COP26: The sustainable Essex businesses and organisations leading the eco-friendly revolution
- Credit: La Pomme
The environment and the health of our planet is at the forefront of everyone’s minds. Holly Louise Eells talks to inspirational locals who are making a difference and leading the way in the green revolution
As we know, our planet is heating up and human activity is changing the earth's climate. It’s time to focus on the positives by celebrating the praiseworthy people who are making a significant difference to help save our home. 'We don’t need a handful of people doing zero-waste perfectly, we need millions of people doing it imperfectly,’ says Cheryl Nutley, owner of La Pomme, an eco-friendly beauty store in Ingatestone.
Cheryl founded La Pomme whilst trying to balance a passion for health, beauty and styling with a tremendous amount of love for the environment. ‘I grew up on a farm in Ireland, so naturally I have always had an appreciation for the great outdoors, which inspired me to undertake an environmental science degree. Since graduating nearly 20 years ago, I have always been an advocate for best practice around environmental impact. In 2019, I embarked upon a professional styling course as a hobby. I soon began to understand how difficult it was to strike a balance between love for beauty and styling alongside a passion for the environment and ethical practice – all whilst raising three children!’
During the lockdown, Cheryl explains that she utilised her time to source more natural, sustainable and ethical ranges. ‘I built a platform of wonderful products to inspire others to make eco swaps with a strong belief that we can make the world a better and fairer place by simply shopping more consciously.’
Cheryl adds, ‘There are many people in Essex making strides in their greener journey. We love chatting with customers who are aged 11 to 90! The community is certainly aware that we are in code red from the recent climate change report and is naturally alarmed by these findings - but there is still so much more we can do.’
La Pomme takes pride in purpose over profit. Cheryl says, ‘Through our various sustainable ranges, we donate proceeds to Women’s Aid and Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide Charity (SOBS).’ La Pomme is also an official ambassador and sustainable partner for Big Blue Ocean Cleanup, one of the world’s leading ocean cleanup non-profit organisations.
‘Plastic is not as widely recycled as many people believe, with less than 10 per cent being recycled in the UK at present,’ Cheryl says. ‘Plastic remains a huge environmental problem and it is not only a problem for our oceans and landfills; 99 per cent of plastic is made from fossil fuels so it is also a significant source of industrial greenhouse gas emissions hence why we actively encourage many to reduce their plastic consumption as much as possible.’
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As we discuss plastic in our waters, David Wallace, the programme officer covering Essex and Suffolk at RiverCare and BeachCare, believes things are improving. ‘I have lived in Colchester for ten years and we are certainly making progress as a community,’ he says. ‘Colchester held an Eco Festival recently and it was brilliant to see what innovations are happening in the green economy and how many people want to live a more environmentally aware lifestyle. There seems to be a re-connection to nature and how beneficial that is to our collective mental health.’
RiverCare and BeachCare aim to help develop and support communities across the Anglian region with total ownership of their waterways - protecting, improving and conserving our valuable water habitats for the future. It is managed by Keep Britain Tidy with support and funding from Anglian Water. Its program works with volunteering groups throughout East Anglia with 15 groups in Essex, including Benfleet, Southend, Mersea, Frinton, Walton and Braintree.
‘We have recently started supporting some volunteer groups along the Essex coast and we are planning some big coordinated beach cleans with them,’ says David. 'We have grown from just a single volunteer group 20 years ago to more than 50 groups today, with 1000 people regularly volunteering with RiverCare and BeachCare. Our message of “Let’s rescue a river and save our seas” is more important today than ever.’
However, it’s equally important to look after our land. The Essex Wildlife Trust, the county’s leading conservation charity committed to protecting wildlife and inspiring a lifelong love of nature, is doing just that. ‘We have found that connectivity with nature has increased throughout the pandemic, with more people getting out and about in their local green spaces,’ says sustainability officer, Keziah Rooke. ‘Feeling inspired by nature makes people much more likely to take steps to protect it, particularly in their local communities.’
