Q&A: Innovative eco designer Anthea Madill

Q&A: Innovative eco designer Anthea Madill

Reusable water balloons and iconic huia feather earrings made from recycled plastic – Anthea Madill is bringing wicked planet-friendly products to the New Zealand market. She breaks down some of her products and processes for What's Hot New Zealand.

Your EcoSplat reusable water balloons are an awesome solution for sustainable summer fun – what went into designing them? My colleague and I started manufacturing reusable water balloons with her previous business, The Rubbish Whisperer. It took a lot of prototyping to find the design and material that worked best. We wanted to ensure that the sustainable alternative is as much fun, if not more fun, than disposable water balloons. EcoSplat has been three years in the making and we have now perfected them so they can be stocked in toy and gift stores around the country. It’s very exciting to be bringing a sustainable toy to Kiwi families this summer.

What does mindful shopping mean to you? To me, mindful shopping is being aware of the potential implications of our purchases and asking lots of questions. Where is it made? Who made it? Do I really need it? Is there a more sustainable option? It is almost impossible to only purchase ethical and sustainable products, but by asking these questions we can show our support to companies that are doing their best to provide good options.

Clever Green is all about arming people with the knowledge and skills to live more planet-friendly lives. What’s one of the biggest messages you hope to communicate? My angle is to empower people to make changes. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and feel like it’s too much, or too hard. But in reality, if everyone starts thinking about things they can do to reduce their impact on the planet, we can each make changes for a better world. I am very aware of the challenges and pressure that people put on themselves, so I try to encourage people to just do what they can, where they can. It isn’t up to one individual to do it all perfectly.

What goes into making Remix Plastic’s beautiful earrings? With Remix Plastic, I use recycled plastic pieces to engage people in conversations about sustainability. They are such a great tangible vehicle for this because they not only provide a way for shoppers to support local and sustainable businesses, but they can then use their earrings to talk to those around them about environmental issues. I have set up a small-scale plastic recycling system in which I shred up the 3D printer waste from Tūranga library’s maker space, melt it into sheets, then laser-cut the sheets. I have focused on Kiwiana designs because they are a great way to tell local conservation stories.

Do you get recycled plastic from other sources? As well as the waste from Tūranga Library’s 3D printing workshops for school and community groups, I also have products made from ice cream container lids, which are not accepted in the council recycling system. I get these from Creative Junk, a community resource centre.

What part does tech have to play in the future of sustainability? There are so many ways that tech can be used for sustainability. In my work, I see technology bridging the gap for local and scaled manufacturing. Laser cutting provides a semi-automated process, allowing me to make larger quantities of recycled products than I could if I had to cut them all by hand.

How did your background in zoology and marine biology influence your current business? I think the biggest aspect from my education is thinking critically. I see my work now as science communication; taking the marine pollution research and climate science and filtering that into useful information for people. I have always had quite an obsession with animals, specifically in the marine environment. By studying and working in conservation I have gained respect for the environment and an understanding of the bigger picture.

Any sustainable brands or products you’re loving at the moment? This is going to sound like a very adult answer, but I am thoroughly appreciating my Bento Ninja stainless steel sock hanger. It is also perfect for hanging reusable water balloons to dry after a water fight! The other product that I am living and breathing at the moment is of course EcoSplat reusable water balloons.

What’s your No. 1 sustainable life hack? My general advice is try different things. If you try a shampoo bar and don’t like it, try a different brand. There is no right way to reduce your impact, you have to find what works for you. My specific advice is switch to reusables wherever you can. It will massively reduce your impact and you get to choose nice things that suit you, like your favourite colour reusable cup.




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