Rural Church opens its doors for eco refills

A rural church working on its eco credentials has established a relationship with a local environmentally conscious company, to help make caring for God’s earth as accessible as possible in its community.

All Saints Church in Hoby, near Melton, is hosting a ‘Real Refills’ pop-up shop every fortnight, selling ethically sourced products at affordable prices. The goods include food and cleaning products, bodycare and household items, all without the plastic packaging.

For the last six months, Hoby parishioners and others in the local community have been able to fill up their reusable containers with everything from cereal and nuts, to laundry liquid and anti-bac spray.

Real Refills’ mission is to reduce waste wherever possible and to make sure that the environment is in no way compromised through their actions.

Sandra Woodward started the company when, as a busy working mother, she found little time to visit the often city-centre-based cooperatives. In a bid to make refillable, eco-friendly products more accessible - ideally within walking distance - she launched her own company covering Charnwood and Melton.       

Already working in the community of Hoby, Sandra’s relationship with All Saints Church came about when she was in need of an indoor space in the village to sell her products.  

Pioneer Minister, Revd Crystal McAllister, who works closely with the parishes of Hoby and Brooksby, explains: “Sandra used to have a stall in the pub car park and we wanted to work in partnership by offering her a dry space and care for the winter months.”

The pop-up has been very well received in this community. “This relationship has allowed people to question how their consumer decisions impact creation, as well as giving people the boldness to walk into a church when otherwise they wouldn’t perhaps be so confident,” explains Crystal. 

Sandra agrees: “It’s going really well, with a really committed group of church goers and others from the community, visiting the stall.

“It’s brilliant to see the church being used as an active space. People are open to conversations about what you can do and swap, and are taking action, which is great to see.”

Single-use plastics have actually only been used since World War II. Prior to that, everything came in a paper bag or was glass bottles and a deposit scheme. So in this case, going back to the way we were is actually taking a step forward in caring for God’s earth.

Sandra says: “With all the groundwork, markets and pop-ups, they need to be alongside other people – it’s always about working in collaboration - so I was really grateful when Crystal made the offer.”

In turn, Sandra is helping the church out with its eco church criteria.

Sandra is a Druid, and has a great love and respect for all life and the natural world. Her faith is integral to what she does, and this has opened up great conversations in this church community.

Crystal says: “We have had some really open and interesting conversations about Christian faith and values. It’s amazing how two faiths have come together in commonality of caring for the earth.”

Sandra agrees: “We come together for so many reasons, but there is a strong connection to the earth, the community and the whole ecosystem.”

More recently, Sandra has put together a list of products and offered advice, which the church has shared at their Chapter meeting for others to work with her. She is also offering discounted bundles to churches in the diocese.

All Saints has just been awarded its Bronze Eco Church award. They have rewilded their church yard and this year will be setting up a bee hive and appointing a church keeper. Other churches in the Upper Wreake Benefice are now hoping to follow suit.

First published on: 7th March 2022
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