Wānaka Sun       

Reusable Christmas bags go viral

Posted at 7:52am Thursday 17 Dec, 2020 | By Joanna Perry newsdesk@thewanakasun.co.nz

Almost 6km of ribbon and 2km of fabric - that's what it takes to make a Merry Waste Free Christmas, as Emma Conyngham has discovered.

Three Christmases ago, rebelling against the vast amounts of post-Christmas waste - and the fact that the vast majority of Christmas wrapping paper is non-recyclable - she started making colourful fabric gift bags at home for her friends and family.

Last October, after deciding to take her creations online, her Merry Waste Free Christmas website went viral. Launch products sold out in twelve hours - and once restocked, she watched in panic as her phone started shutting down, unable to process the influx of orders after being featured on New Zealand-made product site Chooice.

“I never thought there would be so much demand,” said Conyngham. 

But what tells her that the waste free Christmas revolution is here to stay is that customers are coming back for more. She sold sets of 6 bags, then 10, then 34 - and demand is only growing, as evidenced by her employee roll of twelve women from Wānaka, Queenstown, Cromwell and Alexandra. 

Some of these women, who had lost their jobs as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, were working 60 hours a week to meet demand, whilst others were working, retired or disabled (using adjusted sewing machines) and doing what they could. 

Conyngham envisioned that her business would become part of the local waste minimisation movement alongside initiatives like Waste Free Wanda and Plastic Free Wānaka's 'SUC Free Wānaka' project.

“I want every retailer in Wānaka and Queenstown to be offering reusable gift bags,” she said. “They are made locally by women at home, so that will go back into our economy.”

She also hoped to produce themed sets for all our big holidays - such as ring, chocolate and bubbles bags for Valentine's Day - alongside year-round birthday gift bags, set to be on offer from March (“it depends how fast I can move!”).

Her biggest goal was to be featured in the wrapping paper sections of stationers nationwide. She was on the hunt for seed funders and business mentors to help make that happen, and asked for anyone with the relevant skill sets to make themselves known. 

Read edition 1005 of the Wānaka Sun here.

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