Lockdown has seen lots of us take up new creative hobbies – be it embroidery, baking or painting. But one south London resident set up a business that incorporates both her craftiness and her passion for the planet. During lockdown last year, Flora Blathwayt launched Washed Up Cards – a company that uses little tiny bits of plastic waste for card designs. Her adorable, witty cards include all kinds of interesting pieces of plastic that she collects from the banks of the River Thames and at various UK beaches.
Flora then writes exactly where the piece was found on the back of every card, for a personal touch
Sustainability is something that’s always been close to Flora’s heart. But her very first beach clean-up in late 2019 inspired her to do more with these small pieces of discarded plastic. The 34-year-old tells Metro.co.uk: ‘I was expecting to find lots of stuff like bottles and crisp packets and plastic bags – which there were obviously – but it was the smaller bits which caught my attention.
‘These little bits of microplastic, which are kind less than a fingernail (or 5mm) in length, and I picked up some of these as some of them were really pretty – there were sequins, there were buttons, there were tiny little pink pearly pieces of plastic and I stashed a few because I thought “I’m going to do something with these.”‘ Her very first creation was a wedding card for her sister, which featured a getaway car with lots of colorful pieces of plastic as the cans. Following the success of this card, Flora started to make some for family and friends. But after the pandemic hit, this hobby turned into a full-time business.
After being put on furlough and consequently made redundant from her job in the very first lockdown, Flora found getting outside vital for her mental health. She says: ‘I’m really happy about the focus it’s given me during a really hard year. ‘I was struggling, I didn’t have a job. I was living on my own and I’d gone through a breakup – I was just a bit lost and anxious. ‘In London, you can easily not know about your wild places. Yes, there are parks, and they are brilliant – but it’s wildness that I find something incredibly grounding about. ‘And, for me, the river became that safe place. ‘That’s what kept me going – along with family and friends.’
Flora explains that card-making was a form of therapy for her during this difficult time. She says: ‘Some people buy colouring in books these days and do all those mindfulness craft activities but, for me, that was another win from doing this. Sitting down, doodling cards designs and cutting plastic – it made me concentrate and focus and forget about the chaos around me. ‘Sometimes it takes a while to get into it, but it definitely helps. It’s better than mindlessly scrolling on your phone or doing something less positive.’ Within a year, Flora has turned Washed Up Cards into a brilliant independent business – with glowing five star reviews on Etsy. As it continues to grow, she hopes her creative cards will inspire people to get thinking about the environment. She adds: ‘It’s not too preachy, that’s what I like about the cards.
‘We can watch documentaries and feel quite overwhelmed by life and the environment but actually, the scaremongering can paralyze people, in my opinion. ‘Yes big government stuff and policy change has to happen but actually small actions can help, so if my card just makes you or someone – not change overnight and be perfect – but slightly alter their behavior then I think that’s a good thing. ‘Hopefully, it will engage them slightly, I’ve had so many nice reviews and somebody actually messaged me saying they have bought some litter pickers and are doing their own street clean.’
Flora also thinks that the pandemic could change people’s attitudes towards the environment, in general, and hopes her small business is doing its bit – even if it’s just reminding people of the issues we still face. She adds: ‘We can wait all day for initiatives to come in to make us have more sustainable lifestyles, but I believe it goes both ways and starts from the bottom up and I really hope it [her business] gets into worlds that wouldn’t have maybe thought about it before, or with those who are too busy.
‘People are doing less and taking more time, whereas before you’d be cramming your weekends with brunches and busy plans, but now a walk and a litter pick could be something you’d do – or take the time to go to a refill store or look up getting your milk delivered or buy a refill bottle. ‘I feel like there’s an opportunity – and I know we might just bounce back to ‘normal’ – but hopefully, there will be little parts of people’s lives which do change for the better and plastic could be one of them.’