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Health store help

Looking for advice on natural wellbeing? Your local independent health stores can offer a wealth of knowledge and expertise. This issue we speak to Gerald Colfer of Only Natural in Wexford town

Independent health store advice on reducing your plastic and waste, recycling, re-filling and shopping locally

Only Natural has just celebrated 34 years of trading and we’ve been refilling customers’ washing up liquid and laundry liquid bottles pretty much from the start. However I don’t think we could have foreseen the global importance of this kind of initiative back in the 1980s. It’s sad that it takes a looming planetary environmental crisis to make us finally wake up to the need for change but, in this country at least, wake up we have!

Health stores are today the natural homes for the zero waste consciousness movement on the ground and we are doing our best to foster and promote it. We’re lucky in Only Natural to have the space to fully embrace the concept and run with it. In the last few years we’ve started selling a big range of packaging-free foods from dispensers. We have a selection of about 70 grains, nuts, fruits, snacks and pastas and cereals, all organic, all available to buy packaging-free.

Similarly we’ve increased our offering of bodycare like shampoo, hand and body wash as well as a range of household cleaners for refilling without the plastic. We have a range of household items like beeswax wraps and stainless steel drinking cups to encourage our customers to walk away from single-use plastics.

We stock as many locally-produced, minimum environmental impact goods as we can and will continue to scrutinise our range to move further in this direction.

We’ve seen people wake up to the need to embrace a natural and unrefined diet and other natural healthcare aids such as supportive herbs, nutritional supplements and alternative therapies as part of the road to better health, all ideas that were regarded with suspicion not so long ago.

Now we’re seeing the next shift in consciousness, the need to adopt a lifestyle that’s not only better for us but better for the planet as well and, 34 years on, it gives me some satisfaction to be able to say that health stores are still the natural spearhead of this new awareness.

It’s never too late to develop greener habits and reduce your impact on the environment, and independent health stores can play an important role in helping you to do that.

Get cooking Preparing and cooking your own food from scratch is the best way to avoid processed food which comes in lots of packaging and often has travelled some distance to your plate. If you’re not confident in your cooking skills watch an online tutorial, take a cookery course or follow recipes from a book or Rude Health magazine.

Eat seasonally Being aware of when fruits and vegetables are in season will help you to avoid buying food, or ordering it in restaurants, that has travelled across the world and has a huge carbon footprint. Rude Health magazine includes an In Season section in every issue.

Changing habits Shopping big once a week inevitably leads to food waste when inevitably not everything is eaten or cooked. One way to avoid this is to do a big shop for long-lasting food and household products once a fortnight or once a month and buy what fresh food you need more frequently from your local fishmonger, butcher, farmers' market, fruit and veg store or health food store to make sure you are getting local and seasonal food.

Shop local Frequenting your local independent retailers keeps them in business and supports Irish farmers and producers, and they will be happy to tell you exactly where your food comes from.

Palm off Many processed foods contain palm oil, which is directly responsible for the destruction of the rainforests. Read the labels and cut them out of your shop.

Refilling In many health stores you can buy dried goods such as rice, pulses and flour from dispensers using your own containers. Just buy what you need rather than what the supplier thinks you need, and avoid waste.

Eating out Ordering drinks in bars or restaurants that are on tap rather than in bottles is one way to reduce waste. Go to restaurants that have cut down on paper by using chalkboards and will email you a receipt.

What’s What and Who’s Who at Only Natural

Owner manager Gerald Colfer opened Only Natural as the first health store in Wexford town in 1985 as a reflection of his interest in herbalism, and it is still going strong. You can find it off the big Bank of Ireland car park.

“Our clientele is pretty varied, from traditional health store customers who tend to be older people looking after their health, to parents and children, sports people who like to avail of sports nutrition advice and our green living mantle attracts a younger clientele more switched on to sustainability.

“We have a great fruit and veg shop called The Green Corner next door. Only Natural is larger inside than it seems outside at 3000 square feet. This large space has allowed us to really take up dispenser refilling and expand our ranges including giftware.

“We have all the big names in supplements and keep a keen eye on what’s new. We are very strong on herbal remedies with a particular emphasis on Irish-made remedies.

“We have a big range of wholefoods – from dried foods and condiments to herbal teas, free-from foods and tofu and tempeh. We stock chilled and frozen food ranges. We sell local honey all the time and honeycomb in season. Wexford is a big centre for honey.

“Our large bodycare ranges cater for all needs from skincare to haircare and colours, bodycare, nappies and intimate care. In giftware we stock incenses and burners, hand-made candles, dreamcatchers and wind chimes. Everything is Fair Trade. We also sell beer and wine homebrew supplies.

“We have one small therapy room and offer angel and tarot readings, allergy testing, food intolerance testing and nutritional therapy sessions plus facials once a month.

“I’m glad to say that we are a one-stop shop – the shop is the size of a small supermarket. We have a loyalty card with a percentage off all purchases. An e-newsletter goes out to customers every month with new ranges and products, recipes, local therapist information and promotions. We are happy to give advice over the phone. We will order products for customers and go out of our way to do that for people.”

VISIT: 1 Church Lane, Ferrybank South, Wexford
PHONE: (053) 912 3236
SPEAK TO: Owner manager Gerald Colfer, nutritional therapists Chloe Landes, Michelle Cooney and Nichola Forrest who specialises in digestion and sports nutrition, nutritional therapists in training Paul Wright who is interested in diabetes control and Emma Murphy. Kim Eustace is a sustainability expert.

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