For Plastic Free July I have interviewed local campaigners, business owners and community heroes from Devon and Cornwall, who have put living plastic free at the heart of the way they work.
Meet Sandy Lipo, founder of the plastic free gardening online store Good Roots Barn, that has its HQ in Devon.
Tell me a little about yourself and the work that you do.
I love to garden and over 5 years ago I decided to change my career from a 9-5pm office job and began studying and working in horticulture. We moved to Devon in September 2019 and with lockdown it became increasingly difficult to find the gardening supplies that I needed online so I decided to start my own business.
At Good Roots Barn, we specialise in plastic free gardening supplies. We chose to bring plastic free alternatives to the forefront because we ourselves practise a plastic free lifestyle and I wanted to introduce this into people’s gardens too. I am passionate about the environment and zero waste, and I want to encourage people to become more conscious of the impact their choices are making both for the planet and what better way to connect people than with the patch right outside their back door.
What first got you started on your plastic free journey?
It was probably one of the many documentaries I’ve watched that got me concerned about the state of our planet, long before Blue Planet (which seemed to have been the one that got everyone motivated to make some changes in their life). The journey began by refusing single use plastic which was super easy and then making monthly swaps away from plastic in our bathroom and kitchen. Then we decided to reduce our carbon footprint as much as we possibly could and the best way to do this was to eat a plant-based diet and we have just stuck with it ever since.
I’ve always grown my own food but, in the beginning, it wasn’t about sustainability, it was for the pure joy of watching it grow and the passion I had for gardening. I’ve always gardened peat free and working within the horticulture industry I was shocked at the way in which plastic is treated in such a throw away manner. This led me to start to garden with alternatives which with the help of my business I can introduce gardeners to these.
What has been your biggest achievement so far?
There have been so many, the business almost didn’t get off the ground in the beginning, but we managed, with the support and generosity of people who really believed in our ethos, to launch the website on schedule, during lockdown and at the end of the growing season, so I think that was a triumph. We are a very small self-funded start up and we don’t have the budget for advertising, so whenever we are featured in a publication or even mentioned on social media we celebrate.
What would be your advice for people trying to live a life with less plastic?
It’s a lot easier than people think and it’s more rewarding than people give it credit for. We have gone one step further in our quest to live sustainably and we are practising a zero-waste lifestyle. This means that we don’t utilise our weekly curb side collection bins. I’m not entirely convinced given what I’ve seen and read that our recycling infrastructure works in this country and so we try as much as possible to avoid throwing anything ‘away’.
We look for home compostable packaging (not always easy and shouldn’t be confused with biodegradable) or even better no packaging at all. It’s a challenge but one we are winning at slowly. But it is not without sacrifice and some of those delicious treats we used to enjoy that came wrapped in plastic we now bake ourselves or go without.
What do you love most about Devon?
We love the slow pace Devon has brought us. We moved here from Surrey in Sept 2019 and then went directly into lockdown in March 2020. But in that brief period beforehand it didn’t take us very long to establish that time is a little different in Devon and things just have a lovely, relaxed pace to them, which we are thoroughly enjoying.
How can people get involved or support your work?
We have a website where you can purchase plastic free gardening supplies, we are on quite a few social media platforms (it’s hard to miss us). Of course, we would love to introduce plastic free alternatives to every gardener, but from the very beginning we didn’t want to just sell more ‘stuff’, we wanted instead to use the website to inform and educate.
We have a monthly blog and a list of monthly jobs to be getting on with in the garden, we have our Top Tips and a bookshelf where we recommend books we have read and we recently introduced a VIP Head Gardener monthly subscription which we hope to grow into a larger community of like-minded gardeners. I’m always on hand to help and give advice where I can, but most importantly, we want to encourage conscious consumerism and doing what is right for our planet and our environment.
What are your plans for the future?
I hope to be able to continue to support other small independent businesses working towards a better respect for our planet. I would love to be able to open a Good Roots Barn store where gardeners can come along and try out these new and sometimes old alternatives in their gardens. The big dream is to become someone’s local small business and who knows maybe we will have an impact on the way in which the horticulture industry moves forward and addresses the impact it has on the environment.