‘We’ve lost the ability to mend and make do’: the Sheffield shop owner who is recycling shipping containers as a solution to #Sheffrubbish

A Sheffield shop and social enterprise owner is doing his bit for the planet by transforming shipping containers into affordable EcoHomes.

Jon Johnson, aged 53, set up his shop ‘Strip the Willow’ three and a half years ago.

The ‘upcycling’ business also creates new furniture from things like wooden pallets, timber from demolition sites and unwanted household items.

“People kept on giving me stuff to take to the tip that was too good to throw away,” said Mr Johnson, from South View Road, Sharrow.

The shop turned into a social enterprise, providing training and employment for people on work experience and apprenticeships. In the first year alone, the project had 6,500 volunteer hours, and attracted people from 18 different countries.

Now Mr Johnson has set up a new business, Reach Homes, to tackle the problem of expensive and environmentally damaging housing.

He said: “We’re looking at changing the housing market basically, and providing a proper, affordable, low-impact, sustainable house for people.

“They will be as good as we can make them for the smallest price that we can charge, because we’re not for profit, the whole thing is not for profit. We’re also looking at creating up to 80 jobs at Reach over the next five years, half of which will be apprenticeships.”

The homes will be energy efficient, with solar-powering and  passive-house standard insulation. One-bedroom studio units will start at about £35,000, going up to three bedrooms at £90,000.

Mr Johnson also encourages others to take a leaf out of his book and start upcycling.

“Even if you’ve got very basic DIY skills, it’s quite easy,” he said.

“Everybody can do their bit to cut down on the amount of stuff we needlessly buy every year and needlessly throw away- it’s a state of mind thing really.

“People are so used to the ease of replacing things that we’ve lost the ability to mend and make do. We’re just using up all the resources and  it’s going to have some long-term, very damaging consequences which will happen very soon.

“My son’s thirteen shortly and his generation are going to have to cope with the legacy of what we’re already doing and it’s going to be worse for their kids.”

If you would like to find out more information about Reach Homes, you can visit the website at www.reachhomes.org. Alternatively, visit the Strip the Willow website here.


Get involved in the conversation on Twitter and Facebook with the hashtag #Sheffrubbish