'Refill revolution': Couple sets up milk float shop to tackle plastic waste

Lisa Jones and Stephen Thomas, and The People's Pantry

Lisa Jones and Stephen Thomas, and The People's Pantry - Credit: Julie Kim Photography

A Muswell Hill couple is selling eco-friendly food on a 1970s milk float to encourage people to pack it in with plastic.

The People’s Pantry was set up last month as a mobile zero-waste shop delivering plastic-free products to people’s doors, while also offering household refills.

Its founders, Lisa Jones and Stephen Thomas, are on a mission to play their part in tackling climate change around Muswell Hill, Crouch End and the local Haringey community.

The husband and wife duo, a journalist and an IT consultant, launched their green scheme after spotting a crumbling milk float for sale on eBay during the coronavirus lockdown.

The battery-powered van nicknamed Ernie, which can reach a top speed of 18mph, delivers more than 130 sustainably sourced products including healthy foods, with customers placing orders online.

Lisa Jones

Lisa Jones - Credit: Julie Kim Photography

Lisa told the Ham&High: “We have been genuinely thrilled to see that our street visits with Ernie the milk float have become everything we hoped they would be – a sociable event, with neighbours chatting and hanging out while leisurely refilling their containers.

“We call it ‘slow shopping’ – a return to the way we used to shop, in fact which, ironically, we are convinced is the future.”

Julie Kim Photography

- Credit: Julie Kim Photography

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All items from the van are sourced in bulk from independents including seeds, nuts, oils, pastas and pulses.  

Local producers are used to reduce mileage, such as Fireheart and London Honey which are both based in N10.  

The owners say they’re aiming to bring back the style of portable van shops of the mid-20th century to “give neighbours a focus to socialise around”. 

“Garden glut giveaways” are sometimes handed to residents including herbs, fruits or jars of organic sourdough starter – and the milk float now hosts a book exchange too.

The People's Pantry

The People's Pantry - Credit: Julie Kim Photography

Calling on locals to “do our bit” to tackle the “climate emergency”, Lisa continued: “We all have great power as consumers to effect change by choosing what and how we buy.  

“The People’s Pantry is all about encouraging an alternative approach through convenience and simplicity... and the fun factor.” 

Lisa and Stephen have lived in Muswell Hill for more than 20 years, and their four children went to school locally.  

Plastic Oceans, a non-profit, estimates 380 million tonnes of plastic is produced every year.  

For more information on the People’s Pantry visit https://thepeoplespantry.biz/

The People's Pantry

The People's Pantry - Credit: Julie Kim Photography