How ethical entrepreneurs go that little bit greener in their own home – Stuff.co.nz

How ethical entrepreneurs go that little bit greener in their own home – Stuff.co.nz

How ethical entrepreneurs go that little bit greener in their own home – Stuff.co.nz

The hardest thing about renovating, says Rose Hope, was resisting the urge to rip things out.
“There’s something to be said for loving and leaving your house as is and letting it be itself, not trying to force it to be something that it’s not,” she says.
Her 1960s brick bungalow in Bucklands Beach, East Auckland, is her first home, and she was determined to renovate it sustainably.
It’s the same ethos she’s applied to her Karangahape Road store, Crushes, for the last 10 years. “I believe the future of retail and manufacturing is closing end-of-life loops and stepping outside of ‘use, buy, dump’,” she says.
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“We were lucky enough to get a house at the start of 2020. We had to be thrifty, because there wasn’t budget leftover. But I didn’t know the first thing about renovation,” says Hope.
In the time afforded by lockdowns, she researched – “I was questioning everything.”
Mathew Young, her husband, was dead set on finding a water-based polyurethane for the floors, and paints with little to no volatile organic compounds (VOCs). They ended up choosing Resene, as it also offers a circular service for its paint cans.
She also found Green Gorilla, which repurposes 70 per cent of demolition waste, and challenged herself to scrap as little as possible. The couple removed their wallpaper, instead of just replacing the gib.
They did take out the vertical blinds, and put in new lighting and fixtures. “But we kept the original doors and timber joinery, and spent days and days filling and sanding, making it look brand new instead of taking it out and putting new ones in.”
The bathroom is still to tackle, and Hope’s game plan is to scavenge pieces from construction companies which got the measurements wrong, and to design around them.
At Crushes, Hope only stocks secondhand clothing and NZ-made homewares from 60 local makers. She says it’s “a place where, if you need (and we use if boldly) then you can come and have a guilt free-shopping experience.”
Everything is sourced in NZ, usually from its last bin stop before landfill. “If the item is quality, but stained or disfigured and needs mending, then we do that,” Hope said. “It takes a lot of labour.”
The homewares side of the shop is about storytelling. “We tell customers who made each item, what it’s made out of, and where it came from.
“Small makers get very crafty with their manufacturing. They have stories of using reclaimed woods, ethically-paid immigrant labour, and with us, you can filter shopping by your values.”
Hope believes none of us can be perfect consumers, nor renovators, but we can all choose at least one thing to do really well.
“And the more businesses make sustainable choices accessible, the more consumers can stop taking on all that personal responsibility.”
Sarah and Richard Shirtcliffe are on a mission to cut down the waste their family produces.
“Like everybody, we started using keep cups and metal bottles,” says Sarah Shirtcliffe. “As we started swapping out items in the house, it became obvious to us that we could make bigger changes. That’s when we removed cling film and paper towels.
“Each month I go through our rubbish and try to tackle a particular problem.”
The Shirtcliffes are Covid returnees, the pandemic having brought them home from the US to Miramar, Wellington, with their 8, 11, and 13-year-olds.
Their home is full of reclaimed and recycled treasures – reupholstered chairs, an old school bulletin board found on “good old Trade Me” and stuffed with family memories. Even the walls are clad in reclaimed bricks, including one from Wellington prison.
“We’re 50, and we are the generation that our parents told us to turn the lights and tap off, and put wool on when we were cold, or to darn socks with holes,” Sarah Shirtcliffe says.
“Sarah has been leading the charge for us as a family on the low-waste journey, for a number of years,” adds Richard Shirtcliffe.
“We have a duty to remediate the planet, and part of that is bringing back older practices. Having milk in glass bottles. Having herb and vege gardens. This is not rocket science. This is stuff previous generations did because they had to, and we’ve forgotten.”
The family puts out a council rubbish bag every three to four weeks, and the recycling bin goes once a month.
But Richard Shirtcliffe says they’re far from poster children for the low-waste movement.
“We have three children, so we’re off to bad start,” he jokes. “We’re a million miles from perfect. Perfect is an illusion. I describe myself as a recovering polluter who falls off the wagon most weeks.”
He also recognises that money plays a part in giving his family the “privilege” to make such decisions.
“Some people don’t have the option, they have to make choices based on financial factors. We feel the responsibility keenly – if we can do it, we should do it. And we want to make it accessible to everybody.”
Richard Shirtcliffe has a background in envelope-pushing Kiwi business – the former Coffee Supreme and Tuatara Brewery chief executive is also founder of Noho, a direct to consumer furniture brand made from recycled fishing nets and ocean plastics based in Boulder, Colorado.
When he left Coffee Supreme in 2016, the family travelled to Bali for a surf-trip reset. They witnessed the extraordinary amount of waste plastic floating in East Asia’s seas, setting their wheels turning about enterprise-led solutions to a global problem.
