Elly

Ambassador – Eastern Switzerland
Elly

It started at the monthly English book club meet, in the Toggenburg Alps where she lives. She was talking to a friend who had just read the book ‘Zero Waste Home’ by Bea Johnson. The conversation awakened something in her – something that was not new – but an ember that had been burning in her since her childhood. Once she got home that night, she could not help researching more…and so her story begun.

Actually, the story began much earlier. She was born in Persia, from where her family was forced to flee when she was 11 years old. Her memories of life there were already entwined with Zero Waste principles – she just did not know that it had a name. The political situation in Iran meant that plastic was not allowed in their home. Supporting the regime that sold oil to international companies for plastic production that gave no benefits back to the people of the land was not to be tolerated out of principle within their family. Having a plastic free home was all she knew.

During the next three years they lived in Athens, Istanbul and Sofia before settling in Zurich. Their situation meant they lived “Zero Waste” out of necessity rather than choice. Resources were limited. Clothes were sewn, food was grown and not wasted, homemade alternatives were made whenever possible.

Skills, values and principles learnt about the use of limited resources during these formative years never left her.

Working hard at school gave her choices when it came time to choose her career. Her childhood experience meant that job and financial security were important. Side-lining her love of history and languages, she chose an informatics career and was soon successfully in the corporate world, with a steady income and the security she had craved.

During these years her husband and her built their home in Toggenburg, a region rich in nature, swiss tradition and a lifestyle that allowed them to achieve an optimum work – life balance. Principles of resourcefulness, caring for the environment and their health were ever present as they created their life here. Furniture and homewares were curated from Brockis and antique markets, renovation chosen over demolishing and building new, vegetable gardens were planted and local craftsman and suppliers sought for daily needs.

It was July 2017 when they had that book club meeting. The same week she was hosting an Irish Folk Band who had come to stay with them for a local gig – they were all vegans so she did her research and had come up with a vegan meal plan for the weekend.

It was as if the stars had aligned.

Having learnt about the Vegan lifestyle, and parallel the Zero Waste movement – it was a matter of weeks before her life had turned a corner.

The principles of both lifestyles reignited something in her that had been sleeping. She found herself searching into her past – hours with her mother and grandmother cooking food from scratch, making clothes and home remedies, looking for plastic alternatives and better ways of using their plentiful resources. The switch was not so hard – it was simply a return to her past.

Her spare time is filled with visiting local markets, shopping in Zero Waste stores, learning how to sew & quilt and making her own cosmetics, natural remedies and cleaning products – not to mention tending to her abundant herb garden.

Her role as a ZeroWaste Switzerland ambassador will help fulfil her goal of bringing the Zero Waste lifestyle principles to this beautiful region of Toggenburg. It is about being a role model, sharing skills, knowledge and raising awareness. She is honoured to have this responsibility.