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Dairy girls

Using a restored, custom-mademilk float, two enterprising women have taken to the streets to deliver eco-friendly, refillable foods

30 January, 2020 — By Dan Carrier

Meals on wheels: Claire Marchais, in front, and Jerrilee Quintana, aboard their customised milk float

THE low hum of a milk float trundling through the dawn streets might be just a nostalgic memory for many of us – but a Kentish Town-based firm has taken the concept and brought it into the 21st century.

As the climate crisis escalates, friends Claire Marchais and Jerrilee Quintana had long wondered how they could stop feeling so powerless and try to make a difference. The answer came when they considered the amount of plastic they were taking home from shopping each week.

Their answer is Fair Well – a converted milk float that delivers package free eco-friendly food to neighbourhoods.

The pair met two years ago while working in an e-commerce company.

“We often spoke about dreams we had to make the world a better place,” reveals Claire.

“We came up with the idea of a refill food delivery system. We looked at each other and said: ‘Yes, let’s do this’, though we had no idea how. We thought we’d find out.”

They decided a business model of yesteryear that had a proven track record could be the answer – so they bought a milk float.

“They sounded right for our uses and we thought it would be a nice idea to bring them back to our streets,” Claire adds.

The float, bought from a company that specialises in restoring the battery-powered vehicles, was adapted with the help of a friend who is a designer.

Fair Well made its first delivery last July and is now is operating at almost full capacity on two set delivery days.

Customers book an hour slot for the float to arrive, and then other customers who live in the street can come and refill their packages at the same time.

Claire adds: “The key idea came from the problem of reducing the plastic we use. We both found it so frustrating when we were doing our shopping and the amount of plastic with products we buy regularly.

Customers queue up to fill up at the converted milk float

“We felt there was just no options to help us reduce the amount of plastic we use. It can be very hard to do so, and needs lots of motivation.

“And so many people do not have the option not to use their local supermarket. They have families, work full-time, with busy lives and not a lot of money to spend. We considered this as a starting point – a problem to solve.”

The milk round showed how it could work.

“This is a tried and tested system – we are doing something that the milkman used to do in the 1970s. It is a circular economy with no waste.

“And with the milkman, everything was super simple and convenient – you’d put your empties out the night before, and pick up the full bottles in the morning from your door step. I have my milk delivered and it is amazing.”

The reasons for the decline of the traditional milk round has much to do with supermarket-buying strategies and that supermarkets are happy to make a loss on milk to entice customers into their shops. It led to the demise of the milk float.

Fair Wells’ range of products focuses on items that supermarkets usually place in their middle sections – not fresh vegetables or frozen goods but grains, pulses, cereals, nuts and dried food. All this comes in a huge range of packaging that many consumers have so far not noticed as much as they would when they buy a broccoli in shrink-wrapped plastic. They also offer soap, shampoo and body wash – another plastic-hungry product.

The firm sources all its products from food co-operatives Suma and Infinity Foods – guaranteeing their stock is produced an environmentally friendly way by firms who treat their staff well.

Above all, the important thing is to be so convenient the customer does not notice it – and therefore create a business that could be rolled out across the country.

“We don’t want our customers to have to think about it too much – we want it to be simple, just a part of their daily lives,” says Claire.

“We know the scale of the crisis we face. We know there also has to be big answers to these questions.

“But by doing this, we hope we are planting a small seed which we hope will grow, and perhaps other people will follow suit when they see how this works.”

For more information, see: www.fair-well.co.uk or email hello@fair-well.co.uk

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