“We’re trying to eliminate plastic waste in a series of industries and that was our first crack at it,” he says. “One of the biggest drivers of plastic waste around the world is consumerism, which is driven by companies and their relentless unwillingness to eliminate plastic packaging.
“We concluded there must be a mechanism whereby companies can do better, can lead the charge by eliminating single-use plastic from common areas of the home to start with.”
Back in NZ, the Shirtcliffes have launched WildClean, thought to be the world’s first ‘plastic negative’ cleaning product company. What that means is that for each of the upcycled, refillable “forever” bottles bought, the company will remove two times the weight of those bottles from waste streams, via a partnership with rePurpose Global.
Their initial range includes three cleaners, and three hand soaps, delivered to your door as powder refills.
All the ingredients are organic and natural, like citric acid and by-products of coconut, and the packaging is home compostable, plus any imported materials the company uses are shipped in recyclable pallets.
Taking supermarket cleaners out of their own household was primarily a parenting decision, to reduce the amount of chemicals around their kids.
“We aren’t in this to make cleaning stuff, we’re in this to make an impact on single-use plastic,” says Sarah Shirtcliffe, “by making it super easy.”
But having a family means your eco-friendly decision-making can feel tough, she adds.
“If it was just Rich and I – mate, we could be down to a jar on our bench. That’s where people feel so overwhelmed.
“You buy a bunch of plastic toys and think, what difference will my tube of toothpaste make?”
“But you don’t need to beat yourself up,” adds Richard Shirtcliffe. “It’s on companies to do a better job.”
Covid-19 saw Ana Wilkinson-Gee uprooted from her home of the past decade, and running her company from a garage in Hamilton.
The Kiwi fashion designer had graduated from the Fashion Design College of NZ (now Design & Arts College) and relocated to India with her husband and three children 10 years ago, following a lifelong infatuation with the country and its bright fabrics.
“We didn’t want to come back. It was very hard on the heart, to leave, because we’d been there 10 years," she says. Her youngest child, Eva, was just 16-months-old when they left NZ: “That was her home.”
“Initially it was quite stressful because the understanding in the village was that Covid-19 was a virus carried by foreigners.
“People would be scared of us. We were asked to stay indoors by local authorities, and did so for about 45 days, before we were evacuated.”
The family left their rural village near Sambalpur, India, to move back to a rented home in Beerescourt, Hamilton, where she continued running her company – ethical brand Holi Boli – out of a garage so that she could keep her staff employed during lockdowns in India.
When she was little, Wikinson-Gee’s mother made her clothes. Now, she makes her own.
Everything in her closet is by her own hand. Although she says it wasn’t until she worked in a factory in Christchurch that she started to question filling her own closet with fast fashion.
“I make my own things because I love to wear something that fits really well. I’m really fussy with pattern-making and am probably too critical of store-bought clothes made from plastic fabrics,” she said.
She likes things that are breathable, comfortable, and look tidy.
“I make my own things to satisfy myself. My wardrobe is full of samples I might’ve made on a Saturday just trying something out.”
Wilkinson-Gee, who is a finalist in the 2021 Women of Influence awards says it’s important to understand the true price of the textiles we buy for our homes and wardrobes.
“A properly priced garment has paid living wages, so investing in quality means investing in someone’s life,” she says. “What we’ve got used to in our culture is the variety, and we’re encouraged to buy more; told ‘we deserve that’.
“Well, my question is –what about the woman who made that? What does she deserve?
“Someone is paying the cost, and I’m not going to wear a dress that has cost someone their dignity.”
Rather than buying five cheap items, she tries to spend the same amount of money on one well-made thing that she will absolutely love and will keep for a long time.
“I’d really encourage New Zealanders to invest in pieces that they love. Things that make them feel like themselves, and really good when they put them on.”
Holi Boli started out as a free sewing class to improve the lives of rural women.
Most of the women who came to her classes were lucky if they’d had schooling up until Year 5, some had until Year 10, and some were completely illiterate. Their father or husband would decide whether they could attend.
“In the cities it’s different, but I’ve encountered all of those reasons [to pull girls out of school].”
Two years later, one of the sewing graduates asked Wilkinson to give her a job. She launched Holi Boli, with the goal to be able to offer these trained women a workplace to use their new skills.
Wilkinson started designing high-quality, loose-fitting garments that would sell back in NZ, and as demand grew, she was able to take on more tailors. The women trained by her now number more than 170.
“I wanted to share those skills because I could see that it would help to transform and change the trajectory of women’s lives in the village, for the better,” she said.
Garments are made from Using Fair Trade Certified, GOTS organic cotton, and other fabric suppliers who align with Holi Boli ethics. Any offcuts are upcycled into stuffing for pillows, or to make sanitary pads.
“Fabric wastage is very low because we have lots of ways to use it,” Wilkinson-Gee said.
Stuff is a commercial partner with Wild Clean. Read more about how Stuff manages partnership content here.
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