‘Plastic-Free Good News’: The Package Free Larder, Portsmouth

Community Reporter Rosy Bremer speaks to Connie Fenner, one of the organisers of the Package Free Larder, about their crowdfunding campaign to open Portsmouth’s first plastic-free shop.

Image courtesy of The Package Free Larder

Good news; genuine, honest, plastic-free good news. The crowdfunding campaign to get a zero-waste shop up and running in Southsea has now raised over £22,000. This is well on the way to the £40,000 target set by the group working to bring about Portsmouth’s very own plastic-free supermarket. With donations as little as £5 or as big as £1,000 over 200 committed individuals have backed this social enterprise and the vision it promotes of taking better care of the city in which we live.

When I spoke to Connie Fenner, of the Package Free Larder she was at pains to point out that no contribution is too small to make a difference ‘It really doesn’t matter how much a donation is, because it’s very much a case of every little helps’. The project has also attracted funding from the NatWest Back Her Business campaign.

For donors backing the project, before it hits the all-important half way mark, there’s the chance to win a photo-shoot with The Photorooms, Southampton, and the promise of more competitions at other stages of the campaign. The best prize that I can think of though would be a more sustainable city, on an environmentally protected planet (I do tend towards the horribly worthy sometimes).

The plastic-free larder promises to sell us not just pasta to pack in paper and rice to go in reusable containers; it offers a vision of a meeting place where people can learn how to make environmentally-friendly products for use around the house. As someone who’s keenly made a kind-of cleaning stuff from water, vinegar, bicarbonate of soda, bits of rosemary and lemon then not bothered to use it, I’m wholeheartedly behind any effort to concoct household products. I’m not so behind the cleaning effort in general but that’s just my own well-established laziness.

Shopping without pre-packaging is slower, as you fumble around trying to find your old bags and bottles (these will also be provided at the shop for people like me who miscalculate how many bags they’re going to need), work out how the dispensing whatsits work, look for the pen to write the weight of your packaging and wipe up any accidental spills. It is slower, but I’ve had some really interesting conversations with other slow shoppers when I’ve given the plastic-free shopping thing a go.

Connie is enthusiastic about the slow element saying, ‘We want to put something back into the community and give people a place to hang out and chat.’

If you share my scepticism that more shopping is the way to cure the planet of a shopping-induced crisis, it might be worth reflecting that we all have to eat something and probably we can’t all grow enough to feed ourselves.

‘We want the shop to be part of the circular economy,’ explains Connie, ‘We’re a social enterprise and we plan to give any profit we make to other groups in the city tackling waste and food poverty. We plan to prioritise locally-sourced goods as much as possible and in time we’d like to set up a community fridge.’

I like the idea of the circular economy; it almost sounds revolutionary and the idea of serving yourself, using your own bags is itself a kind of recycled idea.

The old ones are the best sometimes.


You can donate to the Package Free Larder online here.


Further Reading:

Star & Crescent: Sustainability & the City: What Can We Learn from the South Downs Green Fair?


This story is part of our ongoing series from our #ReclaimTheNews team, a group of local residents trained in investigative journalism in partnership with The Centre for Investigative Journalism. The group now forms S&C’s Community Reporting team. Check back regularly for more news from the team and help us to spread the word by sharing their articles with your friends and networks.