Mom of 3 combines love for interior design & saving the planet by making products from plastic

I grew up in Durban, South Africa and moved to the USA to study when I was 17 years old. While in America, I studied and swam on a swimming scholarship at Cleveland State University. My husband is German, and I have been living in Bergisch Gladbach (Germany) since January 2011.

I’m a Mom of three children ages: 6, 3 and 4 months old. All of my pregnancies went well, and each pregnancy was really so different. I was lucky to not have experienced severe morning sickness and I tried to make a point to stay fit and be active during the pregnancies by walking, swimming and being outdoors. By the time I entered my third pregnancy, I already had two young children at home which was quite tough sometimes since I was often tired from the pregnancy.

All 3 of my children were delivered with a planned C-section. This worked well for us, being able to plan help with the other children while I was in hospital etc., and of course, with the second and third C-sections, I knew what to expect, especially in terms of recovery! Going into the operating room the first time and prepping for the spinal injection is quite scary, but for the second and third C-section deliveries, I mentally felt more prepared and was able to enjoy the experience a bit more because I was more relaxed.

The first weeks with a new baby are always overwhelming. No matter how many children you have, each is its own wonder and miracle. After the birth of my third child, I really appreciated how amazing our bodies are: to grow and deliver this little person. Each time I seemed to be a little more emotional and appreciative. The C-sections all went well, and recovery seemed to be faster and easier each time. The breastfeeding also got easier with each birth. The biggest challenges for me personally were to ensure that my ‘older’ children got enough attention from me when the new baby was brought home. I wanted to include them, so they too see our growing family in a positive way, and not as a competition to get attention from their siblings.

This was hard initially: with my recovery, having a newborn (being sleep deprived) and still finding that important 1 on 1 time with the others. Our baby arrived in the middle of the pandemic, which meant that the Kindergarten was closed, and our older two children were home every day. This was also a challenge to find that balance of quiet time for bonding with the newborn and including everyone.

I really love being a mom. It is very time consuming and definitely not a 9-5 job but it’s so rewarding. The cuddles and little hugs, the tuck-ins at night and bedtimes stories: they are really special moments that I enjoy. I even enjoy the loud chaos and giggles, constant mess in the house: to me this feels extremely special and brings life to our home.

As Moms, we always put ourselves last. Our first concern is always the kids and then to find some time for our spouse, we often forget about that important time for us. And there isn’t much time left in the day to find time for us, but I think making this time is important and needed to keep ourselves mentally and physically fit. I still have days where I sometimes feel frustrated: Between 3 kids schedules it is quickly evening and I realize I accomplished nothing from my planned list for the day. I’m finally learning to accept that this is part of being a Mom, and some days it’s okay to do nothing I had planned: My kids are only young once.

This may seem like a strange answer, but the situation the corona virus pandemic put us in the past months has actually strengthened our family bond – it has impacted us in a very positive way. With the kindergartens closing, the kids were home all day, every day! Some days were very long and loud, and the house was usually a mess! The weather was decent in Germany, so we could spend some time in the garden and outdoors which helped a lot. I am always amazed at the children’s’ imagination – we had pirate dens, cardboard boats and cars, camping under the table. Our regular household kept the kids busy for hours and we read so many books. I think they quite enjoyed being home too – yes, they missed their friends at Kindergarten, but they actually had time to play here and explore in our own backyard. A break from the regular routine really forced us to slow down and allowed us to have that quality time together.

Unfortunately, a negative aspect of the corona virus has been not being able to travel to my family in South Africa. This was hard for us because we had planned a trip in March 2020, before my daughter would start school in fall and before our baby was born (June). We even had our suitcases packed. The day before we were scheduled to travel, the borders were closed, and we couldn’t make that trip. We were really heartbroken! My grandpa in South Africa was also sick at the time and has sadly passed away in the recent months. We didn’t get to see him that one last time. My parents had also planned to come to Germany in summer to support us once the baby was born, but they too could not travel. So, at the moment, we haven’t seen my family in almost 1 year. This has been very hard for all of us, especially because they are yet to meet their third grandchild who is almost 4 months old already.

For me personally, having to work at home the past months worked well. I saved a lot of time by not driving and also energy. By the time Corona really hit Germany, I was 6 months pregnant and working part time (3 days a week). I could work effectively from home twice a week and then went into the office 1 day per week. On my office day, my husband had the flexibility for home office and helped with the kids. I work as a Finance Manager at a Pharmaceuticals company in Germany, since April 2011. I am currently in my Parental leave from my fulltime job and managed to start my own company ‘Eco Inner Living GmbH’ already during my previous parental leave. I worked on my website, business plan etc. evenings in parallel to working at the Pharmaceuticals company and excitedly launched my business online officially in August 2020.

