8 million pieces of plastic are making their way into the ocean every day, an estimated 8.3 billion straws are on coastlines around the world and 1.75 billion single-use plastic bags are still being handed out by supermarkets in the UK. With plastic never fully degrading this has already and will continue to have a huge impact on our planet. The 5p plastic bag levy (which will soon increase to 10p) has helped to reduce the number of bags being used and there are other nationwide schemes available, however much more still needs to be done.

Many of the local businesses and organisations in and around Totnes have been making a conscious effort to reduce, reuse and recycle for many years now. Most recently the Plastic Free Totnes campaign has been developed, a community-driven movement aimed at reducing the use of single-use plastics across town. Formed from the Transition Town Totnes Waste Into Resources group in partnership with Totnes Rubbish Walks and Totnes Against Trash, they have signed up to the ‘Plastic Free Communities’ campaign led by Surfers Against Sewage which sets out 5 objectives for the town to meet including replacing single-use plastics with sustainable alternatives.

Many businesses including Waterside Bistro have signed up to Refill Devon, a free tap water initiative designed to reduce plastic pollution by making refilling a water bottle easy, social and rewarding.

Earth Food Love was the UK’s first zero-waste shop and is based at the top of the High Street in the area known locally as the Narrows. The shop was started by ex-Manchester United player Richard Eckersley and his wife Nicola after their frustrations with how much packaging they used as a family. With a simple self-weighing system, consumers can bring in their refillable pots and buy everything from flour to peanut butter, tea, fruit, syrup and many more food items, plus non-food items including washing up liquid, wooden toothbrushes, metal straws and bamboo cutlery.

Other businesses who are striving to significantly reduce their waste and actively encourage recycling include the riverside restaurant Waterside Bistro who feed their coffee grounds and vegetable peels to the owners’ chickens, and the Totnes Brewing Company who feed excess malt and grain from their brewing process to local pigs.

pig

 


As a small, independent, family-run brewery, the Totnes Brewing Company is very close to zero waste and has a very low carbon footprint. With the main brewing area at the back of the bar, you can watch one of your future pints being made while sipping on your last, and the benefit of production taking place on site is that it significantly reduces carbon footprint. Many beer kegs are now made out of plastic as they’re lighter and easier to transport but of course, they’re not environmentally friendly, therefore owner Sarah Trigg reuses them as seats for the pub or gives them to the local community for free to be used as garden cloches.

As a nation of dedicated coffee drinkers, Brits are throwing away 7 million disposable coffee cups every day. As they are very difficult to recycle due to the layer of a waterproof plastic inside, this is adding to an already massive problem. At The Hairy Barista, a speciality coffee shop on High Street, they actively encourage people to use reusable coffee cups and they themselves use compostable straws as well as supplying and using vegan, organic and plant-based ingredients, food and drink.

Delphini’s  also use compostable cups, lids and spoons for take away gelatos, Waterside Bistro has banned plastic straws and The Kitchen Table, a bespoke catering company, use recycled or compostable kitchen supplies and take-away crockery and cutlery.

32723684_440734946387176_2407555119047507968_n (1)


 

You may be interested in...

