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Local Heroes

Tales from my travels around York where unsuspecting business owners have been subjected to incessant questions about their sustainability, and their outlook for a greener city.

Here are the ones that didn't eject me from their premises before the interview was over...

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Chris Wood Hair Studio, York

A little late to the party I'll admit, but this was the first appointment I could get, and boy was it very much needed. A chance to banish my grey to a mere memory and regain my youthful mane, I was very pleased to be visiting this vegan (yes actually) salon just a few minutes' walk from the city's iconic Minster. Anyone walking down Goodramgate will be drawn to the amazing array of plants in the window, and in fact there's an entire wall of beautiful leaves emerging from concealed pockets in a huge black felt drape, cascading down and making clients feel like they're in some sort of swashbuckling Amazon adventure. But don't worry, no cutlasses here, just professionally-wielded scissors and a very laid-back happy buzz of chit chat. Staff are friendly and relaxed, talking enthusiastically about the positive environmental changes the salon has made and what really makes it pop out of the crowd. And it's not just the awesomely 90s clothing and pumping beats. Though these were appreciated!

Owner Chris Wood kindly took a few minutes out to answer my questions about plastic and waste, and I was happy to know that they are paperless, they use biodegradable drapes, and they use refillable hand gel from a local zero waste shop. The hair products they sell are in minimal-plastic packaging that clients can return and refill (and the tubs are also microwavable in case you want to use them for food). These products are all made in an Italian town with incredibly strong parallels to Yorkshire's own Rowntree dynasty; family-run, employing locals and using local ingredients, and now renewable electricity, and an emphasis on sustainability. They have a very lovely motto: festeggiamo insieme la bellezza del pianeta which means 'let's celebrate the beauty of the planet together'. #loveit

It's great to hear some of their plans for further carbon footprint reductions, though of course no spoilers from me here, wink wink! Anyway, a couple of hours later and I have emerged from my foil-covered chrysalis, feeling much more like a pampered pooch and less like a dowdy doctor. Thanks guys!

 

You can check them out here:

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The Giftery & The Shop of Small Changes

Imagine my delight at finding a fourth zero waste shop in York! Mel is in charge of this little gem on Burton Stone Lane, and we first joined forces last year during York's brief but brilliant involvement with medicine blister pack recycling, which was run by Terracycle. Mel collected several massive bags of empty blister packs from her customers and this certainly gives her extra 'local hero' points!

The shop sells a range of useful, beautiful and quirky products from hand-made gifts, to local art, and of course an entire wall of massive canisters for refilling your shampoo, conditioner, laundry liquids, and even bird seed and wildflower seeds. I can 100% vouch for the lovely scent of their fabric softener! There's also an enormous range of eco-living items, from shaving to teeth-brushing to toilet cleaning to plastic-free period products.

 

And if all of this isn't enough to tempt you, you can take your empty crisp packets, biscuit wrappers, foil, pens, and unwanted bras for recycling! For more details and  to follow Mel's super shop, see Facebook:

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Image by Nathan Dumlao

Dough & La Bottega

Two little sustenance-related pitstops today. Firstly, Dough on Bootham, which had a very tempting display of breads in the window, all baked in-store. There were also pizza slices, cakes, and lasagnes, including vegetarian options. Plenty of delicious things to eat for lunch, and I can tell you the pizza slice almost didn't last the 45 minute walk home!

 

Next La Bottega on Goodramgate, a popular family-run coffee house on one of York's busiest streets and close to the beautiful Monkbar with its entry point onto the walls (one-way only remember!), intriguing model shop (look closely for the dog doing a wee), and a number of other Italian deli/ice-cream/coffee outlets. At La Bottega (which means more than just 'shop' in Italian, but a workshop or place where apprentices learn in a creative way) they are completely set up for socially-distant purchases, with a nice sign outside offering to come out to you if you'd prefer not to enter the shop. And I was delighted to see that they now have compostable coffee cups, new in this week and stacked happily atop the coffee machine. So no need to 1) panic, or 2) forgo your essential caffeinated beverage if you forget to take a reusable cup into town *shakes head sheepishly*.

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Grindsmith

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If you've ventured into the centre of town lately you'll notice there's a new face on the corner of St Helen's Square, under the beautiful stonework of what was once the early 19th century York County Savings Bank: Grindsmith Espresso and Brewbar. The name itself and the crisp celestial logo (which reminded me in a comforting way of the classic 1960s toy Spirograph) added to the aroma of a fresh brew, will instantly entice you in. The team are friendly and enthusiastic about their positive attitude towards maxing out their environmental standards. If your eyes make it past the mouth-watering array of brownies and pastries on the counter, you'll spot the display of coffee beans from Brazil, Ethiopia and Colombia where Grindsmith have a relationship with farmers, providing a dependable source of business, and supporting local jobs and the economy there. And let me tell you the coffee is yum! They have a variety of non-dairy milk, and all the staff wear reusable masks. Planet points guys! Mike told me that their coffee bags are recyclable, and they also stock some rather handsome-looking reusable coffee capsules (who knew this was a thing?) that fit snugly into Nespresso coffee machines. So long, bin-bound pods! And remember, reusing is even better than recycling. Might make a nice gift? There's a big seating area for when such things are allowed (*crosses fingers*), plenty of eye-catching art on the walls, and it's a mere hop skip and a jump from Stonegate with its range of indie shops that will certainly be in need of our support once they open up again. So grab your reusable cup and head on in!

 

Know another coffee house that's doing their bit for the planet? Give them a shout and let me know @GreenLifeGP. I'm always on the scout for a new place to try...

Find out more about Grindsmith here:

 

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The Prickly Pear

Nestled politely on the corner of Holgate rd and Mount Ephraim is this beautiful mauve end of terrace delicatessen. Did you know that word actually means 'fancy foods' in German? Well there certainly were plenty of these in the window. And making it past the list of treats on the sandwich board, inside I was greeted by Fraser, who showed me round the shop including the Aladdin's cave of cheese and cured meats in the back room. There was also a entire display of mouth-watering homemade pies and rolls. Foil tins, and no plastic wrappers! In fact I'm tucking into a Mediterranean feta and sundried tomato pasty as I write this. Fraser told me that they are conscious of reducing their single-use plastic. Music to my chilly ears! For instance, they try to use tongs and wash their hands as often as possible rather than constantly using gloves. They use paper to wrap up their lovely cheeses, and paper for brownies and cakes. You should try these. Yum! They do plenty of vegetarian options as well as a vegan pie, and their bread is local from nearby Malton. Point for low food miles! Oh and as a very welcome bonus, I got 25p off for using my own coffee cup. Big. Grin.

I was happily recharged and wagging my tail, and with a mind full to bursting with yum-emojis.

 

So friends, if you're taking your exercise over the Holgate way, then pop in and say a socially-distant "hi", or check them out here:

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Image by Alex Loup

Who will be next?

If you can think of a local indie business that is doing great things to reduce their carbon footprint, please email me or send a tweet (click on the twitter icon below) and I can stop by on my next lockdown (at the time of writing) -exercise jaunt.