Shop Local Letchworth: Q&A with Herts’ first zero waste store Bamboo Turtle

Bamboo Turtle aims to reduce plastic use and food waste in Letchworth. Picture: Shani Crofton

Bamboo Turtle aims to reduce plastic use and food waste in Letchworth. Picture: Shani Crofton - Credit: Archant

Hertfordshire’s first ever zero waste store, Bamboo Turtle – which sells beans, pulses, cereals and more – has spoken to the Comet about the highs and lows of 2020.

Locally made facemasks for sale in Letchworth's Bamboo Turtle: Picture: Plastic Free Letchworth

Locally made facemasks for sale in Letchworth's Bamboo Turtle: Picture: Plastic Free Letchworth - Credit: Archant

We caught up with owners Shani Crofton and Amanda Skinner to find out how the Letchworth-based business has been getting on as the coronavirus situation continues to change.

Q: What was the motivation behind opening Bamboo Turtle?

A: We had become aware of the destruction that single use plastic was causing to the environment and how the recycling system is misleading the public into believing that there is a perfect recycling solution.

Added to this we were disillusioned by the marketing messages that we all need a new, better, shinier, faster product.

Q: What is special about Bamboo Turtle?

A: We were the first zero waste shop to open in Hertfordshire – and one of the first in the UK. We provide a choice for the conscious consumer to reduce the packaging they buy and therefore reduce the impact on the environment.

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We also provide advice and information on how to reduce your packaging consumption.

Q: This year has been a rollercoaster for everyone – what has been the biggest challenge and most rewarding experience for your business in 2020?

A: Our biggest challenge has been adjusting to the ever-changing regulations to the pandemic while keeping our customers, ourselves, family and staff healthy and well.

The flip side was able to open our second branch in Biggleswade this month, which means we can provide a means for more people to experience zero waste shopping as well as get our message across to a wider audience.

Q: Why should people support local businesses this year?

A: While watching the drama of the “free school meals” campaign this evening, it seems obvious to me. Local businesses create the jobs which pay the wages of the parents. By supporting local businesses, the consumer keeps the money within their own community. This helps keep the local economy buoyant.

Q: How do you think COVID has influenced shopping choices?

A: Within our shop – choice has not changed however shopping habits have – customers are more likely to shop less frequently but do bigger shops.

We see fewer customers browsing or popping in as they are curious, or something has caught their eye. Less footfall.

Q: Do you have any special plans at Bamboo Turtle for Christmas?

A: We will be supporting our customers to make informed choices on sustainable products – hopefully changing the mindset of gifting for gifting sake. We will be offering alternative gift-wrapping options to the bright paper which is unrecyclable.

The Beauty Bar which runs from our Letchworth branch has already had a lot of interest as customers are able to make up bespoke products for family and friends. And taking some much-needed time off to spend with our families!

Q: How do you see the future of the business?

A: We will be growing our customer base in our new branch in Biggleswade and hopefully pressurising the large supermarkets and brands to adopt more sustainable packaging solutions.

Bamboo Turtle has teamed up with Transition Town Letchworth on a number of occasions to help push the ‘Plastic Free Letchworth’ message, and the town became the first in Herts to earn the ‘Plastic Free Status’ from environmental organisation, Surfers Against Sewage last year.

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