Plastic-free shopping within easy reach of Exmouth

For the eco-conscious visitor, or local Exmouth resident, a trip to Nourish of Topsham is the destination shopping experience for you!

Interview by Sarah Allen,

Situated, with easy access from Exmouth, on the banks of the River Exe is the pretty historic port town of Topsham. Just a short drive from Exmouth or easily accessed by eco-friendly modes of transport. Try the Exe Estuary Trail, a cycle path, which starts in Exmouth and hugs the estuary on a six mile journey to Topsham; it’s truly breath-taking in itself.

If you want a similar experience but without having to rely on pedal-power, the Exmouth branch-line train goes to Topsham and regularly departs from the town centre station. Alternatively hop on the 57 bus which will take you to Topsham.

Once there it’s easy to find Nourish on the main street (Fore Street, number 56).

I caught up with owner Sarah Martin to find out more about her independent shop that opened earlier this year…

For those of us who haven’t visited yet, can you describe your shop?
Nourish is a zero-waste provisions store, providing sustainable, eco-friendly, packaging free shopping in Topsham.

What’s your background and why did you decide to start Nourish?
I have a first degree and a doctorate in environmental science, so have always been acutely aware of the damage that we have been having on the planet. Scientists have been talking about the dangers of plastic for many years now, but the Blue Planet TV programme really brought home to the general public that this is a serious and time-critical issue. I was becoming increasingly frustrated with the amount of plastic packaging in supermarkets and felt compelled, when I saw a shop lease available in Topsham, to do something to make shopping plastic free easier. Nourish is the result of that.

Why should people travel from Exmouth to shop in Nourish?
Although packaging free shops are starting to pop up around the country, they are still quite rare. I see a visit to my shop as an opportunity to see how much can be done to reduce one’s impact on the planet. People are surprised at the range of products that I hold, from food, to cleaning products, toiletries and items to help reduce single use plastic, such as reusable water bottles and lunch boxes.

How does Nourish support customers in living an eco-friendly life style?
People can use their own containers to fill up on dried foods, herbs and spices, oils and vinegars, tea, coffee and cleaning products. This helps in two ways – reduction in use of plastic food packaging and being able to buy exactly the amount that you need, reducing food waste as well. We provide non-plastic alternatives for everyday items such as washing up sponges, toothbrushes, dental floss, and cling film to name a few.

It’s fantastic that customers can use their own containers, or the paper bags supplied by the shop, cutting down on packaging and eliminating plastic. How do the products arrive at the shop?
The food arrives in a mixture of paper and plastic packaging, in large sacks. The companies I buy from are also striving to reduce waste so the plastic packaging is recyclable, and they take back all the cardboard boxes and plastic cans (e.g. the 25l bio-D containers) when they deliver their next order so that they can be reused. Most of the non food stock is supplied by small companies who are as passionate about the issues as I am so they arrive in a lovely assortment of reused packaging!

Nourish has some recycling collection points based in the shop, what can customers bring in to be recycled?
I have several recycling schemes now running in collaboration with Terracycle, so people can bring us hard to recycle objects, such as writing instruments, beauty packaging, home care packaging and Ella’s Kitchen food pouches. For every item I send to Terracycle, money is given to the local primary school.

Do you have any new products or initiatives planned?
Lots! But they are top secret!  I would like to increase my community involvement, and also developing a consultancy to advice companies on how they can reduce waste in their processes and supply chain. In terms of products, I will just go where my customers guide me!

It has been an absolute pleasure talking to Sarah Martin she is clearly passionate about giving her customers a plastic-free shopping experience but as well as that it is such a pleasure being in the shop. Sarah is friendly and approachable and as customers come and go I can see that they are enjoying the experience as well as stocking up on produce.

Sarah says “I wanted the shop to be inclusive, I didn’t want people to feel that they had to crochet their own flip flops to come in. Changing habits is hard enough as it is, so I have developed an environment that is comfortable, with staff who are friendly and approachable. We won’t tell you off if you are using a plastic bag, or plastic bottles, rather commend you for reusing the plastic you already own!”

The shop is a treasure trove with an amazing array of unpackaged food and household items. I now visit roughly every 2 – 4 weeks and stock up on as much as I can carry. This normally includes staples like pasta, rice, dried fruit, milk, herbs, spices, tea leaves, veggie mince, laundry liquid, washing-up liquid and soap but I may also pick up chocolate coated brazil nuts, coffee and popping corn. Why not try it out yourself, you won’t be disappointed!

Sarah Allen is a local writer and blogger. She lives with her husband and two children in Exmouth. As a family they have reduced the amount of rubbish they throw away and only fill their wheelie bin every 6 months! Find out more in her blog:

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