Tag Archives: monitoring

Upcycling and street style

4 Mar Commonwealth Games upcycled bags photoshoot

My final 24 hours in Delhi proved quite busy. We were lucky to have a travelling American artist/photographer, Joey Edwards, join us for our last street shoot.

Joey had volunteered with Conserve India a few years ago and was dropping in to the office to say hi. We, of course, jumped at the chance to have an extra photographer for our planned photoshoot at Delhi’s Connaught Place shopping centre.

And here are the citizens of Delhi who graciously stopped to model our bags. Amazingly, these lovely ladies knew about the project because they’d read about it in the papersCommonwealth Games upcycled bags photoshoot

…and we thought our next model, Sujay, looked far more stylish than the United Colours of Bennetton mannequins we snapped him in front of (especially their hair arrangements…or lack thereof).

Commonwealth Games upcycled bags photoshoot 2

Commonwealth Games upcycled bags photoshoot 3

…We loved how Sumit’s dark clothing highlighted the bright colours of our Games messenger bag…

Commonwealth Games upcycled bags photoshoot 4

…and, finally, the very obliging Anyad and Mrinali, lending us their unique looks for this photo…

Commonwealth Games upcycled bags photoshoot 5

What was great about the shoot was that people got the idea quickly; they understood what we were trying to do.

We were overjoyed with their show of support (and the photos – thanks Joey and Jenna!)…

…like Shammi Kapoor (the ‘Elvis of Bollywood’) on seeing his true love…

…or Rahat Fateh Ali Khan mid-flight in song…

…Gold!


Upcycling: like playing Hacky Sack with materials…

11 Feb checking out the fence bunting

There were quite a few Games waste materials we identified during and just after the event. But establishing a viable upcycled product range takes quite a bit more than just finding materials.

Can the material be made into products fitting our current brand and organisational capacity? Can we afford to store enough of it? What about the product testing?

And of course, there’s the market development work – not many businesses can afford to produce products without some sort of guarantee they’ll sell.

So we had to be careful about which materials we accepted from the Games. Apart from the PVC banners we actively targeted, we were offered a few other interesting materials:

  • Recyclable waste directly from the Games Organising Committee Headquarters. This was mostly office waste – paper, cardboard and plastic bottles. Although Zitta Schnitt’s fabulous open source PET bottle purse designdid make us stop and ponder for a moment……………………we decided most of the materials weren’t suitable for durable fashion and homeware products.

    Delhi 2010 Games Organising Committee Headquarters

    Delhi 2010 Games Organising Committee Headquarters - inside and out

  • Temporary fencing and bunting cloth – during the Games, many events were cordoned off with thousands of temporary fences. We were offered these materials during the de-commisioning process after the event. We contemplated taking a small number of fences to trial some industrial furniture items (such as lampstands and shelving) as well as simple drawstring gym bags from the bunting material. But due to storage issues and the uncertainty factor regarding sales we had to say no.
Games fences and bunting

Delhi 2010 temporary fencing and bunting material

checking out the fence bunting

You watch the athletes, we'll feel the fence. Scoping out venue bunting material.

  • Unused Delhi 2010 Games ticket envelopes made from Tyvek plastic – this was such an interesting material I’m dedicating tomorrow’s post to it.

So, there’s a lot to do in realising an upcycling business opportunity. One of the ideas we had about securing a buyer for our Games products was to approach upcoming major events – such as the 2012 London Olympics and the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games – regarding upcycled merchandise.

Instead of cheap Chinese imports (like these merchandising items at one of the Delhi 2010 retail outlets)…

Merch cushion covers

Is pillow fighting a Games sport?! Random cushion covers on sale at Delhi 2010 retail store

gamesmerch2

Fuzzy plastic cars and things. What the...

…why not products made directly from materials left over from the last mega event?

Can you see where i’m going with this?

Imagine: closing the loop on waste from one major event to the next; like playing hacky sack with materials for as long as you can.

It’s a big idea and one, I’m certain, with many challenges to be overcome. But it’s not impossible to change a human system is it?

We got a little excited by the possibilities and dashed off a few emails to the London 2o12 and Glasgow 2014 organising committees but, alas, no cigar.

Not even a polite ‘thanks but no thanks’ email.