Before starting a family, I had very high career goal expectations for myself. I had studied for 6 years and achieved good grades and had the ambition to work my way up the corporate ladder in fulfilling roles that challenged me. Starting a family, seemed to shift priorities, at least for the interim. I struggled a bit initially with this because I want to achieve at work, but also want to be a very hands-on Mom. I want to be present at afternoon sports, and for those special ‘firsts’ with my younger children. I’m happy to have taken the risk and leap at starting my own business during my parental leave and I am grateful to live in a country that allows so much parental leave. This amount of time off work has really been a key factor. I feel that I now have the flexibility to meet my personal career expectations, as well as the time to be the Mom I want to be.

Since the age of 7 I dreamt about owning my own business. I used to make stamp cards and sell them to friends and family. After studying and completing my business degrees, I worked in the industry (and loved my job) for over 10 years. In the back of my mind, I still wanted to be an entrepreneur and have the flexibility to work in my own time and own my own terms.

During my parental leave after my second child, I started noticing the amount of rubbish and litter lying around, particularly on travels and visits we made to South Africa. I was tired of seeing those plastic bottles and rubbish in our oceans and scattered around. My kids know and understand that rubbish does not belong in the environment or in the oceans. It makes me proud to see them help clean up if we’re out and they see rubbish lying around. On a recent holiday to Mallorca, we were swimming in the sea together, my daughter picked up plastic waste that was floating by her and took it to the rubbish bin. It’s critical that the younger generation learns to protect our planet, they too can make a difference and it all starts at home, we try to cut down our use of plastic as much as possible and we buy sustainable products – but I felt the need to take it one step further.

The entire topic of recycling sparked my interest and I started researching how we could find alternative ways to clean up. I watched documentaries about our planet and how the plastic waste in oceans disturbs our eco systems. I researched statistics about plastic waste and was shocked to see and understand how much waste we as humans create. For a long time, I was occupied with the thought that there must be ways we can use this plastic waste for long term benefits.

I soon discovered the many ways that plastic bottle waste can be recycled and reused, including to make everyday products we use in our homes! Interior decorating has always been a passion of mine, so I decided to find a way to combine my desire to recycle plastic with my hobby and passion for decorating rooms and making our home feel cozy. Through my research, I learned that plastic bottles can be recycled into strong yarns which are then woven and create beautiful home accessories.

The entire concept seemed to be a perfect fit for my new business, and I was happy to find two certified suppliers in India who employ skilled, adult craftsmen to work in a safe environment to help make my vision a reality.

The topic of fair trade is very important for us, and through research and significant evidence, we are happy to work with suppliers who pay and treat their artisans above social minimum standards. They have very talented craftsmen who produce amazing products and we are happy that they want to work with us.

The process of creating sustainable home accessories starts with collecting the plastic bottles that have been discarded and ended up in our oceans and environment. These are then sold by the collectors to waste traders and recycling centers. Labels, caps and rings are then removed, and the bottles are crushed by bailing machines into Bales. These bales are then sold to the bigger and specialized recycling companies. A treatment process follows and includes washing, decontaminating and drying the bales which are then shredded to create small, washed PET Flakes. Spinning units use these washed flakes to create yarn which is then carefully woven into our products.

Along with the help of our suppliers in India, we now are happy to offer a wide variety of beautiful home accessories, including pillows & cushions, blankets, rugs & runners, poufs & footrests and even tote bags. They have all been individually hand crafted by skilled artisans and their texture and quality makes it really hard to believe that these items are made from recycled plastic bottles! They look and feel like wool products, are durable but most importantly, sustainable products.

We also work with ‘One Tree Planted’, so for every product sold, a tree is planted. Not only is waste removed, but we are giving something back to the planet too. This is important for us, to reduce our carbon footprint on the planet.

It also closes the circle for us as a business: We have removed the plastic waste, recycled, created sustainable products, and then give something back to the environment.

As our business grows, we’d like to add more products to the collection like tablecloths and runners which will be available in the next few months. I can think of many other products that can be added, so hopefully as we grow in the next years, we can continue to launch a few new products each year.

My ultimate goal with this initiative is to spread the information that interior decorating and home décor can be done in a beautiful and planet friendly manner. Our products remove thousands of plastic bottles from the oceans and environment and I am very proud of that!

I feel really excited and positive about the direction the business is going and the fact that by buying our products, you are removing plastic waste from our oceans and environment. Not only is it fun to decorate your home but now can also clean up the planet from the comfort of your living room.

- Kirsty, Mom of 3, Germany

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