Chemist & Co are just one of a group of environmentally minded local businesses with ambitions of turning Hoylake in to an ‘eco town’. We grab a chat with the owner, Ruth Casaletto as part of High Street Heroes Week.
Businesses and consumers are now more environmentally aware than ever. A recent survey revealed that 87% of women and 78% of men planned to look for more opportunities to behave environmentally responsibly - and businesses are responding.
But while big businesses look for ways to reduce their hefty carbon footprint, many small businesses are sprouting up with an eco focus too. One of them is Chemist & Co in Hoylake, an eco-vegan shop that sells its own environmentally friendly soy candles, skincare products and even its own 100% natural hand sanitiser. The shop uses environmentally friendly packaging and refillable bottles too.
Owner Ruth Casaletto was born in Malta and grew up appreciating the outdoors. She made the most of the sunny climate by walking in the countryside and exploring rock-pools by the sea, so it was no surprise that she gravitated towards the coast when she moved to the UK in 2002. Ruth said: “I fell in love with Wirral, as being by the sea felt like being at home. Every time I’m on the beach, I find myself taking a deep breath in and thinking we are so lucky to live in such beautiful, inspiring surroundings.”
Her love for science ignited at the age of 10 after she inherited her mother’s old chemistry set. After graduating as a pharmacist in 2006, she spent another year training to be a science teacher. It was while she worked in a busy community pharmacy that Ruth developed a passion for making candles and fragrances.
She said: “I started making candles because both of my sons played rugby and every Sunday the house smelt like mud! I found vegan premium ingredients and sourced eco-friendly packaging too.”
At first Chemist & Co only stocked Ruth’s soy candles but soon she had the idea of inviting local artists and artisans to display their own products too. She banned all single-use plastic and encouraged eco packaging to match her own ethos. Tapping in to a growing enthusiasm from local people, the shop began to host workshops where people could learn how to make their own items, such as candles, bath bombs or lino prints.
“There is something special when people get together and take their time to create something with their own hands,” said Ruth.
The business closed for three months due to the coronavirus pandemic earlier this year and faced many challenges when it re-opened. “It was especially challenging to smell candles with masks on!" joked Ruth. "Like many businesses we also put a lot of effort in to making ours COVID-secure for the safety of our staff and customers.”
“COVID taught us to think outside the box,” she continued. “We realised that social distancing meant restricted space in the shop so we decided to think bigger and leased a second unit in Hoylake which is going to be our ‘making space’, where we can host our workshops. We want customers to think Chemist & Co when they want to treat themselves, friends or family, knowing that they are purchasing sustainable, natural, vegan and animal-friendly products."
As a consumer, do you ever worry about the amount of packaging you use when you go shopping, especially single-use plastics that are harmful to the environment? Hoylake Pantry: Zero Waste Shopping decided to meet the problem head-on and implemented a new way of shopping. Instead of their customers buying individually packaged items, visitors to the shop fill their own containers with cereals, pulses, flour, herbs and spices, as well as cleaning liquids such as soap, washing up liquid and shampoo.
Manager Sharon Hall said: “A zero waste shop has other benefits too. It can cut down on food waste as you only fill your bag or reusable container with exactly the amount you need. It can also help you eat more healthy ingredients as we sell organic and Fair Trade produce and animal friendly, sustainable, locally sourced products.”
Ruth said: “We have a perfect opportunity to put Hoylake on the map as an eco town. It is great to be around like-minded business owners and we are currently working to create a Hoylake map, that can signpost businesses to visiting customers. I would also love to help set up a Hoylake Eco Market a few times a year with local eco-minded artists and artisans.
“Villages are mini-ecosystems in their own right, with volunteer groups, businesses, services, customers and residents. We are bonded together in many different ways, yet we all need each other to maintain normality in our everyday life. When customers support local businesses, they are sustaining and protecting their own ecosystem.”
As well as Chemist & Co and Hoylake Pantry: Zero Waste Shopping, a number of other environmentally minded businesses have sprung up in Hoylake:
- Re-Jiggery is an upcycling business that re-purposes and restores items that otherwise might end up in landfill, including fabrics and furniture. You can read more about them here.
- Wild Pear Bakehouse is a vegan bakery that specialises in that most sustainable of breads, sourdough, as well as high end pastries.
- Banks Coffee Shop has started using compostable cups and cutlery.
- Chip’D food truck at The Ship Inn on Market Street, sells delicious gluten-free dutch-style chips, made using no water storage, whiteners, preservatives or additives.
- Quirky Café on Market street is offering vegan homemade meals for takeaway.
- Maccombs Pet Store recycles milk containers to make bird seed feeders.
- Joy Of My Life make soy wax wraps, an environmentally friendly alternative to cling film
- Forest and Sea creates ornamental trees from handpicked driftwood.
- Piepowder Crafts creates recycles jewellery pieces and creates dreamcatchers from vintage lace
- One60Designs create paper art cards by cutting recycled magazines
If you run a business in Hoylake and would be interested in being involved in Hoylake Eco Town, contact Ruth at firstname.lastname@example.org