She adds, ‘As a result, I think people are much more committed to making changes in their lifestyles, and we've seen that with people signing up to volunteer with us and support us in whatever way they can. I think by increasing the biodiversity in Essex, helping to create carbon sinks and inspiring others to connect with nature, our volunteers demonstrate a real impact on the huge challenges we are facing globally, on a local scale.’
Since March, Keziah has been working at the Trust and explains that her main purpose is to help enable a culture of innovation and sustainability. ‘One of the main aims of my role is to gain the Trust Green Dragon Accreditation,’ she says. ‘This accreditation process aids us in improving our operational sustainability. Green Dragon enables organisations across the UK to successfully manage and minimise their environmental impact and integrate sustainable business practices into their everyday operations. We look forward to sharing this journey with our members and the wider public, in the hope that we can share knowledge and expertise and encourage others to join the sustainability conversation.’
She continues, ‘Whilst there is so much we want to achieve, the main projects we will be working on over the next few months include exploring electric vehicles and charging points, renewable energy and launching a waste project. These projects are so important to all of us as we are committed to protecting wildlife and inspiring a lifelong love of nature. Driving this sort of change will help us to be a role model for our corporate partners and the people of Essex.’
Eco Essex is another fabulous organisation that aims to support, educate and inspire individuals in the education system and businesses to be more eco-friendly and ethical. Founded by Sam Pitman and Hannah Dalton, it offers easy tips and support on living a more eco-sustainable lifestyle in Essex. ‘Both Hannah and I had thought of ourselves as quite eco-conscious,’ Sam says. ‘However, three years ago we both realised we needed a space to talk about eco issues locally; we didn't know of any such Facebook group, so we started one! Very quickly afterwards, we realised that there was a need for this type of support and it grew from strength to strength.
‘We soon began to notice the positive impact we could have on people in Essex and beyond and started sister groups too. Eco Essex Rehome Reuse Repurpose is to get rid of your random items to stop them going to landfill, Eco Essex Business supports small businesses of any trade to try to make ethical changes, Eco-Education is now a collaborative group with Enform Charity and Eco Essex Sustainable Sanitary Wear gives those with periods a safe space to ask any question about this topic.’
Gemma Deeney, founder of The Refill Room in Leigh-On-Sea believes we can all learn from each other. ‘My family and I opened The Refill Room in 2018, in our hometown, she says. ‘We decided to open a zero-waste shop because we were becoming more and more aware of the harmful effects that single-use plastic has on our planet.’
Customers can bring their containers to refill with a range of organic products, such as pasta, rice, nuts, seeds, dried fruits, cereals and loose tea. ‘We aim to help others reduce their single-use plastic, reduce food waste and promote organic foods. We love to be involved with the community and enjoy chatting with our customers about anything to help each other - from composting to solar panels and delicious food recipes.
‘I think there are many individuals and groups in Essex who are very environmentally conscious and who are doing amazing things. Zero-waste shops, eco groups on social media, litter-picking events, and lots of people in the community supporting them. Incredible Edible in Leigh-on-Sea does amazing work with our community to grow vegetables and re-wild our urban areas. What we need are our councils and government to really step up; we are in a climate emergency after all.’
Cllr Peter Schwier, Essex County Council’s Climate Czar, says, ‘Essex County Council is currently considering its response to the recommendations from the Essex Climate Action Commission, an independent body set up by the council to advise the county on how best to reach its net-zero targets as quickly as possible. The Council has also recently launched a Climate Action Challenge Fund for local community groups and schools, allowing up to £20,000 of funding to deliver activities that respond to key climate challenges in Essex.’
Here are some other ethical Essex businesses to support:
Gia and Lula
From handmade reusable, eco-conscious sandwich envelopes and waterproof-lined snack pouches to wipes and flannels, all handmade in Leigh-On-Sea.
Package-free grocery store
22 Bond Street, Chelmsford, CM11GH
Green Health Foods
37 Rectory Grove, Leigh-on-Sea, SS9 2HA
Swapping cars for bikes and walking is an ideal solution to reduce our carbon footprint, but what about a Spin e-scooter?
A mission to reconnect consumers with their local food producers
eCargo Bike Delivery Project
Delivering a range of local shops and businesses