Why is it that when you've signed up to a Buy Nothing New Month, a whole array of temptations arrives at your door?
There I was minding my own business, when an email popped into my inbox last week, bringing my attention to Eco Emporia, a new business whose strapline is "desirable objects from discarded things".
So not being in a position to shop until December, I thought I'd stick the chicken on my Christmas list and instead of splashing the cash, spend some time catching up with co-founder Anna Burns to find out more about her new venture.
What inspired you to set up the company?
"Like many businesses, my husband Peter and I came up with the idea for an eco gift company by identifying a problem. We were becoming greener at home - reducing, reusing and recycling, but when it came to looking for Christmas presents in 2005, we struggled to find suitable things that were both eco-friendly and desirable too.
At that time many of the green stores offered only functional products or 'eco-gadgets' as gift ideas. For us they weren't attractive enough. So we'd identified a gap in the market for an online company specialising in desirable eco-friendly gifts. Our entrepreneurial plans had to be put on hold though, because we'd just got married and were about to embark on a year long honeymoon travelling around the world.
That year away gave us the chance to dream about our business idea and to get inspired by seeing craftspeople who reused and recycled as a way of life. We had a 'eureka' moment in Australia when we wandered into an art gallery exhibiting recycled crafts from South Africa. We were excited by the creativity and amazing stories behind the products and the people who made them, and this really helped us to focus on our niche market of handmade recycled gifts."
What is your favourite product and why?
"I really do love all of our products so it's difficult to pick a favourite, but the ones which appeal to me most are those which are ingenious yet simple in design. Like Darrell & Julia Gibbs's Rescued Paper Notebooks where each page is made from a sheet of waste paper with the printed side folded in on itself to make two sides of blank paper to write on.
I also love fun products that make me smile like Lorraine Berkshire-Roe's quirky papier-mache tea-cups which even have bubbles painted in the 'tea'."
What sustainable packaging do you use when sending gorgeous items like this to your customers?
"All of our packaging is made from recycled, reclaimed or biodegradable materials. Some of the outer cardboard packaging we use has been made by refurbishing larger, solar panel boxes and making them into smaller cartons just right for posting. We've sourced biodegradable bubble-wrap which we use sparingly when needed and all our tissue paper is 100% recycled.
Smaller items like earrings are packaged in little gift bags I've made myself using pages from old unsaleable charity shop novels. Other items are wrapped in tissue and dressed up with a decorative book page pinwheel, made by me too.
Every item comes with an information card about Eco Emporia and a card telling the recipient more about the product's past life and the craftsperson who made it. We offer an optional gift message and we've had great feedback from customers and gift recipients who love these extra handmade touches."
I've read that you manage your business affairs in an environmentally-friendly way too. What would be your top tip for any other small business wishing to reduce its waste?
"Do all your business online to help reduce the amount of paper you send out and receive. We store all our documents digitally, use an online bank and we don't print anything unless we really need to. Even then it's on 100% recycled paper and we print on both sides."
So if you're still pondering what to get your friends for Christmas, it really is worth a visit over to Eco Emporia to pick up a few ideas, with the full guarantee that you'll have a zero waste present. You might even be inspired to make something yourself using their easy-to-follow instructions.
I'd like to say a huge thank you to Anna for sharing some of her time last week. Now, I mustn't forget to tell Mr A about that chicken. For more details visit www.ecoemporia.com