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Our Journal

Devon Market Town, Bovey Tracey, Embraces Local, Plastic Free Shopping

Mid Devon Advertiser, 26th August 2021

We all know that it is great for the local community, environment and family businesses to shop locally, but it is not always easy with today’s hectic lifestyle.

Bovey Tracey’s town council and several local retail businesses recently ran a pilot project to encourage town residents to shop locally, and to reduce their plastic waste. It also gave local businesses insight into how they could make it easier for customers.

Bovey Tracey has long been a tight knit town; residents and businesses look after one another and passionately work to improve their community. Consequently, the town is becoming more vibrant, with independent shops, cafes and a twice-monthly farmers market attractive to residents and visitors alike. A lot is happening in Bovey for anyone who doesn’t know it – The town has recently added its very own Zero Waste Refill shop, ‘Bovey Larder’ and this summer Bovey Paradiso has opened, a community owned Arts Centre and future cinema, theatre, arts and entertainment centre in the 16th century King of Prussia pub building. Not only that, a brand new community centre and library is accompanied by six independent food shops, numerous artisan producers and it plays host to the annual, world-famous craft festival, back this year after a COVID break in 2020.

Since 2018 Bovey Tracey has held a status as a Plastic Free Town, awarded by Surfers Against Sewage. At that time, several businesses in the town worked to reduce their use of single use plastics in order to achieve the award.

Now, building further on this foundation, Bovey has run a shopping experiment to encourage local shoppers to shop locally and to reduce their plastic waste. The aim was to build a partnership between businesses and shoppers, with both working towards the same goals.

Championed by the Council’s Plastic Free Bovey Steering Group and several local, independent food shops, the local ‘Shopping Experiment’ asked shoppers to do as much of their weekly shopping as possible in the town and to provide feedback to the steering group. All the shoppers who participated in the experiment were entered into a prize draw which the Town Council kindly sponsored with a cash prize. Several local businesses really embraced the experiment by offering all participants significant discounts on two of their subsequent shopping visits.

Steering Committee member and Bovey Larder owner Corin Burton commented “The feedback from existing and new customers has been exceptional and has really encouraged us, as a group, to do more to support our customers. Customers unanimously agreed that shopping locally allowed them to dramatically reduce their plastic waste.

It was really satisfying to hear that people were able to buy the vast majority of their weekly shop in Bovey’s independent shops and hence they needed to go to supermarkets far less frequently than they thought. Not only that, but the feedback described better quality, fresher products and an inspiring range of foods.

But, perhaps even more importantly a theme of community support and inclusion came through loud and clear. One shopper described feeling “less like a customer, more like a person who wanted to buy things”, while others described a mindful and friendly experience and shared their satisfaction of doing something good by using far less plastic, cutting down on food miles and supporting local businesses.

Of course, the feedback wasn’t all positive and we will be working as a group to try to learn from the less positive comments. Two obvious things we can work on are providing better visibility of the products on offer to allow people to plan their shopping and looking at extending opening times to cater for people on their way home from work.

One really interesting comment described a higher cost of shopping locally, but in the same sentence described this being offset by not buying things in a supermarket that they don’t need, as well as the better quality of food available.”

Susie Honnor, Chair of the Plastic Free Bovey Steering Group added “a great deal of work went into this pilot project, but the findings made it extremely worthwhile. Now we want to promote local and plastic free shopping in all the other shops and businesses in the town. The feedback we received has shown how important it is to properly engage with the community.  We also received some great ideas which we’ll be looking at for the future, such as adding a TerraCycle recycling point, looking at issues raised around parking and partnering with local businesses to host cooking workshops. Thank you so much to everyone who participated.”

Plastic Free Bovey – Small Changes, Big Impact Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/341882593186673

Shops: https://www.facebook.com/BoveyLarder41/, https://www.thecheeseshed.com/, https://www.lloydmaunderbutchers.co.uk/

Craft Festival: https://www.craftfestival.co.uk/

Bovey Paradiso: https://www.paradiso.org.uk/