‘People are more conscientious’ - Cupboard Love’s Mel Menhams on helping the environment
- Credit: Archant
A Woodbridge woman has been helping her community to reduce single use plastics and save the environment.
Mel Menhams has spent more than two years bringing low waste products to the people of Suffolk.
From refilling jars with ingredients to plastic-free options, Mrs Menhams’s business Cupboard Love, touches on all areas of green modern living.
She launched the business in 2018 after deciding to change professions.
“I was a primary school teacher but I had worked previously in an eco school,” she said.
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“I wanted to leave teaching but do something different and then I came across zero waste shops.
“It has always been an interest of mine.
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“It seemed like a good idea so I decided to have a go myself.”
Now she sells a range of low waste and environmentally responsible products from dried food and spices to personal care items and homewares.
In the short space of just two years, Mrs Menhams’s business has started to gain momentum with the community.
At first she was selling a limited number of goods from a table outside her car at local events.
“Then I did a crowdfund at the end of 2018,” said Mrs Menhams.
“From that we have the mobile shop.”
The fundraising campaign, which was supported by the local community, helped Mrs Menhams to raise almost £7,000.
The shop space, a specially customised vehicle, known as Boudicca, is specially designed to hold all of the specialist containers Mrs Menhams uses for customers’ refills.
She now also has her own storage unit in Martlesham Heath to help her further grow her business.
As with other businesses the pandemic has presented its own challenges for Mrs Menhams’s business.
In the time leading up to lockdown she saw a rush on some of her food products such as pasta; a staple that many were struggling to find in mainstream supermarkets.
She soon found herself having to put caps on the amount of certain products people could buy.
Following the re-opening of markets, Mrs Menhams said she had seen some changes in the choices people were making following lockdown.
“They seem to be thinking about their local area,” said Mrs Menhams.
“People are being more conscientious shoppers.”
Mrs Menhams attends a number of different markets each week whilst also doing deliveries to shops across the county and is constantly on the move.
So what is it that motivates her to keep going?
“It’s the conversations I have with people,” said Mrs Menhams.
In a way these interactions between Mrs Menhams and her customers reminds her of her previous career.
“That’s why I went into teaching,” said Mrs Menhams.
“The imparting of knowledge.”
Helping people to understand the choices they are making when it comes to the environment is something shared by Mrs Menham’s inspiration, David Attenborough. And there’s even an unlikely link between the pair.
The legendary naturalist is also a patron of the World Land Trust, based in Halesworth, which Mrs Menhams donated to in order to offset the emissions from her van.
The charity uses money to purchase land to protect areas that could be threatened with destruction.
When it comes to being green it’s all about making little changes, for Mrs Menhams.
“It’s not about being perfect,” she said.
“It’s about being sustainable and helping other people to do the same.”
As for the future, Mrs Menhams hopes to be able to keep growing her business to offer more environmentally friendly options to Suffolk and it involves looking to the past.
“I hope to offer Click and Collect and a ‘Refill while you wait’ service from the unit in Martlesham, and also expand my online/ delivery offering locally,” said Mrs Menhams.
“I am currently working on making it more of a ‘circular’ system with returnable, refillable containers much like a doorstep milk delivery service.
“This should be launching this side of Christmas. Exciting times.”