the future shock?



More Articles ...