Our visit to Totnes by Conversant Traveller

It had been a day of dappled light and dragonflies. A day of strolling beside sun drenched vineyards, lazy meandering rivers and fragrant herb gardens alive with butterflies. As Hubbie and I sipped chilled glasses of sparkling wine and tucked into tranches of local cheese, we could be forgiven for thinking we were in the south of France, rather than southern England. We’d been exploring Devon, a county famous for it’s mysterious moors, sandy beaches, and national parks, yet it was a medieval market town that had our full attention today. It turns out there are plenty of fun things to do in Totnes, without a moor, beach or park in sight! Totnes has a colourful and legendary history, packed full of mythical kings, lords and rebels, and merchants and soldiers. Today it’s known more for its cultural scene, independent local shops and a rather unique cosmopolitan countryside vibe. The town sits on the picturesque River Dart, the sort of tranquil pastoral scene where you’d expect to encounter characters from Wind in the Willows. There are lots of things to do in Totnes, from castles and museums to steam trains and boat trips, but we had our eye on something a little different. Vineyards, ghosts and lettuce! Saxon in origin, Totnes has been known for both craft and industry, and was once an important and prosperous centre for trade. Although it is still a thriving market town, the Totnes of today is more popular with the artistic community and attracts visitors from near and far to enjoy the buzzing cultural scene and picturesque countryside. The focal point is Totnes castle, commanding a dominant position overlooking the town, and the intriguing range of independent shops, cafes and galleries are all within easy walking distance. There is also plenty to do in the surrounding area, so we spent a fun filled day checking out the best things to do in and around Totnes. Read more....

Revamp of the Bull Inn

Article by Kate Philbin at the Totnes Times. As the planning application was submitted for the transformation of a historic town centre pub, the woman behind the plans has been speaking out about her extraordinary life. Geetie Singh-Watson, 48, known to many as the wife of Riverford entrepreneur Guy Watson, is the driving force behind the redevelopment of The Bull Inn in Totnes which aims to become an organic gastropub with letting rooms upstairs. However, it is not an extension of the Riverford empire but a project in its own right and it is hers and hers alone, Geetie insists. She says that people assume The Bull will be run by Riverford or is being financed by Riverford but actually it is neither. Raised on a commune in Herefordshire by a mother who was a builder, Geetie was no stranger to hands-on manual work from an early age. Her mother, Liz Singh, bought and restored a derelict cottage, installing everything from the sewage system to the windows. She was “a powerful role model” for Geetie as was her father, Gurmukh Singh, a Sikh entrepreneur who first came to the UK in the 1950s. He founded the first Indian restaurant in London that was owned by its staff. One of its backers was Salman Rushdie. Later, her mother remarried and her stepfather, Geoff Petty, an educationalist whose work is used to this day by schools such as Totnes Progressive School, also proved a great role model. At the age of 28, Geetie opened her first “values-driven gastropub”, The Duke of Cambridge in Islington. Inspired by her hardworking parents and the example set by women like Anita Roddick, Geetie was determined to create a thriving pub business that was both ethical and profitable, without compromising on staff welfare or the quality of ingredients. She needed £350,000 to build the business. “I asked everyone I knew if they would be interested in investing. No one gave anything they couldn’t afford to lose, it was a gamble but it was fun.” The pub broke even in its first year. Geetie admits she was “too young and cocky” and she “should have listened” to advice from Anita Roddick, who told steadily to build a stable and effective business. Instead, swept along by the dotcom boom, Geetie bought two more pubs in London. “As the business expanded the passion got lost. Within five years I sold off the two other pubs and just kept The Duke of Cambridge. Overall it was a positive experience but I felt bad for the investors.” Despite these knockbacks, Geetie believes the experience gave her a far greater understanding of business. “You don’t learn in business when you are being successful, you learn from your failures. If I were investing I would never invest with someone who hasn’t failed at least once because they know nothing.” Geetie sold The Duke of Cambridge to Guy Watson four years ago. At the time she was a trustee of the Soil Association and a founder member of the London Food Board with Ken Livingston. She was also working with schools in deprived areas to teach children about healthy cooking. When she met Guy it wasn’t exactly a match made in Heaven. She said: “I had known of him in the organic world for many years but he came to talk to me in 2007 about setting up a pub in London. I thought, what are you doing here on my patch? I was very frosty.” The pair met again some years later through the Soil Association and it was a very different meeting. “I realised our business values were completely aligned and that he was extraordinary.” They married in 2014. Geetie spent three years running The Riverford Field Kitchen but stopped to concentrate on developing The Bull.
She has always been fascinated by town centre pubs and looks out for any that are for sale in a town “in the way that other people look out for houses”. She said: “I love The Bull. It looks beautiful and it has great views and a big, corner site in front of an open square. It is slightly off the beaten track which I love as it means tourists have to put some effort into discovering it.” The pub is currently in a run-down condition and requires extensive restoration. Geetie has plans to turn it into an organic, values-driven gastropub but without losing its traditional heritage. Its name won’t change as she believes “pub names should be protected, they are part of our history”. The restoration work, which will cost in excess of half a million, is being funded by the sale of Geetie’s London flat. “I rather like the fact that property equity, which feels like an unfair distribution of wealth, is being used to bring a historic Totnes pub back to life.”
If all goes to plan, the pub will open in Summer 2019. Around 30 jobs will be created and it will use local, organic suppliers. Geetie said: “I grew up in a staunchly feminist household – my mum could strip down a car engine! The fact that people assume Guy is funding my business has opened up a new conversation in our household about feminism. It is great. Guy is a real feminist, he took my name when we got married. It is an exciting time.” The planning application for The Bull is available on the SHDC website, reference: 3376/18/LBC      

