Refill Shop Dorset

We chat with Eleanor Whyton, co-owner and manager of Almond & Co in Bournemouth

Sustainability is a word pretty much everyone should be familiar with by now. Plastic pollution is a huge problem for the environment, and shopping – particularly food – is one area in which everyday people can do their bit to eliminate single-use packaging. Refill shops have become increasingly popular for this very reason, particularly as it allows people to buy just the right amount of the products they need rather than allowing anything to go to waste, and it significantly reduces the amount of packaging waste. We caught up with Eleanor Whyton, co-owner and manager of one such refill shop: Almond & Co in Westbourne, Bournemouth…

Eleanor, tell us a bit about your journey to opening Almond & Co.

The shop was inspired by reading Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson! Great book for all the essential knowledge for reducing your waste in the household but it also made me realise that I wasn’t living my lifestyle alongside the ethics I had. Bea Johnson herself is Canadian and went to refill her containers at a large chain store Bulk Barn and I wanted to know how I could refill my containers in the UK. When I researched ‘zero waste shops’ at the time (five or six years ago now) only one shop came up, Earth.Food.Love in Totnes (Devon). I thought it was ridiculous that there weren’t more of these shops available. I then proceeded to go to Totnes to get work experience in Earth.Food.Love. with the amazing Richard Eckersley (old Man United footballer turned shop owner), he taught me everything he knew and through them I met my business partner Sam Almond, hence Almond & Co!

What was the driving force behind the idea of opening a zero-waste refill shop?

The absolute need for these shops to exist! As soon as I realised the concept of a zero-waste shop existed I knew there needed to be more of them, giving the chance for people to buy plastic-free and bring awareness to a more sustainable way of living and show everybody that it isn’t as hard to do or as expensive as people think.

Eleanor Whyton, Almond & Co
Almond and Co Bournemouth

What’s your favourite aspect of your job?

The peanut butter machine of course!

What sort of products can we expect to find in Almond & Co?

Everything! From cupboard staples with a huge range of dry and fresh food, frozen food, oils and vinegars, to the household cleaning and personal hygiene refills and plastic-free alternatives to everyday items, organic food and chemical-free products that are good for the planet, cruelty free and good for your health too.

How do you source your stock?

As zero-waste shops are still few and far between at the moment we don’t just get it from one place. We firstly want to stock from local companies as much as we can, but otherwise we have a few trusted wholesalers who can provide organic food in bulk with eco-friendly products and we’re constantly researching to see what is in the market.

What’s the most popular product you sell?

Mentioning the peanut butter machine again! Peanut butter instantly ground in front of your eyes straight into your jar and it’s the tastiest peanut butter you’ll every try! Without salt, sugar, or any oils, just peanuts. Also our Raw Chocolate range, the favourite out of the whole range we have is a new addition of raw chocolate salty hazelnuts – to die for!

Almond and Co Refill Shop

What advice can you give people who want to reduce their household waste but might be daunted by the idea of shopping at a zero-waste shop?

My advice is don’t be afraid if you’re new to it; we have people come in everyday that aren’t sure how it works, so we are always on hand for help and give advice in store. We’re happy to get bits for you if you’re unsure so don’t be afraid to ask! If you’ve got some old jars, bring some along, all you need to do is weigh it on our scale first then fill it up, so many people get surprised by how easy it is! Also my other main advice is this: you don’t have to do everything at once, you don’t have to go all in or nothing, you can simply come in and buy one thing and build it up. It is something that may seem too much to bother changing but if you change little bits here and there like getting reusable make up remover pads, or buy compostable cling film rather than plastic, or bring in one or two jars to fill up your favourite snacks, the next thing you know your bin has reduced by half!

Are there any challenges you face in the day-to-day running of the shop?

Well if people are worried about spilling things or getting things wrong, don’t worry we have seen it all and are very used to getting the broom out! We ourselves have made very many spillages but it is the nature of the shop and don’t bat an eye to it anymore! Also it’s heavy work lifting 25kg sacks of food all the time refilling our dispensers. Who needs a gym membership?

Are there any future plans for the shop?

Yes many! Always seeing more zero-waste shops opening…

Almond and Co Bournemouth

Who inspires you?

My customers! From the regulars to the pop ins, they inspire me more than they realise, from people bringing their cupboard full of containers to the old lady who helps herself to some prunes and the little boy picking his favourite fizzy dinosaur sweet.

And all the small local business owners in the area, they work so hard in such a tough climate at the moment, I’ve gotten to know so many of you and very proud to be a part of this community of bringing it back to keeping it local and ethical.

What are you normally listening to when you’re working?

Depending on what we fancy playing in the shop that day! Varying from 80s hits to indie rock bands to reggae – something to brighten the mood and relax the mind too.

What’s your go-to coffee order?

Oat Latte in my coffee cup please!

Any recommendations of things to do in Bournemouth?

  • Dane & Port – the most amazing food you’ll ever eat (that happens to be plant-based, not that you would notice)
  • Grab a Chez Fred then walk down Alum Chine to the beach and then go for a sea dip
  • Pop over the Chain Ferry and walk to Old Harry Rocks from there!

Are there any other local businesses you’d like to shout out?

  • Biig Wiigs Bakery – just opened up down the road with amazing cakes and sandwiches
  • Ounce – for your takeaway coffees