Eminè Mehmet always knew she was destined to work in a creative field, so when it came time to choose a career path, she decided on interior design. But she soon had the inkling that there was more to her calling than simple design. Tapping in to her passion for simple, functional and sustainable design, she began to dedicate herself to communicating the benefits of sustainable living to everyday people. Through her annual Sustainable Design Principles Event – and her own sustainable designs including a newly launched range of lamps – Eminè hopes to teach people across the world that living a life that treads lightly on the planet is not only simple, but essential.
My parents … are from the northern side of Cyprus – they’re Turkish Cypriot. I was born just outside London and we lived in Cyprus for two years when I was six before going back to London.
I remember … those two years like they were yesterday. They were the best years of my life. What I loved most was the freedom there. We used to play in the streets with the local kids until midnight. And I remember having the electricity cut off and my grandmother filling up these huge urns with water in the afternoon for drinking and cooking because they cut the water off.
My mother … came from a tiny village with a lot of rural land where they grew olive trees and all the food was fresh. She doesn’t like to waste anything so my parents make a lot of things themselves at home. So I grew up around that holistic idea of living off the land, but I didn’t really think about it because it was just the way it was.
When I was 12 … we moved to Sydney. I made a real effort to get rid of my English accent because all the kids at school would always come to me and ask me to talk!
I was always very creative … and I studied interior design after high school and really became involved in the industry during my studies. I first actively started getting into sustainable design when I was working at Woods Bagot five or six years ago, because it was a component of many of the projects I was working on at the time. I decided that I really wanted to do what I love – writing, speaking and sustainability – and was thinking about going part time so that I could do that. So when I was made redundant about two-and-a-half years ago, it seemed like the natural thing to do. I didn’t want to go back to working for someone – I wanted to give it a go and see what happened. If it didn’t work I could always go back to design.
Even two years ago … there wasn’t a lot of information out there for the public to access about sustainability. And there’s no point preaching to the converted, so the biggest hurdle that people in the industry are beginning to realise is how to communicate it to everyone else. It’s been such a political topic but it’s become something people can’t relate to, or understand, and that they have become fearful of. I think, as human beings generally, we have a fear of change, and in the past sustainability has been portrayed as something you have to change your life for.
I’m a very no-nonsense person … and I don’t see the point in designing something that isn’t functional. I’ve always had a very practical approach to my work and I wanted to communicate the information in a way that was easy to understand and wasn’t scary to the general public. I like relating to people and giving them what they’re looking for. And now other people in my industry are realising the importance of spreading the word to the general public and getting them involved in the process – showing that people don’t have to change their whole life in order to live more sustainably.
To get past the ‘green washing’ … all you have to do is a little bit of probing and immediately you can see if it’s really sustainable or not. If a brand can’t substantiate its claims, then you know straight away. All it takes is asking a couple of questions. They don’t necessarily need to be accredited by any particular body, but if they’re doing the right thing then they’ll have no problem giving you the information you ask for. Ask how and where something is made and why it is sustainable. Green washing is very clever because they don’t actually use certain words – for example with food, a brand might say ‘natural’ instead of ‘organic’, so you have to read the ingredients on the back.
What I’m doing … isn’t really confined just to Australia. I want to speak to everyone, everywhere about sustainability. And what I’ve discovered from my travels is that, as a nation, we act like we discovered sustainability in Australia, but we didn’t. In some areas we’re ahead, but in many others we’re actually behind the eight ball. For instance, in Europe they’ve been doing it for a long time and they don’t make a big deal out of it, whereas we do here.
There are moments … when I speak to people and I realise that what I’m doing is actually having an impact. When you’re working so much, you don’t often see the big picture and you don’t get to see the end result unless someone comes up and tells you that you’ve impacted them.
The greatest challenge … has been figuring out where I fit in and how to best communicate what I do and how to do what I do. It’s been an evolving process and still is. I feel a lot more stable and established so I can easily communicate and execute what I do. Because sustainability is in its infancy – and there are a lot of people out there doing a lot of things – it’s just about finding what you do best and doing it.
I’m most proud of … having kept at it and not given up – believing that people really are interested in sustainability. I couldn’t give up because I love it and it would be like giving up on myself.
I meet so many people … in this space and they inspire me because they also don’t give up. They put in 100% effort and commitment and they sacrifice a lot to achieve their goals in the space. The more I see of it going on, the more I know that I’m on the right path and travelling in the right circles.
Results inspire me … Each day, each week, each month there seems to be more progress and that inspires me to keep going.
I find peace … by sitting on my balcony, surrounded by my plants and some incense and candles, and just breathing.
I believe in God … and I’ve experienced quite a few religions in my life. I believe that they all stand next to each other and that they were never meant to be against each other. It’s just man who has separated them. And I believe that your own connection to God or spirit – or whatever you want to call it – is more important than saying you are a particular religion. Going to church every Sunday doesn’t necessarily make you a good person.
Be open … and don’t live in fear. Go with the flow – which is usually acquainted with people who are laid-back and lazy, but that’s not what it’s really about. It’s about not fighting change. If you don’t fight things and just let them happen, they’ll usually work out for the best.