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Spotlight on Sustainable Businesses: Purple Earth

Claire Leonard   Fri 24 Jul 2020   updated: Tue 28 Jul 2020

It’s Plastic Free July, so what better time to invite guest blogger Julie McFarland, owner of Purple Earth, to share her story and delve into what it means to run a sustainable business in Northern Ireland. Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful has been running a competition for Plastic Free July with sustainable giveaway goodies purchased from Purple Earth; don’t forget to shop local and support your small business owners and producers.

How did Purple Earth come about?

Purple Earth has been a natural progression for me, from my previous holistic therapy practice where I offered sustainable products and liquid refills from the treatment room, to attending pop up events and fairs to gauge the interest in the ‘zero waste’ movement in Northern Ireland.

Like many people, I’ve watched programmes such as Blue Planet and Drowning in Plastic and had my eyes opened. Consciously look around any supermarket and see how much single use packaging is being used – it will probably scare you! From a trio of peppers wrapped in plastic to microwave meals in their unrecyclable black trays; from the plastic bags used for dry food packaging to the rows upon rows of toiletries and cleaning products in plastic bottles; and that’s before you even think about our toothbrushes, water bottles, disposable coffee cups and cotton buds. When the sheer scale hits you, you cannot ‘unsee’ it.

I have grown up in this ‘throwaway society’, but as an individual I have a responsibility, not only to our planet but also to my young family and my children’s futures. Remember - when we throw things away, there is no ‘away’.

What’s it all about?

Purple Earth was set up as a not for profit venture aiming to give back to the local communities, help the environment, and cut down on plastic use and food waste, as well as helping customers save money and budget. Purple Earth gives you the opportunity to help you and your family make conscious choices about products you use, the food you eat and the gifts you give, so that together we can ensure the earth's resources are sustainable for future generations.

The product range is sourced as locally as possible, and includes eco-friendly alternatives to household and self-care products such as reusable water bottles and coffee cups, stainless-steel straws, wax wraps, bamboo toothbrushes, etc. I buy loose foods in bulk, in huge paper sacks where possible, and bag down smaller amounts for customers. Before Covid-19 hit, the physical unit was akin to an old-style scoop shop, so it is going back to the way it was a generation or so ago. Our online store offers staples like pasta, lentils, rice, cereals and spices plus sweet treats, nuts & seeds.

I also stock refillable cleaning products such as laundry liquid and washing up liquid, and self-care products like shampoo and body wash. All products are from ethical, eco-friendly companies and many can be refilled at your doorstep – you buy the starter bottle once and I can refill, saving even more single use plastic.

What does the future hold for Purple Earth?

Obviously, Covid-19 has been a challenge for us all. I look to the positives – having to ‘shield’ these past few months has given me the opportunity to get www.purpleearth.net up & running and reach a wider audience.

My vision is not to shame people into acting; or show unachievable images through Instagram or similar. It is to educate and involve individuals to adopt even one or two workable changes into their lifestyle. If we all take just one step, we can create a better future and have a positive impact.

Consider making your Plastic Promise for Plastic Free July by visiting www.liveherelovehere.org/cgi-bin/PlasticPromise and make your pledge to reduce your use.