East Croydon Cool talks…Carbon Offsetting

East Croydon Cool talks…is a blog series that explores topics of cultural interest via local area experts. With all eyes on COP26 earlier this month, we caught up with Fressco, a local responsible consumption company that is focused on promoting, selling, and delivering locally produced products that are free of unnecessary plastic.

Run by Alejandra and Nish, Fressco aims to effectively tackle the lack of agency in sourcing good quality products from local producers in London. It’s not just a business, but an idea that could revolutionise the way we purchase by adapting to a completely sustainable method of consumption.

A key focus for Fressco is carbon off-setting – which they do by working with both Saving the Amazon and Team Trees.

First off, tell us a bit more about you!
My name is Alejandra. I’m a passionate entrepreneur for both food and responsible consumption. I studied Finance and International Relations back in my home country of Colombia, and then I got my MBA in London (my dissertation was about Fressco!) I have 8 years’ experience in banking, business administration and corporate finance and whilst my work in this area was great – it was also very demanding. I am proud my professional achievements (and salary!) but I was keen to do something different. I wanted to leave my comfort zone and make Fressco a reality.

I’ve been thinking about having my own local and environmentally friendly shop since the age of 22 – a place where customers could enjoy the food without negatively affecting the planet. After years of working in Colombia, I came to London to do my MBA with the aim of getting my business idea off the ground. It’s been great to make this dream a reality – and now I am working very hard towards scaling it!

We’re actually based in Anerley – close to South Norwood lake but we have quite a few customers in Croydon so I spend a lot of time there. My first awareness of Croydon was through watching Peep Show (!) but I’ve seen much more of the area since that introduction! A few weeks ago, I attended the Social Media and Digital Sales for Creatives workshop at the beautiful Stanley Arts. In addition to marketing tips, it was great to learn more about more the Borough from East Croydon Cool and the Croydonist.

What made you want to set up Fressco?
I’ve had the idea of Fressco in mind for years, but I didn’t initially know how I was going to make it a reality – especially in a foreign country! No matter where I live, I have always tried to consume as locally as I can and use the least plastic possible. After living in London for over 3 years, I have realized how difficult and time consuming it is to buy consciously while also supporting local business and plastic-free products. This is how Fressco was born! We want to tackle the lack of agency in sourcing good quality products from local establishments in London.

Fressco was born from an idea that could revolutionise the way we purchase – to adapt to a completely sustainable method of consumption. By buying with Fressco, you support your local economy (by consuming only local brands), help the environment (by avoiding the use of plastic) and reverse your carbon emissions (through our charitable donations). Our constant efforts to promote responsible consumption have led to us becoming a member of ‘Saving the Amazon’ – an NGO that plants trees in the Amazon.

At Fressco, we firmly believe that people should consume local products, reduce their reliance on plastic, and reduce their carbon emissions to effectively tackle climate change. Plastic pollution is one of the biggest environmental issues that contributes to climate change – the government don’t seem to give it the attention it deserves. Sadly, the UK’s recycling system is pretty inefficient. The UK has trouble properly collecting and discarding plastic and sends a lot of plastic rubbish to other countries. According to the Environmental Agency’s National Waste Packaging Database, in 2019, the UK sent 200,000 tonnes of plastic to Turkey, which is equivalent to 30 shipping containers a day full of plastic waste‼️ This is why we must be radical and stop consuming plastic at once!

How does Fressco work from a consumer perspective?

Currently, customers can shop on Fressco using the website. The Fressco platform is built from the most customer centric approach. The user interface is very simple to use and is suitable for customers of all ages and with all levels of digital literacy. Fressco allows customers to checkout and purchase without becoming a member on the website. Customers can also opt for PayPal payment or cash on delivery.

Most of our customers spend a lot of time reading the product specifications. They really care about their products and thoroughly research them before placing an order.  This is unusual for other online supermarkets…and something we are please to see!

And how does Fressco benefit the environment?
By supporting local brands, we are shortening the distribution chain and bringing food more directly from the producer to our table (producing less waste in the process). By shortening the chain, less plastic is being used in transport and shipping, (including the plastic that is needed for hygiene purposes). This directly reduces pollution, environmental and food waste. Moreover, eating local means eating fresher foods that are more nutritious. Additionally, eating local can also create a better connection to the food you eat – knowing who produced it, where it came from, how it is produced and what it’s behind the brand. These components are all important to be aware of when it comes to eating consciously.

