This is the story of an upcycling collective based in Auckland, New Zealand. It’s a story about how community development meets zero waste through upcycling and creativity. It’s a story about people from different backgrounds: from home-grown kiwis, migrants, Maori, and Pasifika. People from all walks who are working together to create a sustainable, ethical income from reusing our earth’s natural resources.
This is definitely not a story about people who want to gain power or riches for themselves and it’s not a story of egos or cliques.
This is a story about The ReCreators.
So, how does one get a successful and united collective up and going?
The ReCreators is about creating a one-stop brand for upcycling, to preach the word of reuse. We must upcycle, or more bluntly, we must stop buying new shit. As I started this journey, I met up-cyclers who were experienced in their industry, Buffie Mawhinney (Funk Up My Junk), Bea Lorimer (HeKe Design), Charlotte Parkes (ReBound Journals) and James Wilson (Rustic Audio).
But I also came across other artisans who were either keen to set up a business for themselves Anis Khan (Anis’ ReDesign), Juwairiyah Alam (Bevel) or who had previously worked with new manufacturing but were persuaded to create upcycled prototype products.
We have now been working for nearly 6 months and, like any new business, it’s been hard. But it’s also been incredibly hopeful. What I love most about this group is the genuine desire to support each other with a common goal: to grow this sustainable business for us all equally. We are all offering the time, skills and sacrifices to get this baby off the ground. What’s more beautiful than any of the recreations on our website is the friendship within the common mission.
There are groups and people who are not part of The ReCreators, but who are just as crucial to this collective, such as the fabulous Tara Moala from Hub Zero, whose core beliefs are centred on community development (and empowerment) and zero waste via upcycling. Brigitte from Grey Lynn2030 and Therese Mangos from Pacific Vision Aotearoa have a strong desire to reduce waste in their local communities. There are other groups who we connect with such as MPHS Tipping Point, the Zero Waste Network, Eco-Matters, KaipātikiProject, Auckland Council and Community Programme Coordinators. I know the list will continue to grow.
The beauty of all these relationships is that they do not involve money, but the idea that, together, we can be successful in our long-term mission to incorporate community income with zero waste outcomes. It’s a win-win situation. We have a positive outlook, that somehow, without much funding, we will succeed in our mission.
So that leads me to this question: Why do all these people want to collaborate?
United in starting a business
Starting a business is hard. In fact, I would say it’s nearly one of the hardest things that I have ever done, including raising my three kids, all 2 years apart – hard hard!! When you start a business on your own, it's also lonely. Many people do this all the time but want to expand and bring staff on-board to help. The hardest thing about starting a business on your own is that you don’t have all the skills required to do all of the work that’s needed.
Upcyclers are gifted and crafty; yet marketing, photography and computer skills may not be their skill or inclination. Voila! The ReCreators has offered to be a central marketing, branding, social media platform for creatives.
Making Upcycling Mainstream
Upcycling is currently very niche. While it has been around since time began, this new funky name is a bit retro when it comes to retail. The average upcycled product is generally found at a cutesy market. Many of the people who sell at markets might have their own websites or Facebook pages.
However, there is a lot more to business than just setting up a website and social media page. Marketing itself is a skill on its own. There’s advertising, SEO optimisation, Google analytics and the list goes on. Managing all of this is hard for the individual upcyler; doing it as a collective is far easier.
In time, as our collective grows, we can delegate individuals a small piece of work to specialise in, and together, we can work to create something that is mainstream and not so niche.
A shared desire to become more environmentally friendly
The beauty of our collective is in our shared desire to help the planet in a time of chaos. We know that our earth is in trouble and that grassroot actions can change things. Working together in a united, creative way can send a very positive message to our local communities - we can make the required changes and it can be fun. When you make the sacrifice to stop buying new goods – there's something better and more meaningful in what will replace them.
A sense of community and belonging
Here’s another reason: we have gathered as a collective to create an upcycling community and to belong to a group who are accepting of differences. We all see the world in a colourful, creative way. This allows us not only to accept differences but thoroughly embrace and enjoy them. It's boring when everything is all the same, but so much more interesting with different personalities, genders, nationalities and backgrounds. We all love variety, sharing experiences and skills.
Working with communities in educational creativity
Moving away from the original idea of The ReCreators just being a sales platform, and instead towards delivering community workshops too, has been the most positive business pivot ever. Sitting at markets is not all that fun unless you are selling like crazy. But delivering workshops to adults and kids in the community, helping others become creative and sustainable, and talking about the mindfulness that comes with making, is an amazing gift.
The Creativity of workshops
Every workshop we deliver can be done with a quirky angle. It allows our collective to be creative and not just deliver the same workshop over and over. With “Sew Your Own Toy”, we can design a different toy each time and design it to the calendar. Creativity can be used to educate the class about different topics.
We WILL succeed – the HOPE for this journey
The beauty of this Zero Waste Collaboration is that skills can be shared, ideas exchanged, and social media can be used to support each other and swap contacts because we know that people have power and they want to use that power for good.
I have been blown away by how wonderful it’s been to work with people who are part of The Re-Creators, and how hard we work behind the scenes to try and make this all happen. Between us, we are building a dedicated and close community of migrants, refugees, Maori, Pasifika and Pākehā an ethically sustainable way. And we WILL succeed in our dream to bring our local communities with us on this magnificent, creative journey.