Simple swaps for Plastic Free July

It’s Plastic Free July – a time to take action to reduce our reliance on plastic and the negative effects it has on our planet. Over the past few years plenty of issues have been highlighted, from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch to the Giant Wet Wipe Island in the Thames.

It’s time to think about what we can each do to make a difference.

This guest blog is from Celina Mendoza, founder of The Refill Pantry, where you can shop for a wide range of food and household goods packaging-free

When I opened The Refill Pantry in London Road in June 2018, I wanted people local to the area to have the option to buy as many products in their own containers as we were able to supply. My primary aim was to reduce single use plastic ending up in landfill. So we started by stocking a wide range of staple goods such as pasta, rice, cereals, lentils, nuts, seeds and dried fruit.

But it quickly became apparent that we could offer even more to reduce both single use plastic waste and plastic waste in general. Here I am going to highlight some products that we stock and the reason why they are better for the planet than what you may normally choose to buy. If each person chooses just one of the items below to swap to, we could collectively make a huge difference!

Kitchen Swaps


Did you know that nearly all sponges contain plastic? And those colourful cleaning cloths in your cupboard probably contain microfibres that are entering our ecosystem and slowly destroying the planet. So, make the switch to one of these fully compostable alternatives – cleaning cloths, sponges and loofah scourers – and at the end of their life you can put them in your garden waste bin (yes you can as they are made of PLANTS!)


Iron & Velvet have created one of the best Zero Waste products there is – water soluble cleaning sachets. We use tens of bottles of cleaning products annually in each household. Their simple ‘drop and dissolve’ cleaning pods mean you can reuse the same bottle over and over again. Plastic free, cruelty free, plant derived and sustainably sourced. Use these alongside our compostable sponges and cleaning cloths for a truly zero waste cleaning regime for the whole house.

Read more in our blog on kitchen swaps.

Bathroom Swaps


Bamboo toothbrushes need little introduction – we have all seen the images of plastic toothbrushes being washed ashore across the globe.  But did you know that you can get plenty of other bathroom products plastic free? From toothpaste in endlessly recyclable aluminium tubes, to dental floss in refillable glass containers.

Read more about our dental products here.


Faith in Nature are a well known ethical UK brand who say that ‘everyone should benefit from what nature provides’ and they now make shampoo bars – these come in a cardboard box and look just like a bar of soap. They lather well, take up little space, and best of all NO PLASTIC!

Read more about our hair care here.


Kutis deodorants are handmade in Wales and come in a cardboard push up tube. With key ingredients such as bicarbonate of soda, arrowroot powder and coconut oil this deodorant gives you the lasting freshness without all the nasty stuff that can be found in commercial deodorants. 

Beauty Swaps


Reusable make up wipes are one of best long term swaps you can make. Made from sustainable bamboo or organic cotton, these wipes can be used again and again and can be washed in a little pouch with your regular laundry load. 


To complement these zero waste beauties, what better company to use for your beauty regime than Upcircle – who started in 2015 collecting used coffee grounds from one London cafe to create face scrubs. Their best-selling cleansing balm contains used finely ground powder from discarded apricot stones to gently cleanse the skin, leaving it soft and hydrated.

Read more about beauty swaps in our blog here.

Food and Drink Swaps


Who doesn’t need these? But with so much packaging it’s hard to find a savoury treat that doesn’t add to plastic pollution. That’s why Just Crisps are such a fab find! 100% British Crisps made from potatoes and rapeseed oil both produced on their farm in Staffordshire. They supply their crisps to The Refill Pantry in reusable tubs that are collected at the same time as the next delivery, so no extra travel and zero packaging. Simply bring your own container to the shop and fill with the crisps. And while you’re there why not pick up some wasabi peas, pretzels, Bombay Mix or Dry Roasted Almonds?!


Most tea bags contain plastic, and the tea is often lower quality ground up leaves. Loose leaf teas are often fresher, taste better, and have a tenth of the carbon footprint of tea bags. At The Refill Pantry you can get a range of loose leaf teas from English Breakfast and Green Tea to Chamomile Flowers and Peppermint Leaves. 

Sadly, due to Covid and a rent rise, we closed our London Road shop last month but we are fully stocked at our branch in Carpenter’s Farm Shop (Sandridge – free parking, locally grown fruit and veg, great café and stunning nursery) and Berkhamsted (just opposite Waitrose car park so very convenient for those with plenty of containers to fill!)

If each person chooses just one of these items to swap to, we could collectively make a huge difference!

We look forward to seeing you at one of our shops where we will happily talk you through all the alternatives we offer! 

Happy Plastic Free July!

The Refill Pantry at Carpenter’s Nursery St Albans AL4 9LJ and 41 Lower Kings Road Berkhamsted HP4 2AB

Further reading

Want more inspiration? Read our five Plastic Free July blogs from 2020, covering simple swaps to make for your food shopping, bathroom, kitchen, snacks and drinks, and finally your desk and gifts .    