A new distillery in town

British retailer and social enterprise, The Shops at Dartington, are to introduce a brand-new permanent distillery within their Food Hall, to launch at the start of May. In partnership with Devon Distillery, the new copper still will produce The Shops at Dartington’s signature bottle of Elmhirst Gin, and will also have the capability of producing other contract gins as well as other spirits at a later date. The distillery will also be running a boutique gin experience, enabling small classes to learn the process of making gin, while they can smell, taste and witness the entire process from start to finish. Cosmo Caddy, the founder of Devon Distillery, has alcohol production in his DNA, as his grandfather founded Sharpham Vineyard in the year Cosmo was born. Cosmo travelled the world in pursuit of wine and spirit production, before honing his craft in Italy with a 9th generation grappa distilling family. He then returned to South Devon and crafted Dappa - Devon’s version of grappa made from the skins of Sharpham Wine grapes, as well as launching the UK’s only mobile still known as ‘Still on the Move’ that makes bespoke gin anywhere in the country. With more than grape vines running through his veins, Cosmo’s roots also lead back to Dartington, as his great-grandparents, Leonard and Dorothy Elmhirst were the pioneering entrepreneurs who founded the Dartington Hall project. When the Elmhirsts purchased the then neglected 14th century Dartington estate, they restored the estate buildings and set up a host of farming, forestry and educational products including Dartington Hall School, Dartington Tweed Mill and Dartington Glass. As innovative thinkers themselves, Dartington became a magnet for artists, architects, writers, philosophers and musicians from around the world. 93 years later, the Elmhirst’s direct descendant, Cosmo Caddy intends to build on his predecessors’ legacy and will continue to instil the values of his ancestors in Devon Distillery at The Shops at Dartington. ‘Establishing Devon Distillery at The Shops at Dartington adds another chapter to my rich family heritage in this region.’ Says Cosmo. ‘Alcohol production is my absolute passion, and I’ve spent years learning, tasting and blending in pursuit of the best spirits to create exceptional quality products with integrity. I’m thrilled to have a permanent base at Dartington to continue this journey.’ ‘This is a great coming together of two locally renowned families. Devon Distillery coming to The Shops at Dartington will fortify the fascinating history of the Dartington Estate,’ continues Barbara King, Managing Director of The Shops at Dartington. ‘With 60% of products within the Food Shop procured from Devon and a further 30% from the West Country, we couldn’t be more pleased that the footprint of our gin will be only a matter of yards.’ Bringing the still into the Food Shop creates high visibility for this interesting process and visitors will be able to witness the process of distilling. The Shops at Dartington are situated on the grounds of the picturesque Dartington Estate and consists of 15 unique, independent shops in South Devon, near Totnes. The shops are based inside quirky buildings as this part of the estate was an old cider press. It’s a family destination, with parks and activities for young children.