Cycling with a 6-pack of mylk? 

woman on a bicycle riding on a bicycle lane near buildings in city

 

several apples beside bread pack and brown paper bag
Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

We’ve run out of mylk.

Again.

I look grimly into the larder but, nope, there’s no emergency last carton hidden behind the chickpeas. Come to that, there’s not even any chickpeas.

Time to shop again.

Dilemma. If I’m to achieve the stock-up at max efficiency – which means buying 6 packs – transport is going to enter the frame.

I could drive down to an indie healthfood shop, curse a bit about lack of doorstep parking, and get all the heavy stuff we need by car – tins, mylk, refills of laundry liquid.

What to buy is a challenge when we want to be thoughtful consumers and support our community and town to be more sustainable. Where and how to buy it is equally perplexing. 

We are badly missing HISBE, our indie CIC (Community Interest Company) anti-supermarket, where we used to pick up a lot of our stuff.  Last time I did a big shop there, the lovely manager – who was obviously aware that the transporting of heavy stuff is a challenge – helped me carry those heavy bags to the car.  No HISBE anymore, so what else can we do?

I could avoid using the car and order online from Ethical Superstore or something. But the goods would still travel the same miles to reach Worthing. Plus, the profit from online shopping sales would go to a large and not-local organisation.

With a local CIC, all profits stay in the immediate community and neighbourhood, which has to be better. I like reading about local projects that have been given a hand by CICs. I like hearing about and shopping from small local suppliers. Kimchi from Brighton, preserves from Broadwater – this feels more humanising and I know it makes for more sustainable communities.  Now HISBE has gone, I’m a bit stumped.

woman on a bicycle riding on a bicycle lane near buildings in city
Photo by Sadettin Dogan on Pexels.com

I often cycle to an indie healthfood store to pick up a few bits – but what I can carry is limited by the size of my backpack and my own regrettably flimsy infrastructure. I’ve longed for the physique of a 6ft bodybuilder, but all my life have remained a small-boned wimp. Great for being nimble and agile – rubbish for hauling heavy loads.  

And then – I hate shopping. The lifestyle option of a cycle-friendly small daily shop horrifies me: spend 1 of my precious free hours a day outside of work doing consumer-related activity? I’d rather be in the garden, or walking the dog, or cooking the stuff – not buying it. 

What to buy is a challenge when we want to be thoughtful consumers and support our community and town to be more sustainable. Where and how to buy it is equally perplexing. 

When I grew up, on a council estate in the 1960s and 1970s, my Uncle Len had a grocery van. Almost nobody had a car in those days, but you can bet we all ate potatoes, used laundry powder and tinned tomatoes.  A school holiday highlight was to go out with him and help, weighing out the veg and riding up the front.

In Brighton, there’s an initiative like this, bringing local produce to you by electric van. Sussex Peasant bring food to your door. Brilliant. But it’s fresh farm shop options, not tinned chickpeas – and it’s not yet available in Worthing. Subship in London is similar – hyperlocal (Hackney Honey!) and with a very limited set of products. 

We really could do with a service like this, but with the basic staples and the heavy stuff added in. We know the big supermarket chains are bad for farmers, the environment, workers and consumers – bad for everybody except shareholders, of course, because that is exactly how corporate businesses have come to be set up. As even Harvard Business Review points out, this has been a disastrous model for everybody except the super-rich who own the mega-businesses.

In Worthing, for now, what we have are a few local veg box delivery schemes, including our enduring local treasure Souk – plus a national doorstep dairy-plus-more electric van delivery option that promises to use local suppliers.

I can imagine Uncle Len watching from beyond the grave, seeing the business opportunity, and itching to get his old van delivery round up and running again. But this time, with an electric vehicle. Here’s hoping somebody might be brave enough to step into the gap.  

Sustainability – one small dilemma at a time. 

 

Published by Caroline

After 30 years as an academic anthropologist doing ethnography in India and the Gulf, Caroline now avoids airports and spends a lot of time walking, cycling or quad skating around for conversations and stories in their adopted home of Worthing. Caroline writes, coaches postgrads, and does public sector consultancy work and project evaluation, using creative research methods.

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