Could you be a Trustee with Sustainable St Albans?

Sustainable St Albans is actively recruiting for new people to join the existing trustee group. You need to bring time and enthusiasm, and some knowledge of sustainability and the district, and a commitment to the work and ethos of Sustainable St Albans. We are seeking a number of new trustees to join the existing trustee board of eight.  

Previous board or trustee experience is not necessary, and we welcome applications from people of all ages and backgrounds. 

We are currently seeking individuals with particular skills in one of these areas: fundraising, digital – such as data management and on-line systems and human resources. However, an enthusiasm for our shared vision is of course paramount and all interested individuals will be considered on their own merit too.  

Trustees can benefit by building relationships in the community, helping us reach new audiences and focus on developing our vision for a netzero future.

Current Trustees say:

  • “I have learned a great deal about the governance of a charity, the workings of a growing voluntary organisation, and gained plenty of transferrable skills that have impacted how I grow my sustainability knowledge and understanding, at home and work.”
  • “I like being able to support a group that is working tirelessly to combat the climate and ecological emergency. Being a trustee allows me to use my relatively unrelated skills to help the group push forwards and make change in my district.”

As a small but growing charity, we have not yet reached the point where we have permanent staff. This means our trustees are necessarily ‘hands on’, giving opportunities for active and engaged discussions that help ‘move the needle’ on action in the District.

You can find more details on the role here.

Get in touch for an initial informal chat. Interested individuals will be invited to observe two meetings and then discuss impressions and interest in an informal interview.

St Albans District Fixers first event hailed as an unqualified success

All Saints’ church hall in Harpenden was a hive of activity last Saturday (12 February 2022) when the church hosted the first Repair Fair organised by the recently formed St Albans District Fixers. Some 40 attendees brought all manner of electrical and electronic goods including toasters, lamps, audio equipment, kitchen items and laptops  on which a skilled band of 8 amateur fixers worked their magic. A good number of items were fixed, to the delight of their owners, or declared fixable with a little more work.

The results were fed into the “Fixometer” maintained by The Restart Project. This indicates that 21kg of e-waste may have been averted as well as 225kg of CO2-equivalent emissions in the manufacture of replacement items. The equivalent of driving from Harpenden, through France to Madrid!

Bike repairs and servicing, and clothing and fabric repairs were also undertaken by other volunteers, skilled in their own fields. Meanwhile two members of the All Saints’ Catering Committee plied fixers and those awaiting a fix with teas, coffees and delicious home-made cakes.

Revd James Brown, Associate Vicar at All Saints’ commented “I was delighted that the church could host the Repair Fair. All Saints’ is committed to its EcoChurch programme and to care for God’s world, and so to bring people together for this was a real joy. Huge thanks to all the fixers, hosts, and those providing refreshments.” 


If the highly appreciative response of all attending on Saturday is any indicator, the success of future events organised by St Albans District Fixers is in no doubt. Plans are already underway for two events during SustFest22, one in St Albans and another in Harpenden. Meanwhile, if anyone reading this would like to share or develop their electrical and electronic fixing skills; the St Albans District Fixers would be delighted to hear from you.  To know more, look at the fixers pages on the Sustainable St Albans Website or get in touch at 

Sustainable St Albans proud to support Community Business Awards 2021

Sustainable St. Albans was very proud to sponsor this year’s St Albans District Chamber of Commerce Community Business Sustainability Award.  It was a great pleasure to meet new friends and old at this glittering occasion. 

These five finalists have each put sustainability into the heart of their businesses:

Box Local, distributing local fruit and vegetables and other food products sourced as locally as possible, boxed in St Albans and delivered in the local region.

Leafy, the zero waste, plastic free salad bar here in St. Albans, where the coffee is carbon negative!

Lussmanns, the local restaurant group that has always prized its sustainability credentials and has MSC and Sustainable Restaurant Association certificates to prove it.

Sherrards, St. Albans based solicitors who have worked very hard to reduce the environmental footprint of their operation

JPA Workspaces, who not only source and supply sustainable office furniture, but also find the best possible use for the items their customers are replacing.  

There is no doubt that mitigating and adapting to the worst effects of global heating requires the wholehearted commitment of businesses the world over.  We weren’t part of the judging team, so that fact, and space, prevent us from giving a bigger profile of the finalists’ sustainability efforts and philosophies.  JPA were no doubt worthy winners, but what we really want to say is that it was truly heartening to see “net zero” not only alive and well within our local business community, but being celebrated.

Does your workplace have a sustainability agenda?  “Speak up at work” is one of the 16 steps suggested in St Albans Climate Action Network – Count Us In | Count Us In (