Upcycling or Zero waste concept
Looking at Instagram, I see so many small shops doing unique things.The other day I bought a gift for a friend’s baby. A cute and colourful mobile, the sun with her clouds. I was really happy with the purchase. It immediately made me associate with the sunny disposition of my friend. But the best part was the gift is sustainable! The mobile was made by a group of disadvantaged women through a process called upcycling.
The brainchild behind these products is Meenakshi Sharma the founder of ‘Upcycling Artist’. Meenakshi creates things like streamers, dreamcatchers, rugs and coasters from pieces of leftover cloth. The products are colorful, fun and functional
Upcycling is not to be confused with recycling. Recycling is taking the product and using it again as is. With upcycling, you actually make a prettier functional product, such as a fun bag from pieces of cloth that would be thrown away. In this way Meenakshi upcycles 200kgs of waste per month. This would otherwise be discarded or added to the ever growing rubbish in landfills.
I got curious and asked the brain behind this store Meenakshi Sharma a bit more about it.
What motivated you to start this store?
Ever since I was a child, I aspired be an upcycling junkie and took every opportunity to work on scraps. There is a strange kind of happiness that I derive out of working on discards, creating something with nothing. And working with my hands is what I love!
Use Me Works was founded in 2011 with a belief of “Nothing should go to waste”. It started as my dissertation project in the final year of the Fashion merchandising & production course at Pearl Academy of Fashion.
I never thought too much about the business aspect, when I chose to start the store. It feels great to touch people’s lives and make a difference through our work to help mother nature.
I have always been a crafter and that has been my approach, having a business mind is challenging. Another challenge we face, is to fit into the market, since there are very few people that are aware about sustainability & follow ethical practices.
How do you create these zero waste products?
We collect scraps from factories, boutiques & homes and then turn them into products like bags, accessories, rugs, packaging and home décor, which if sometimes bought for Rs. 10- 50 per kg and lot of times for free.
Our products are made with fabric/garment scrap. From a length of meter to a size of a nail, we consume every bit. Zero Waste Décor, is another concept that Use Me actively works on.
We encourage people to opt for eco-friendly and reusable décor for their events, work spaces and homes. We have made old jeans into a bag, a saree that was to be thrown away into a rug, and used a broken window and made it into an interesting wood sign. Repainting or repurposing old furniture, cupboards, or guitar into something new by giving them a cool twist is just some of the things we do.
How has this impacted the women that you work with?
The women are local residents of the area where my workshop is, they all live outside the workshop. Most of the women have zero work experience and exposure. Earlier no one agreed to come to work and preferred to work from home. But eventually the families-built trust and some of them were okay to send their women for a full day of work.
A lot of them have not even traveled out of the area alone. Now that they are working they are gaining a vision and sense of empowerment. I first understand their skill and accordingly give them work and gradually I have built up a team. They save, support their families, have opened bank accounts, learned to shop online, buy phones, etc.
They are all very hard working & enthusiastic but need a mentor in life. Giving them basic training and helping them enhance their skills was what I brought to the table. But they are super quick to learn.
What advice would you give young people who aspire to unconventional careers?
When I started upcycling, my focus was to recycle and create products out of waste. My work gave me an opportunity to connect with people who were working towards a sustainable environment. It expanded my outlook towards nature and society. I started becoming more aware about everything I was doing in life. From zero waste products to zero waste living, my life has completely changed. I can definitely say for myself that I am far more ecologically aware and conscious.
So, my advice would be trust the process and you will be rewarded in ways you cannot even imagine.
Thank you Meenakshi for those wise words! A woman run and owned sustainable shop that promotes Upcyling or Zero waste is exciting! We are called to be more aware of our impact on the world. Wherever we are on our journey, hope that people like Meenakshi can inspire us to make a difference. For more information on Upcycling Artist: Follow on Instagram: @upcycling.artist & https://www.usemeworks.com
If you want to read about an interesting mission, do read : https://www.ideapromoters.net/underwater-diving-adventure/