Excess packaging, single use plastic, toxic manufacturing processes – every purchase or service we use has an environmental impact. Loraine Patrick meets three West End companies building businesses around caring for and appreciating our environment.
Caroline Thompson-Noble hopes her new venture makes environmentally friendly products more accessible. The Green Place on Dumbarton Road is a one-stop shop for green home and lifestyle items. From sustainable paint brands to locally manufactured cleaning products and natural skin care, she has an alternative to many mainstream products.
Describing her carefully thought out stock selection is a real lesson on how to make informed buying choices. She explains the background to her ecologically friendly paint. It’s recycled from unwanted emulsion she says, so it reduces the amount that goes to landfill. ‘The paint goes through a reprocessing process where it is filtered, blended and then has natural pigments added to it. It has a lovely quality to work with and is slightly thicker than trade paint.’ The green on the interior shop wall is one of the 28 shades in the range and reflects the beautiful depth of colour the emulsion can achieve. Caroline estimates around 55 million litres of unwanted paint is thrown out every year and many of us don’t realise how toxic it is. ‘If it gets into water courses it can pollute,’ she warns.
It is not just the environment that benefits from going green our health does too. Another brand of paint in store is made entirely from plant derivatives and natural minerals and is safe enough for customers with allergies or respiratory conditions. Caroline explains ‘People often tell you not to paint when you are pregnant; and there is a good reason for that. It was only when I got my own house and started doing it up I realised there are so many chemicals you can be exposed to.’
Cutting down on plastic waste has become a public priority particularly since the impact on the world’s oceans was highlighted in the BBC series Blue Planet 2. The Green Place offers refills on around a dozen household and beauty products. ‘I had a lady in yesterday who filled up five bottles, it maybe took 10 minutes out of her day but I think the amount we are taking out of the earth is too much. It is not sustainable. Business models have to change.’
Charlie Mulholland from Zedify the cargo bike delivery service (formerly called Outspoken Delivery) couldn’t agree more. When he started up as a bike courier in Cambridge his aim was to enjoy the outdoors, now he hopes his expanding zero emission delivery service has a positive impact on Glasgow’s congested streets.
Explaining how his company works he says, ‘our aim is to do the least number of miles possible. One of our biggest clients is TNT (a worldwide shipping company) and we are helping them take vans off the road by doing many of their last mile deliveries.
‘We try to do everything with a moral and ethical outlook,’ he continues. ‘We do not put fumes into the city centre and all my employees are paid a living wage. Barring the occasional horizontal hail shower our cyclists are happy. We strategically use an electric van to maximise the use of our cargo bikes, which I appreciate does not solve the congestion problem but it does mean we can deliver bigger loads.’
Zedify have won funding to trial a pilot delivery scheme in Edinburgh to help independent shops. A similar scheme ran in London over Christmas. ‘10 retailers signed up to offer free delivery to customers living within half a mile and it proved hugely successful.’
The aim ultimately is to replicate the scheme in the West End of Glasgow. ‘Imagine being able to buy your favourite cheese from IJ Mellis, your bread from Cottonrake Bakery and your pick of fruit and veg from Roots and Fruits and we could deliver all three for free to your home. That’s the absolute dream,’ he laughs.
Whist the Zedify couriers are out in all weather – come rain, sleet or driving winds (yes even in the summer months) local mum Mel Russell’s new company aims to help us enjoy the outdoors whatever the weather. The highly insulated environmentally sustainable garden rooms she is manufacturing are designed to give you the space you need – whether that’s for growing teenagers, a place to work from home or simply a room to relax and enjoy the garden.
The high spec rooms are built from Mel’s Anniesland workshop. ‘They are a step up from conservatories,’ she says, ‘cheaper than a house extension and a million times more solid in construction than a summerhouse or garden shed.’ In Scotland it has mainly been joinery firms who have built these types of rooms but by focusing solely on her flat pack design Mel is able to keep costs down and is able to design, build and install for around a third cheaper than other manufacturers.
Sitting in the office-cum-spare bedroom in her back garden in Jordanhill it is easy to appreciate the appeal. The birds are singing, it is warm and cosy, and we are surrounded by greenery. You feel a million miles away from the busy residential streets of the West End but it has all the comforts of home.
Surprisingly you don’t need a big garden to make these rooms work and in most cases you don’t need planning permission. There are numerous health and wellbeing advantages to being able to enjoy an outdoor space year round and Mel is putting proposals together for a wheelchair accessible room after an enquiry from a local old folks home. ‘It is such a safe and warm space,’ she says, ‘and a great way to enjoy a garden whatever the weather.’
Outside In Garden Rooms marks a new direction for Mel who was formerly a director in a web design business. ‘I think businesses are becoming more and more aware of their responsibilities to the environment,’ she says. ‘It is important for me to deliver a product that is as sustainable as possible within a budget range. These rooms should last for 30 years. In house building people are becoming acutely aware of their moral and ethical responsibilities. Our rooms have to deliver now but also have longevity.’
Caroline from The Green Place sums up the mood, ‘There are lots of great producers here who are thinking both about their livelihood and the environment. It is great not only to buy local, but to demonstrate there are alternative business models out there that aren’t just about making lots of money.’