With the need to contribute to necessary change, Wendy Hickey and her partner Andrea Sivieri, from Milan, Italy, have opened Earthway, a refill shop in Midleton.
“We wanted to do this together,” says Wendy, mum to Conor, aged 10, and Meera, aged eight, who live in Rostellen.
“Andrea and I are both passionate about the welfare of the earth and the welfare of animals,” says Wendy, who balances work life with caring for her children and caring for her mother.
“Andrea has a particular interest in Agronomy, the science and technology of producing and growing food promoting land sustainability in agriculture.”
Earthway, at 3, Main Street, Midleton, supplies dry pantry foods in bulk; grains, good organic food like seeds, dried fruit, cereals, oils, all kinds of pasta and flour, as well as organic beauty products and household items.
The piéce de résistance is the bright space behind the shop counter that will serve as a yoga studio where Wendy, a qualified yoga instructor, plans to practice Hatha Yoga, involving breath, body and mind with her clients.
“Hatha Yoga is all about being grounded and being balanced like the tree,” says Wendy.
“The tree can sway in every direction but it doesn’t break. I hope to hold Hatha Yoga classes here one night a week.”
Visiting Earthway, I join the queue to fill up on some crunchy, fruity granola which, to borrow a phrase from my neighbour, Darina Allen, is ‘simply delicious’.
“The idea is that people bring their own containers to the shop so that the use of plastic is reduced”, says Wendy, who worked in a health shop for 10 years and who also worked with an Acupuncture practitioner in Midleton after studying Permaculture in Kinsale College.
“Permaculture is about the sustainability of the planet,” Wendy explains.
Like all of us, she never ceases to be amazed at the amount of daily goods we buy that are wrapped in plastic and cardboard.
“It is neigh-on impossible to avoid plastic,” she says.
“And there is no need for most of it.
“My daughter and I had a shopping experience where we did a normal week’s shop, and there were 16 pieces of plastic to dispose of,” says Wendy.
“Some of the wrapping material couldn’t be recycled and it would inevitably end up in landfill.
“I got fed up of plastic. Since I was young; I’ve practised clean living.”
Wendy, 44, achieved a lot at a young age.
“I left school at 16,” she says.
“Returning to education, I did my Leaving Cert in the College of Commerce, Cork, in 1994.”
Around the same time, another student was in Cork studying to learn English.
“Andrea was here in Ireland as a foreign student for three months,” says Wendy. “We met at a nightclub in the Old Savoy in Cork.”
Did Andrea chat her up in the language of love; romantic Italian?
“I approached him!” she says, laughing.
Andrea had to return to his home country after three months and he and Wendy parted ways.
“I didn’t follow him to Italy and we lost contact,” says Wendy.
But the planet aligned its stars so that the young couple would cross paths again.
“I was on holidays in Rome for a month in 2016,” says Wendy.
“I was new to Facebook, but one night after putting the kids to bed, a message popped up out of the blue on my PC. It was from Andrea! He was interested in Yoga and I had signed up to a Yoga studio in Cork and that contact came up on his online search. He found me again.”
The couple met up again and their love was reignited. In 2018, Andrea moved back to Cork.
“He loves Ireland,” says Wendy. “Andrea’s son, Francesco, joined him here.”
The couple now based in Cork had a plan to help save the planet.
“Andrea and I did our market research and we decided there was nothing like Earthway here,” says Wendy.
“We believed a bustling, busy vibrant town like Midleton was ready for Earthway.”
Midleton was ready and waiting to fill up on green goods.
“Since opening on July 1 we’ve received a really positive response, and there is a big demand for our products which are all organic. Our suppliers are based in West Cork,” says Wendy.
“We support locally sourced produce as much as possible. Our soap suppliers are a husband and wife team from Clare. We are expecting their soaps and body-care products to arrive in the store soon. The soap is chemical free, with all natural ingredients, it is naturally balancing and nourishing for the skin.”
Everything on the shelves of Earthway is chemical-free and unprocessed.
“Our shampoos have no SLS, ( sodium laureth sulphate), chemical content. Most commercial products have SLS contained in them,” says Wendy.
“The chemical content in shampoos is what creates the lather.”
Wendy looks after her tresses.
“I don’t dye my hair anymore,” she says.
“I used to use Henna; then I just cut all my hair off and let it grow back naturally.”
Wendy and Andrea, intent on helping the environment, reducing waste; practice what they preach.
“We’ve always lived as clean as possible,” says Wendy, who trained as a Yoga teacher in 2000 and who managed a holistic centre in Dublin.
“At home we have solar panels and we are planning to install a Grey Water system for our domestic appliances, knowing that the rain water is great for use in the garden.
“We grow our own vegetables fertilised by our own compost. While the kids eat meat, and my mother who lives with us, does; I am a vegetarian.”
But surely she embraced the delicious pasta and red wine favoured by the Italian palette?
“I love a glass of good red wine, or a sharp white wine!” says Wendy, laughing.
“And yes, we eat a lot of pasta at home. Andrea is a very good cook.”
Wendy was always very aware of the environment and the creatures that rely on it to live.
“Even as a kid, I was always very aware of the planet,” says Wendy.
“I would never kill anything.”
When any creature died she still looked after it.
“I remember burying a fly in a match-box and holding a little ceremony for it!”
Wendy says there are small things we can do that mean a lot to our environment.
“Use your own reusable coffee cup and reusable water bottles as much as possible,” she says.
“Reusable, is so much better than compostable. Changing small things will make a difference to our environment.”
Earthway, offering a new, clean way to shop, has a lovely, friendly environment.
“Andrea and I are very excited about our new venture,” says Wendy.
“We welcome everybody shopping here bringing their tubs, jars, bags, and bottles to refill.”
No doubt their customers and the planet they inhabit will reap the benefits.
You can find Earthway on Facebook.