Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Eco Emporia: Desirable objects from discarded things

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".

No sooner had I hopped onto their website, I found myself wanting so many items, it felt like all my Christmases were coming at once. Here's a company that is not only helping to reduce waste by repurposing discarded items into something desirable, but is also helping craftspeople to earn a living. With a personal love of crafts, I could have committed my credit card to so many things, especially the funky chicken shown above that's made from plastic bags. There's something about my quirky taste that somehow finds it appealing.

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


Anonymous said...

didn't you know they can read our minds, always happens to me, none spending days, click on msn and the great add comes right up in your face. Great idea of theirs though, I adore hand made.

Strawberry Jam Anne said...

It's a good job we are close to Christmas, so that instead of spending you can make a list for Santa. And aren't some people clever being able to make something out of nothing, so to speak!

A x

Anonymous said...

lovely to read the interview, Mrs A. I came across Anna and her company this week too and thought they looked great :)
You can always splash out on Dec 1st once no spend month is over ;)

Mrs G x

Maisie said...

You've been tagged, see my blog for deatils please.

Anonymous said...

I love it! When I can buy things again, I'm there.

Almost Mrs Average said...

LOL's true. All lovely things can tempt you so easily...I can't wait until December. :-D

P.S. I love the necklace you made for your mum. Saw it on her blog the other day. Gorgeous.

Hi Anne - I love it when people can pull together crafts like this. They make it look so easy, whereas if you give me a load of papier mache, the only thing I'd make would be crumbly mess. :-D x

Hi Mrs G - yes Anna's got some great ideas there and I hope she does well...roll on December 1st :-D x

Oh Maisie - that's a great tag. Thank you. Can't wait to show my photo :-D

Hi Jen....only few months to go eh! Won't be long LOL.

Tracey Smith said...

Genius idea missus, lovely interview too.


Almost Mrs Average said...

Thank you Tracey - and huge thanks to Anna for participating. x

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