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.
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.
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.