These events are organised many years in advance and perhaps, for the London Olympics at least, the most sustainable products have already been secured for their branded merchandise? This is, after all, meant to be the ‘first sustainable Olympic and Paralympic Games’. London 2012 Sustainability Plan, 2009

But when I logged on to the London 2012 shop I was surprised to find little, if any, details about the products other than most came from the manufacturer to the world – China.

Take, for example, a simple drawstring gym bag (sound familiar?) It’s made from polyester and quite cheap at  7 pounds. You could argue the Olympics, in an effort to be inclusive, has gone for low priced merchandise.

But then there’s the Stella McCartney Team Great Britain gym bag at almost 4 times the price – China and polyester again.

Maybe the sustainability credentials for each product just haven’t been made public? Maybe the organisers thought it wouldn’t make a difference to sales.

Maybe.

But it would be nice to have a choice, wouldn’t it?

Hands-on upcycling II: staff profile

7 Dec

While we wait for our new Commonwealth Games sample products to be finalised, I thought I’d return to our ‘hands on upcycling’ series, showcasing Conserve India’s people and processes.

In the first of these production posts we saw snapshots of staff preparing base materials, creating designs and producing samples. Today we move to an important hub of the organisation – the stockroom.

One of the things I’ve come to understand and admire about Conserve India is their commitment to providing staff with professional development opportunities, including promotion.

One person who has risen up through the ranks is Mohan, Conserve India’s Production Manager. Because my hindi is not very good, interviewing Mohan for this blog was a little tricky.  So I was grateful to Anita, Conserve’s Creative Director, for kindly offering to translate for us.

Here’s Mohan sharing a few of his experiences working with Conserve India:

Mohan Conserve India's Production Manager

How long have you worked with Conserve India and what was your first job?

I’ve worked here for 9 years. My first job was in the Quality Control Unit.

What was the hardest thing you had to learn when you became Production Manager?

The hardest thing was taking on more responsibility. I now oversee Conserve’s production process. It still involves checking the quality of all materials delivered to Conserve’s stockroom. But it’s also my job to divide up the stock and make sure it’s sent out to our fabricator workshops to meet buyer orders for our products.

Did you know about Delhi’s Commonwealth Games?

Yes, I knew they were happening.

Did you go? Did the Games have any impact on your life?

No I didn’t go. But I noticed the city was cleaned up a lot for the Games – that was a good thing.

Which of Conserve’s special Commonwealth Games products do you like best so far?

I like the Shahrukh messenger bag.

Shahrukh messenger bags

Commonwealth Games 'Shahrukh' messenger bags

What has been the most important change to your life from being promoted within Conserve India?

Being rewarded for hard work, with things like a better salary, is important. But becoming a manager also means my workmates look to me more: I have earned greater respect.

Unexpected outcomes

5 Dec

“Hello Liz, this is Abhigyan from Reebok India calling…”

About a week after the Commonwealth Games ended, news of our project broke in two of India’s most widely read English newspapers – the Times of India and Hindustan Times.

The combined reach of these papers is almost 20 million people. Just this fact alone was enough to send us double air-punching around the Conserve India office.

But what we didn’t expect was the response from people in companies, like Reebok, tracking us down to talk all things upcycling. (More on Reebok soon).

As you may have guessed from my last post, one of the companies was Aviva, a multinational insurance firm. Aviva recently launched an international branding campaign – ‘You are the Big Picture’. As part of this initiative, thousands of photos donated by members of the public were projected for a week onto a giant banner hanging from Statesman House in Connaught Place, Delhi.

Aviva has promised one pound for every photo uploaded to their website – up to a maximum of 250,000 GBP – will go to education projects, working with street kids across India.

Jenna on Aviva's Statesman House Banner

Jenna donates her face in Aviva's 'You are the Big Picture' campaign

So we were certainly intrigued when David Jiggens, Production Director from ICON – Aviva’s event management company, gave us a call looking for a way to recycle the banner. David was used to having options like waste to heat treatment in his home country, England, for disposing of materials otherwise heading to landfill.

I said: “Hey Dave, recycling is so last century! How about we energy-efficiently upcycle your banner into some brand spanking new products? And while we’re at it, we might even throw in some free Commonwealth Games material to make the products extra specially unique.” (Not quite how it rolled, but I’m summarizing several conversations. You get the drift.)

