Confessions of an Eco Kid: First 10 Steps to Zero Waste

I've always been a bit 'crunchy' (I think the term is) - eco, green, environmentally friendly.... Ever since I was a kid, my mum encouraged us to recycle, reuse and make-do. Without me realising it, I took my first 10 steps towards Zero Waste, long before Contented Earth was even a seed of an idea.

Eco-Step One

A major part of my childhood was either walking down to the High Street laden up with bags of glass jars and bottles, and tin cans, or driving to Sainsbury's (other supermarkets available) with similar bags in the boot, and stopping at the Bottle Banks and throwing the jars, bottle and cans in. The best bag to get was, of course, the glass - if the bottle bank was empty enough, you could just able get enough force to hurl the bottle or jar inside, so that it made a satisfying smash at the bottom! The cans were never quite so satisfying. 

Eco-Step Two

My parents would (and still do - I MUST get my act together and do this...!!) tear open any envelopes, or one-sided junk mail, and clip together in similar sized-piles with bull-dog clips to create note pads. 

The Contented Company - Eco Note Pad

So simple, yet genius hey?

(This is the actual current notepad in my parents' kitchen, which often has a pencil balanced on top, and serves as a shopping list.)

Eco-Step Three

At my Nanna's house our drawing and colouring pads were old photocopies of a Yugoslavian newspaper, which one of her and Grandad's neighbours (who I guess was Yugoslavian...?) used to be sent, would read and then pass on to her, or us to colour on. Whether Nanna inspired my mum, or my mum inspired Nanna, who knows.... But re-using ran throughout our whole family.

Eco-Step Four

Skirts and dresses were given extra life by my mum adding a large frill to the bottom. We always took a bag full of bags (the Bag-of-Bags) to the supermarket with us, long before Bags for Life or canvas bags were popular.

And generally work was put in to make things last longer, re-use them in a different way or dispose of them in the most environmentally friendly way.

Eco-Step Five

I still remember the lovely four-poster Barbie / Sindy bed my mum made for me from an old cereal box, some wooden poles, and some material. She stuffed the box with paper so the poles stood up and glued flowery material around the outside of the box to make the mattress and base, gave it a pelmet and then created some curtains and pillows and a duvet. It wasn't the shiny plastic one from the TV, branded loudly Barbie. No. And my child's desire to fit in with my friends meant I was a little apprehensive to have this one my mum made, but I loved it. Even back then, I loved the care and effort she'd put in. And now, as an adult, I love the fact that I had a biodegradable, recyclable bed, that has long gone, rather than a lurid pink one that will be around for another 500 years.

Eco-Step Six

And the re-using / up-cycling continues to this day Chez Contented Grandparents. This sofa must be around 40 years old - it was certainly around all of my childhood and probably before. Towards the end of Primary School my parents realised that their low-rise futon-esque 1970s sofa was just too low for many guests, especially my grandparents! So they bought a normal-height sofa for the lounge. But never ones to waste, or throw away when unnecessary, they had this three-seater sofa converted into a two-seater, my mum made new cushion covers and they moved it into their conservatory. And there it stands today.

(Note the carpet samples used as floor protectors...??? Everything has a use / re-use.)

The Contented Company - Upcycled Sofa

Eco-Step Seven

Fast forward to Secondary School.

There I joined Earth Action and became an Environmental Monitor for the school. At that age, it basically meant that we spent a lot of our lunch times painting cardboard boxes green. The rest of the time we took them to classrooms, along with signs and encouraged every classroom to recycle paper. We would also collect up all that paper before it was collected for recycling. 

So, yes, it was heavily paper-based.

We did also organise an Environmental Week one time. We tricked, sorry, encouraged some of the lower years, who we believed would be more enthusiastic about our cause, to come and watch an environmental documentary at lunch time, by suggesting that the content was for over 12s only!

And still the passion remained.

Eco-Step Eight

I got involved with Environmental issues at work - helping to organise a Carbon Reduction Summit.

Eco-Step Nine

And when my husband and I went travelling eleven years ago, I calculated all the carbon all our flights would 'cost' and bought double the amount of off-set to at least try to compensate for our journey.

Eco-Step Ten

Then throw into the mix babies and new parenthood, and you've got a wealth of re-usable nappies, washable wipes, biodegradable disposables for back-ups, eco laundry products, drying clothes on the line, etc etc. And it continues to this day.

So even before Contented Earth was ever an inkling in my mind, my Eco path was probably already set, wasn't it? Looking back, it was probably inevitable that I was going to extend the Contented brands to include something eco or zero waste. Turns out, I've been doing it my whole life!

As ever, with love from our family to yours,

Elena x

Elena Cimelli Signature

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