The Village Green is an organic shop and refillery in Alderley Edge, Cheshire, which opened during the pandemic in September 2021.
We sat down with the owner, Ashley Harbour, to discuss the challenges and rewards of running a sustainable shop.
What inspired you to open The Village Green?
Initially, it was seeing images and videos of sea animals affected and often dying due to all of the plastic in the ocean that I found incredibly upsetting.
Then there was doing a weekly shop which consists of sooo much plastic! It is so hard to shop without unnecessary plastic wrapping and packets. I wanted to give people a much more environmentally friendly way to shop.
How have you been received in the area since your launch last year?
It has been amazing! We now have lots of regular customers that make plastic free swaps with us and we always have new people coming in.
How important is sustainability to your customers?
It’s very important, we have die hard customers that are part of varied eco groups around the area and they are always looking for new products or brands that are providing new solutions to everyday plastic problems. We also have many customers who are just looking for inspiration on how to make some simple changes to help our planet and recognise that we can all do our bit.
How do you think running a sustainable shop differs from a regular retail outlet and what problems have you encountered?
It’s definitely interesting researching and finding sustainable ways of setting up shop. There are still some industries that just aren’t on board with being more sustainable, I think for some it is just too inconvenient sometimes.
What have you learnt since you opened?
So much!! There are so many people and business out there doing amazing things, which is so encouraging. I have learnt you just have roll with whatever life throws at you and have a giggle along the way.
What tips do you have for anyone who wants to start shopping more sustainably?
Here are my top tips:
- Plan before you shop this helps to avoid any food waste.
- Make sure you have bags/containers (if you have them) so you don’t have to pick up plastic bags from shops.
- Buy organic where you can.
- Buy loose produce where you can.
- Don’t shop on an empty stomach as most grab and go food is in non- recyclable packets.
Whatever changes you make, know that you’re making a difference.
What are your top 3 ‘eco’ swaps?
- Refillable Laundry powder and washing up liquid from our refill range ‘Fill’ can be found in-store.
- Bees wax wraps instead of cling film (they have super cute prints available too).
- Using a shampoo bar instead of liquid in a plastic bottle.
What do you have planned for the future of The Village Green?
We have recently opened our in-store coffee shop – The Coffee Shed, offering organic coffee, cold-pressed juices and organic kombuchas, plus locally sourced artisan treats, which our customers can enjoy whist shopping with us.
We are always expanding our range and are guided by our lovely customers. We have lots of exciting things coming soon. We have just hosted our first pop up shop for a lovely local flower business that buy and supply only British grown flowers, was a great success. We would love to host lots pop ups and workshops for other eco-friendly businesses local to the area and get a little community going.
How would you advise anyone who’s thinking about starting an environmentally conscious business?
I would definitely say go with what feels right, do lots of research and reach out to similar businesses for advice. I found everyone I spoke to was super helpful, and gave great tips. There are lots of groups on social media that offer lots of support too.