Be Creative - Be Sustainable - Mindfully Make

My first idea failed….where Circular Economy meets Social Enterprise
 
I failed at my first business idea and regularly tell people that the original plan for The ReCreators was unsuccessful from the very start.  The ReCreators was to be a national online store for upcycled goods that were locally, ethically and sustainably made.  I launched, not much sold and therefore I quickly had to change my business idea or look for a job. 

Picture of a ReCreator working with a child and the banner in the background 
Being stubborn, I pivoted and changed the business model to workshops - which has since attracted parents and children in abundance but less so adults.  However, the main mission for The ReCreators was to offer an alternative to new, unsustainable products and to be able to offer income for vulnerable communities who could work on an ad-hoc basis.  I still hold onto this vision. 
 
Let’s face it, we all want to do the right thing but when it comes to upcycled or restored items, we still see them as second hand and want to pay those types of prices.  Having worked in this zero waste industry, I see the following challenges: 

  • It’s difficult to scale upcycled items due to the inconsistent materials, design and logistics of getting them to a specific location
  • The labour cost involved is higher reflected in the high cost of kiwi living
  • It’s easier to dump than to divert
  • Large scale retailers are not stocking repurposed/ upcycled items as the norm
  • People don’t want to pay “new” prices for upcycled items.

Adults find the concept of paying “new” money for upcycled goods difficult to grasp.  Having worked with kids – I can see that they do not. 
 
Making Waste Valuable
 
I am of the genuine belief that if these items were sold in mainstream retail – that attitudes would quickly change and be normalised.  Furthermore, it would make “waste” suddenly valuable and we would throw less away.  Construction and demolition account for between 40-50% of all our waste nationally.  Its currently easier to dump stuff in a skip and send it off to landfill than to sort and divert it.  However, the economics say different in terms of the value both in terms of waste reduction but also for social enterprise. [1]

We are now in a position where reusing MUST be our reality – fast fashion and over consumption CAN’T continue.  Over consumerism is killing us.  Remember its not just the product itself – it’s the land use(loss of biodiversity), carbon footprint and water usage required to make the product, not to mention poor human rights, unethical work practices, then transport and finally, its disposal.  
 
Reverse Engineer the Problem
 
What if we reverse engineered this problem? What if a retailer provided information on what products sold well, and we sat down and worked the logistics backwards?  We would know product types by material, quality & safety requirements, quantities by region and price point.  We could then get to work designing products in conjunction with retailers and designing business processes for communities to create social enterprises across the country. 


Circular Economy meets Social Enterprise
 
The ReCreators have designed a simple product that can be made by any community group throughout New Zealand.  It’s a DIY Sew Your Own Toy pack for kids aged between 5-10 years. Kids can learn to sew and make their own toy (mouse, unicorn, kiwi, pukeko and monster).   It would be locally, ethically, sustainably made and would be plastic free.  This design could be used to enable vulnerable communities to come together for community production at a local makerspace and earn some income – an easy-going pathway for employment.  We could continue to work with high school and university students to make more products all increasing in complexity providing an attractive steppingstone for those who are interesting in furthering their makers skills. 

Sew your own mouse toy kit
 
No Time Left
 
The ReCreators can try and build our own audience and sell online.  But we don’t have time, our Tipping Point is less than 10 years away (we are using carbon at a faster rate than anticipated so this time frame is reducing).  We need to move fast and jump straight ahead to the big boy retailers who claim they want to be sustainable too.  Am I dreaming or will this fail too?  I certainly hope not for the planet’s sake.   
 
Are you interested in stocking our items – if so, contact Ger@therecreators.co.nz
[1] http://knowledgeauckland.org.nz/assets/publications/TR2019-009-CBA-on-waste-diversion-from-landfill-homes-land-community-Auckland.pdf  

Comments (1 Response)

02 October, 2019

Angela Matthews

Yes after having two grandaughters I have started to think about waste and the recycling and repurposing of things and would love to stock your items

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