Zero waste mum is Sustainable Hero of the Year

A young mum who started her business at her kitchen table has bested an impressive array of national and international businesses to win the title of Sustainability Hero 2021, awarded today by CREST21 Business Awards, Surrey’s first sustainable business awards.

Bare + Fair, the zero-waste retail business that Mel Hemmings started just over a year ago from her home in Woking, made her the Judges’ Choice for the Sustainability Hero Award it was revealed at the hybrid event, live-streamed from The Lightbox in Woking.

Mel wins the star prize of the event which is a place on one of the University of Surrey’s week-long masters level modules through its highly prestigious Centre for Environment and Sustainability. The other category winners, who represented a wide cross-section of enterprises that are either based or work in Surrey, one of the UK’s wealthiest areas, will receive the chance of a highly prized complimentary sustainability consultation session with one of the Centre’s leading experts.

Bare + Fair was inspired by the Zero Waste movement and launched off the back Mel’s efforts to reduce her family’s plastic use and live more sustainably. Frustrated finding viable eco-friendly alternatives locally she set up her own zero waste retail business.

She swiftly moved from her kitchen table to a stall at Woking Market, and in lockdown was running a free local bicycle home delivery service of refills. Support from the local community helped her to create a zero-waste pop-up shop to keep going during the coronavirus pandemic and it has now expanded into a permanent shop in the town.

In a spin off from the pandemic, the business teamed up with a local dressmaker to offer locally-made cotton face masks with at least 50% of profits from the sales going to a local charity. Mel has also worked with schools and local community and business groups to give talks and presentations sharing information on what zero waste means.

The awards were the brainchild of an independent newspaper in Woking, the News & Mail which has worked with the University of Surrey’s highly acclaimed Centre for Environment and Sustainability to launch and develop them.

Their initiative has received strong and enthusiastic support with Headline Sponsorship from Surrey County Council and Kier, one of the UK’s leading construction and infrastructure services company. Other sponsors included Woking Council’s Planet Woking, interim leadership company Holdsway, Chambers Group and Mayer Brown Ltd.

Postponed last year because of the pandemic, the News & Mail and CES teams took the opportunity to rebuild the event in a hybrid format, drawing a wide audience with speakers who included Joanna Yarrow, former Head of Sustainable & Healthy Living at IKEA, Ian Christie, senior lecturer at the CES and Ruth Nic Aoidh an Executive Director at McLaren Automotive.

All category winners can be found on our Awards Event page

Headline Sponsor Surrey County Council’s Environment Commissioning Group Manager, Katie Sargent, was among the six judges and said: “I was so impressed with the calibre of entries, it was really great to see all of the different initiatives that local businesses have been undertaking in order to reduce their impact on the environment.”

Terry Tidbury, Managing Director of the News & Mail, says: “The sheer diversity of businesses that entered and the practical applications of their products and practices fills me with much confidence that, together, the business community can and will help deliver a much more sustainable future.”

For further information please contact: Carol Miller Woking News & Mail Communications Consultant: M: 07725 035740                 E: