For many of us, flipflops conjure up nostalgia for warm weather, summer holidays, sandy beaches and sunshine. In Africa, flipflops are everyday footwear for the continent’s impoverished communities. Millions of pairs of flipflops around the world are bought each year. The flipflop is the ultimate universal product. But this worldwide phenomenon is also a major threat to our planet.
“Flip-flops are a global problem, just one indicator of the myriad rubbish in the sea, which we are treating as the world’s dumping ground,” said Julie Church, founder of UniquEco, the (Flipflop) Recycling Company (www.flipflopiwas.com).
Thousands of discarded flip-flops wash up on the African shoreline creating an environmental disaster for the marine eco-system. Not only spoiling the natural beauty of the beaches, the plastic waste is swallowed by animals suffocating them. It also prevents hatching turtles reaching the safety of the sea thereby endangering the species even further.
Looking for a solution, Julie Church and Tahreni Bwanaali started up UniquEco over three years ago. UniquEco is a sustainable business working with local communities across Kenya to collect discarded flipflops and recreate them into unique jewellery, toys, accessories and souvenirs. In their workshop, over 30 Kenyans wash, carve, chop, glue and recycle the flipflops into brightly coloured pieces for sale at Marula Studios and across the world. These people have been given an opportunity to make a fair living through trade and with the knowledge that they are helping to clean up our oceans. Come and visit us for a tour and see how it’s done.
Marula Studios in Karen is locally known as the “Flipflop Shop”, home of UniquEco. A recycle hub, it is where they are passionate about creating a better, safer environment and fair and sustainable trade. The eco-shop is full of gifts and products from many different community projects in Kenya such as Lalesso, Bakuli Blue, Made With Love, Sandstorm, Toto Knits and many many more. They all have one thing in common: an eco and social conscience. Please support these initiatives by visiting Marula Studios and purchasing your gifts, homeware, trinkets and fashion items from a diverse range of fantastic goodies. You can also visit the workshop, learn more about UniquEco’s mission and meet the team. It will certainly make you think twice about that pair of flipflops in your cupboard.
Marula Studios is on Marula Lane (off Karen Road) in Karen, Nairobi. Please call 0726 248774 or 0733 639640 for directions. Alternatively you can email [email protected]