Plastic’s not fantastic


Words: Nicola Chapman
Images: Steph’s Suatainable Stuff

Steph Mannion is creative, innovative and inventive, and has been trying to live more sustainably for some time, but it wasn’t until some life changes resulted in her being jobless, that her hobbies and interests converged – Steph’s Sustainable Stuff was born.

Steph had been caring for a lady for 9 years – the lady died in April last year, around the same time that Steph’s mum died, and Steph found she didn’t have the emotional capacity to take on another caring role immediately.

During this time, she bumped into a friend with a stall on Chesterfield market, who suggested she share the stall and sell some of her crafts. Steph agreed and gathered up some of her creations to sell on the stall; twiddle muffs (knitted, crocheted or fabric tubes with accessories such as ribbons and buttons sewn on the inside and outside, keeping a person’s hands warm while they twiddle the bits and pieces (reducing agitation) she’d made for people with Alzheimer’s, coffee bags – handmade bags that people can take into places selling loose coffee (e.g. Northern Tea Merchants) for refilling rather than buying coffee in plastic, veg bags for people to take to the shops to fill with vegetables – avoiding the need for a plastic bag.

Steph got the bug and took her own stall on Chesterfield Market, standing every Saturday in New Square, opposite Dents.

Steph explains “When I started, I didn’t have much to sell, but the products I took were popular. This inspired me to widen my range and I started selling bags of soap nuts, that people can use as an alternative to washing powders or liquids, I buy the soap nuts in bulk and sell them in hand-made, reusable materials bags – with a smaller bag inside for using the soap nuts in the washing machine. You basically use 3 or 4 soap nuts in the washing machine drum, you can use the same nuts for about 4 washes. At £5 for approx. 50 washes, the price is comparable to buying washing products, yet there’s no plastic, your clothes smell and feel as clean, and the final product can be composted. I’ll also refill your soap nut bag again”

“I believe eco-friendly shouldn’t come with a premium price tag, eco products should be accessible to all. If we want people to embrace eco friendly they shouldn’t be more expensive, so I work hard to make my products comparable and affordable. I buy things in bulk so I can sell them on at reasonable prices”.

“Whatever you do, however small – it all helps” Steph Mannion

As I talked to Steph it became clear how innovative she is, finding new ways to solve people’s challenges or reuse waste in new ethical ways.

Steph explained “a friend working in catering was using large industrial sized tins of food and wondered whether I could use the empty tins. “With my brother we designed and built rocket stoves; portable outdoor cooking devices using the tins, I took them to the stall and they proved a great hit for Christmas gifts. We’ve also designed a lightweight wooden drinks carrier, which carries up to 4 drinks at a time, with a deluxe version including a bulldog clip for carrying snacks.”
Originally designed for her brother to carry 4 pints of beer, it’s adaptable and also holds 4 bamboo coffee cups, like the ones she sells on her stall or some wine glasses.

On her stall Steph also refills washing up bottles, £2 a litre for a refill or £2.40 for a new environmentally friendly bottle, bars of shampoo, beeswax wrapping – a reusable covering to use as an alternative to cling film – which she also makes herself obtaining the beeswax from Roper’s honey – 10 minutes down the road from where she lives.

  • I asked Steph for some top tips for people who want to start making a change and reducing their plastic consumption:
  • Replacing cling film for the beeswax wrap (it freezes OK too)
  • Saying no plastic bags for vegetables
  • Taking your own containers where you can
  • Refill washing up bottles .. from the stall
  • Buy online at Facebook Steph’s Sustainable Stuff, and in and she’ll post products or do local deliveries.

But I recommend you go and see her at the stall, she’s interesting and engaging and can offer you loads of helpful hints and tips, and explain how to use the products she sells, as we try and embrace new and less damaging ways of doing things.
Don’t forget to tell her where you heard about her.

FB: Steph’s Sustainable Stuff