Lifestyle

OxUnboxed: In Discussion with Lizzie Shelmerdine

OxUnboxed is a new, packaging free store located at 36 Little Clarendon Road at the Oxford Hub open from Thursday-Sunday, 10am-6pm.

Lizzie, the Environmental Programmes Manager for the Oxford Hub, chats about her favourite items from the store, exciting new collaborations and other tips for making eco-friendly switches in your life!

Changing to a packaging free lifestyle is quite tricky given the way in which we’re used to living – what are your top tips for those starting out on making the change in their lives?

Lizzie: My top tips for reducing plastic waste are first and foremost, come and shop at OxUnboxed! You can reuse your own containers and bottles to fill with our products. Food is a massive source of single-use plastic for most people, so it’s an easy first change to make.

Next, put together a kit for your bag. A reusable bag is a must, as is a reusable straw, cup and tupperware for those fast-food shopping emergencies. Most places will serve you food in your own container rather than their own plastic containers if you ask. Rather than investing in lots of fancy new equipment, though, look in charity shops and see if you can find a second-hand keep-cup or lunchbox.

From there, you can move through each room in your home, finding plastic-free alternatives to plastic products. It’s a long journey but a really rewarding one.

What other ways do you recommend students make a change in their lives to help the environment?

Lizzie: As an Oxford student, I felt like I was going to a new bop, black-tie dinner or ball almost each week! It’s tempting to invest in a shiny new outfit or dress for each event, but the environmental footprint of the fast fashion industry is colossal. We should be clothes swapping, sharing, and buying second-hand, especially for clothes that we might only wear once or twice at special events.

Facebook groups such as “Oxford Women’s Sale”, “Oxford Ball Gown Swap and Shop” or “Students of Oxford Swap” are great for this. Cowley road has some amazing charity shops as well!

What influenced your decision in picking the products to sell in the store? Are you planning on expanding the current range of products?

Lizzie: We order in products based on what we think will be popular. We don’t stock anything that includes animal products, as animal farming (like fast fashion!) has a vast environmental impact. We will be expanding our product range and are taking suggestions from our customers and volunteers for what we should stock next, so get in touch!

What’s your favourite food item in the store?

Lizzie: My favourite food item that we stock would definitely have to be our oat flakes. They’re jumbo-size oats that make a creamy, delicious porridge – and they only cost 16p for 100g, which comes out at  just over 2p per bowl of porridge.

Stock-list + champagne at the OxUnboxed launch party!

What’s your favourite non-food item in the store?

Lizzie: My favourite non-food item that you can buy at OxUnboxed is probably our bamboo toothbrushes and toothbrush holders. They’re great for travelling and keep the brush clean. 980 tonnes of plastic waste is produced as a result of demand for travel-size products each year globally, so having a sustainable alternative to this is super important.

When people come to shop, is there anything in particular they should remember to bring – specific containers etc?

Lizzie: When you come and shop at OxUnboxed, remember your containers for food. We have linen bags available to buy too if you forget containers or something extra takes your fancy. You might also want to bring soap dispensers or washing up liquid bottles if you’d like to refill those as well!

Can you tell me a little bit more about the Cultivate vegetable boxes and any other collaborations you may be doing?

Lizzie: We stock veg-boxes from Cultivate, where you can order in a weekly seasonal veg-box and come and pick it up on Thursdays! Go to www.cultivateoxford.org to place your order – just put ’36 Little Clarendon Street’ as your delivery address.

We’ve also got exciting upcoming collaborations with Oxford Brookes Sustainability Society and local charity Yellow Submarine, so watch this space.

What else do you have planned at the Oxford Hub location?

Lizzie: Oxford Hub is a centre for social action and volunteering, so we have speaker events, volunteer training, and meetings happening here seven days a week! There’s always lots going on.

Coming up in the near future we’re having a day-long event called “Start Solving: Social Enterprise for Educational Equality” where participants will work in teams to design social enterprise projects that tackle the issue of educational inequality in Oxford. You can find out more here: https://www.facebook.com/events/526388714751400/

Sarina Chandaria

Sarina Chandaria is a Senior Editor for Lifestyle and a weekly columnist at The Oxford Blue. She reads Geography at Christ Church, and is going into her third year. She has a particular fondness for travel writing, chats about personal finance and buying more books than she could ever possibly read.