When buying from a big supermarket, part of the money you spend goes to transportation, processing, packaging, refrigeration and marketing of that food (and not necessarily to the farmers/producers themselves). When you buy from a local business, farmers market, or local shop, you are supporting your local community and your money goes back into producing more local food for you. As a consumer you have a choice – by buying more processed foods or imported foods you are creating more demand for these products. In contrast, if you buy local and demand local foods at your local grocery store, you are creating a sustainable demand.

Every time we buy from a local producer, we have an opportunity to be more informed about what we eat, learn about their farming practices, and gain a better understanding of our food. A systematic change in food production at all levels is necessary to achieve our goals for carbon emission reductions. At Fressco, we believe that influencing consumer behaviours and shifting them towards low-carbon food options, has the power to simultaneously encourage food producers to reduce the carbon impact of their offerings, while also empowering consumers to reduce their own personal carbon footprints.

How does your plant a tree initiative work?
At Fressco, we help the environment not just by selling 100% plastic-free products or supporting local producers, but also by planting trees. As a start-up focused on reducing our carbon footprint, Fressco has partnered with ‘Saving the Amazon’, an NGO that is currently undertaking afforestation projects in the Amazon region of South America.

At Fressco we charge an optional carbon tax which is 1% of every purchase. So, every time a Fressco customer reaches £6.05 in Fressco Carbon Tax, we plant a tree through Saving the Amazon (where the tree will be named after the customer). In addition, the customer receives the details of the tree including images every 6 months for 36 months.

What can people buy from you?
We have approximately 400 varieties of products online. Our main objective for next year is to focus more on our Fresh produce (our name Fressco, means “fresh” in Spanish). Currently, you can find a bakery, fruit & vegetables, food cupboard groceries, super foods, vegan cheeses, hummus and more on our online store!

What’s are the biggest challenges running Fressco?
We launched in 2020, in the middle of a pandemic. This was the same period that left loads of people without jobs and the entire nation looking for cheaper alternatives to eat. This was a very big challenge for us as most of the cheaper alternatives came from big supermarkets that import food containing plastic on its packaging! And a hard truth nowadays is that when it comes to food, most people prefer to save some pounds instead of avoiding plastic.

Our customers are mainly people who prioritise the environment and best quality food. Though it is a small niche in society, we believe that every day more and more people are beginning to make decisions based on the environment. Selling local, organic, vegan, and plastic free products can be really challenging – and people need to be educated and informed on a daily basis. It is important to understand that consuming cheap products will only mean a more expensive future for our wallet, our body, and our planet! But of course, not all people think this way. Tackling climate change is not cheap. But it’s important.

How can Croydon locals (both businesses and residents) help support what you do?
In 2022, we want to focus on working with more small businesses and providing more fresh products! If you are a small producer, please contact us! The only requirements are that your brand is registered in the UK and your packaging is 100% plastic free (and of course, that you have all the legal food requirements to commercialise!) If your products are Organic and Vegan, even better! At Fressco, we don’t sell meat, but we do sell eggs and dairy products.

If you are a Croydon resident, Fressco is great for you! We deliver every day and in most cases, we can deliver the same day.

If you want to try Fressco, use the voucher “CRYDONFRS” and you can get 15% off on your purchase. If you are a resident and you feel something is missing in the online grocery sector, we would love to hear from you!

What do you think about Croydon’s green credentials?!
A few days ago, I found out about The Croydon Reuse Organisation (Croydon ReUse Organisation – Green Croydon), an independent creative space that champions the benefits of reuse. They also offer workshops to small groups in woodwork, carpentry, upholstery and sewing.  

September was Croydon’s ‘Great Big Green Week, which was coordinated by Croydon Climate Action (Home | Croydon Climate Action) to make the borough more environmentally friendly. The events included litter picks at some of Croydon’s parks, talks and workshops. What I really liked about this initiative, was that its main objective was to encourage more Croydon residents to engage within their community. I think that when residents are more engaged and familiar with their neighbours and where they live, that their quality of live improves.

What are your plans for 2022?
In terms of the business, I want to focus on extending the range of fresh produce from London based producers. The small business are the ones that need most help nowadays.

My business partner Nish and I are very fortunate to have this opportunity here in the UK and we will do our best to take this to the next level. I want to take on board a new co-worker as I think this type of business really needs ongoing passion and ideas. Therefore, I would love to speak to likeminded people who are ready to help! Commitment and responsibility are key so if you are reading this and like what we stand for, do not hesitate to contact me!

2022 will be a year where we will focus on looking for better ways to make responsible consumption better to everyone. We are actively applying for grants so we can invest more in environmentally friendly mopeds and have a small physical space for those customers who prefer to buy in person.

To learn more about Fressco, visit their WEBSITE or follow them on FACEBOOK, INSTAGRAM or TWITTER.

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