By Melissa Grant
Like most mums, Maria Faalafi found going shopping often proved difficult with a toddler in tow.
So she turned to online shopping to find the eco-friendly products she was after.
However, there was one big problem. It was impossible to find all the products she needed on one website, which meant she had to visit many sites and cough up multiple delivery fees.
That’s when the Buderim resident had her lightbulb moment.
“When I was first looking for eco products I’d be scrolling website upon website, eBay and Amazon, and found it hard to find what I needed. I wanted to find products that were good for me, my family and the environment,” Maria said.
“I decided I didn’t want to sell my own products, but I wanted to help other businesses doing the ‘right thing’ through one channel, making eco products more easily accessible and affordable. That’s how I came to the idea of ECO Marketplace.”
ECO Marketplace is a site where eco businesses sell a variety of eco products.
If you visit ecomarketplace.com.au you will find a large range of products, from sustainable seed pencils to zero waste beauty items.
In a short time, Maria has been able to source more than 700 products from dozens of merchants.
Her business is growing quickly, with new merchants signing up every day.
“I’ve been doing it for less than a year,” Maria said.
“I’m getting new products all the time and new vendors as well, and some really cool things – even I’m surprised.”
Maria’s website is not only good for consumers – it’s also great for small businesses as it allows them to reach a large target audience.
However, each business must pass a criteria to show they are eco-friendly.
One of Maria’s favourite products is a greeting card that can be planted by simply covering with soil in a sunny spot with regular watering.
“Seeded cards changed my life actually… it’s like the gift that keeps on giving,” she said.
The majority of products are Australian made, and many are made by hand.
Maria says the growing business allows her to have an income while caring for her four-year-old daughter Talia at home.
“It’s good because I can do things from home and I can work late at night or early in the mornings,” she said.
“I want to spend as much time with her before she starts school. She can still have a full play area in the office so she can stay with me.”
Before going on maternity leave, Maria was an engineer drafter – a job with very little flexibility.
It was while working as an engineer drafter that Maria became interested in eco-friendly products.
Aged in her twenties, she started feeling unwell. She experienced severe migraines, rapid weight loss, blurred vision, dizziness, chronic fatigue and digestive issues.
While doctors tried to diagnose her condition, Maria decided to ditch unnecessary chemicals in her life, including food and beauty products.
“I spent years trying to find out what was wrong with me,” Maria said.
“I remember thinking, let’s just cut out certain things and change your lifestyle – see if you feel better and I did.
“It became a passion of mine because I felt so much better.”
Eventually, Maria was diagnosed with several food allergies and reactive hypoglycaemia, a condition where blood sugar levels drop to low after a meal.
Maria’s passion for eco-friendly living only grew when she became a mum.
“Once I had my little one, Talia, I think I became more passionate for eco living, eco friendly products and things like that just thinking about everything that’s going on (on the planet) and what I’m going to leave to her?
“After having Talia, I wanted to have everything as natural as I could.”