Our hectic modern lives often leave us reaching for plastic-wrapped food in the name of convenience, despite all our best intentions. Sophie Parsons discovers the best vegetable subscription services that offer a low-waste and organic solution to a timely problem.
A reluctance for the weekly food shop, just one job on our seemingly never ending to-do lists, can often leaving us with a basket full of plastic-wrapped convenience foods. As one of the biggest criticisms facing a sustainable lifestyle, the privilege of time to research and source plastic-free and organic fresh produce is one that many of us simply can't afford.
In the summer of 2019, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s ‘War on Plastic’ highlighted the sheer volume of plastic on our supermarket shelves. Conversations with some of the top UK supermarket brands detailed the disparate price difference between loose and packaged produce, with loose vegetables costing almost triple that of their plastic-packaged alternatives. At such a cost, sustainable food shopping can feel achievable for only a select few. And while supporting our local and independent high streets can offer a simple solution to an otherwise plastic-packaged problem, shopping in such a way is fully dependent on accessibility and location.
Here at Eco-Age, we are big fans of a fresh produce delivery box. With hopes of lowering the plastic pollution in our fridge, many of us eagerly await our weekly deliveries of wonky aubergines and organic greens. Not only does this method of shopping allow us to significantly cut down on non-recyclable waste, but also fits in perfectly to our otherwise hectic lifestyles. Through such deliveries, consumers are able to tailor their kitchen cupboards to best fit with their sustainability goals, with the market now offering organic, local and seasonal solutions for everyone.
Riverford’s focus on good quality produce ensures that each box is filled with 100% organic fruit and vegetables, with an additional option to opt for seasonal too. With each delivery of freshly picked seasonal produce come details as to the country of origin, with as many as possible locally sourced in the UK. In an attempt to reduce its carbon footprint, Riverford’s take back scheme for its boxes enable each cardboard box to be reused an average of four times before then being recycled at the end of its life.
Oddbox’s mission to reduce food waste stems from knowing that 20-40% of produce in the UK is wasted before it even leaves the farms, instead saving wonky and ‘ugly’ veg from landfill and delivering it to our doors. Its love of ‘delicious misshapen and surplus produce inspires deliveries of oversized apples, wobbly carrots and miniature potatoes. In a rather helpful leaflet, Oddbox offers information on all the produce included - the farm of origin, how to store and how to eat - in addition to recipe inspiration and advice on what to eat first to save it from spoiling.
The contents of Abel & Cole’s ‘All British Veg Box’ all boasts locally sourced credentials, with the added bonus of being 100% organic - essentially ticking all of our boxes. Now registered as a B-Corp, its commitment to supporting Britain’s farmers who want to achieve organic certification and prioritise the environment forms the foundation of the company. Not only does eating locally sourced help farmers, but is also a drastic way to lower the carbon associated with our dinner plates, countering the average 1,500 air miles otherwise associated with our fresh food.
As opposed to a predetermined schedule of delivery, Boxxfresh offer an on demand service whereby your fruit and veg can appear as and when needed. While the majority of subscription boxes come with a degree of surprise, instead, Boxxfresh’s ‘pick your own’ service echoes that of shopping in a supermarket, allowing consumers to fill their baskets with the desired produce for that week. In an effort to lower its environmental impact, the produce arrives package free where possible and boxes are returned to be recycled for future deliveries.
Morrisons, Lidl and Asda now offer wonky vegetable boxes priced as little as £1.50. Filled with surplus and imperfect vegetables, these budget boxes are the perfect solution to going plastic free without breaking the bank. While Lidl’s and Asda’s boxes are only available in store, Morrisons’ include their selection boxes as deliverable with their online shopping service. With veg staples such as potatoes, carrots and onions always included, on top of an additional handful of seasonal options, cutting down on food waste has never been so simple.
Farmdrop’s curated selection of sustainable products makes shopping consciously a little easier: prioritising package-free and loose produce where possible and opting for recyclable packaging such as glass milk bottles, compostable bags and wood-pulp plastic. Its ‘Organic Fruit and Veg Bundle’ highlights the story behind each of its farmers and avoids plastic unless needed for freshness. In addition to its organic fresh produce, Farmdrop stocks an extensive collection of sustainable brands whose ethos echoes that of its own, with a directory boasting organic period products, natural skincare and chemical-free cleaning products.