David liked the idea and we reached an agreement to spend his recycling budget on upcycling instead. Nice.

Tune in for tomorrow’s post and we’ll show you how the banner got from the side of a building to our factory…and what we’re going to upcycle it into…

Go well,

Liz

Where do we go?…

21 Nov

… ‘Oh, where do we go now?…Sweet child o’ mine’. Guns ‘n’ Roses

Yep. That’s right: this song has been running relentlessly through my head while researching and writing this particular post. (Go on, treat yourself to a little late eighties glam-rock posturing. You know you want to).

What’s a global hit from the eighties got to do with upcycling?

It started a few weeks ago, during the Games, while talking to the South Asian correspondents for British and Australian news publications about what we were attempting to do.

I felt under-prepared for the interview – particularly when one of the journalists asked, “A lot of the city’s slums have been cleared out for this event. Why should the Games give you waste, like vinyl banners, when they could be used by poor people to re-build their homes?”

washing behind a wall wrap

Image courtesy AP Photo/Manish Swarup via The Big Picture, Boston.com

Good. Question.

I fumbled a reply and the interview ended with neither journalist running a story (I know – it’s enough to make any half-savvy PR girl weep).

But it did get me to thinking: when it’s not going to landfill, where does all the waste in Delhi end up?

So, while humming the Gunner’s theme tune, I did a little research on the waste stream we are following from the Games – scrap banners.

We asked the company storing the banners where they thought the scrap was used. They told us they sell it for a small fee to the waste-dealing middlemen of Delhi – the kabadi wallas. Beyond this, they could only guess where the material went.

So I took my trusty little digi cam for a scout around the city to see what I could see:

It’s entirely possible the banners might get used as temporary shelters in one of Delhi’s jugghis (slums)…

Slum settlement on my route to work in East Delhi

Slum settlement on my route to work in East Delhi

…or covering loads on the back of trucks…

Truck canvas cover

Protecting the cargo with the canvas

…or as a colourful roof for a rickshaw…

Rickshaw canvas roof

Pimp my ride with upcycling style

…and, of course, as excellent shades against Delhi’s ferocious Summer heat…

Shade canvas

Look closely - these are actually Games banners converted to shade cloths!

So yeah, there’s a lot of informal repurposing, reusing and upcycling already going on in Delhi.

But with the city’s residents generating around 7,000 tonnes of waste a day, there’s also a lot of rubbish going straight to the dumps or simply being burnt on the streets…

Burning waste in Delhi

Burning waste, including plastics, on a street corner in Lajpat Nagar, Delhi

And it’s not just a problem for Delhi: although the Australian state of Victoria achieves pretty high recycling rates, the amount of waste generated by the 5.5 million population continues to increase each year.

Upcycling is one of many ways to tackle this problem by rethinking our headspace on waste – it’s about seeing value (and beauty) in things we might otherwise discard.

Getting back to that song, what would happen if we thought of our products as our own children?

We’d want to cherish them, protect them and never give them away. And, most of all, we’d do everything we could to stop them ending up here…

products and child

…wouldn’t we?

‘Now and then, when I see [his] face, [he] takes me away to that special place. And if I stared too long, I’d probably break down and cry’…

‘Where it’s at…

20 Oct

…I got two turntables and a microphone.

There’s a destination a little up the road

from the habitations and the towns we know.’

Beck: flushed and sweaty, looking for trash on a hot, flat highway.

We know how he feels. Tomorrow I’m heading out to Noida to check out what might be the strongest lead yet in our race to catch Games waste. Fingers crossed, people. Fingers. Crossed.

Noida is almost a satellite city mushrooming with outsourcing centres, automobile manufacturing and a media hub on the South-Eastern fringe of Delhi (it’s really quite a bit more than ‘a little up the road’).

And beyond it lies Greater Noida – a similarly industrial ‘city of the future’ – and also where it’s at for the Conserve India office team. They’ve been showcasing Conserve’s products at Asia’s largest handicraft and giftware tradeshow.

Trust me – it’s huge.

Conserve India Handicraft Fair Invite2010 Conserve India Handicraft Fair Invite

‘Bottles and cans and just clap your hands…’

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