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My name is Eric and I have been a tire engineer at Continental in Sarreguemines (France) for the past 14 years. Two years ago, me and my family decided to try and reduce our household waste output to zero – not an easy task by any means.

A love of nature is in my DNA. As a son of a farmer, when I was little, I had the run of my family’s garden and fields and I loved helping my parents on the farm. This was the root of my inborn respect for the environment, my will to live in harmony with nature. Two years ago I listened to a talk on waste prevention and was immediately inspired. I spoke to my wife and my three kids, and we soon came to the conclusion that we wanted to be a “zero-waste family”.

Great oaks grow from little acorns: big projects need to start small
It was obvious to everyone that this would not be an easy task, so our guiding principle was to start small and get bigger. No sooner said than done. We began with food that could easily do without packaging: When we buy bread from the baker’s, we ask for it not to be wrapped in paper. When we shop for fruit, pasta and rice, we always take empty boxes with us. A sign stuck to our house mailbox says “No advertising, please”, so we have no problems with huge numbers of flyers, brochures, etc. In our experience, the reaction of most shop assistants is very understanding. While many of them still ask why we don’t want any packaging, they accept our decision when we explain the reason behind it.

How it feels to cope with challenges and do good at the same time
We do encounter some resistance, of course. We have stopped shopping at certain places because they refuse to give us our purchases without a bag or some other kind of packaging. And there was another even bigger obstacle to get round: special occasions such as Christmas or birthdays. It was particularly hard for my 7, 9 and 11-year-old daughters to turn down gifts because they were shrink-wrapped in plastic film, for example. However, friends and relations soon got used to the situation. Since then, the children have been getting presents like riding lessons or things to wear. My 11-year-old daughter Jade is also happy with our decision to avoid waste, she says: “I feel like we’re doing something good.”

Economy and ecology go hand in glove
I use resources sparingly and do my best to ensure sustainability not only in my private life, but also at work. I am glad that I work for a company like Continental where environmental protection and efficiency are given high priority. Part of my job involves reducing rejects and scrap during the tire production process. That doesn’t just make good economic sense – it’s good for the environment, too.

Finja Ostermann-Emden

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