Fun in the Art of Upcycling

Report by: Tracy Mukami Kimathi.

Many people perceive environmental conservation as anti-development as well as cost-consuming. This holiday, I personally set out to prove this notion wrong by carrying out a few simple experiments that embrace the well known 4Rs that we environmentalists look up to. I then discovered a new term known as ‘upcycling’, which according to Wikipedia refers to the ‘process of transforming by-products, waste materials, useless and/or unwanted products into new materials or products of better quality or for better environmental value’. In simpler terms it’s the reuse of discarded objects so as to create a product of a higher quality or value than the original.

As the title also implies, I wanted to ensure the processes were simple enough to silence the idea that ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Recover’ is a complex and unmanageable affair. Once my little brother, whom you will see in the illustrations, saw my experiments, he quickly joined me. He proved it to be a fun experience that children all around the world can enjoy, without being forced, and without grumbles. As a result, I consider this report to open doors to a new generation of people who will find environmental conservation to be a joy, not a burden, as the previous and current generations portray it.

The main focus of this report is upcycling, it demonstrates profit gain, simple profit gain, cheap profit gain, and reusable profit gain. I basically reinvented old materials as items that can be reintroduced to the market with added value. Buyers can appreciate the handmade effort to personalize the items, thus adding value to its creative nature.

So now that we’ve explored the definitions and base of this article, let’s see the fun and easy ways to contribute to the restoration of our beautiful, spectacular, amazing, stunning, astounding, breathtaking (and so on) planet.

TOILET PAPER ROLL CRAFTS.

toilet roll craft 

Materials Needed.

  • Toilet paper rolls
  • Bottle caps
  • Markers/ paints
  • Paint brush
  • Any additional colour materials

materials

Procedure.

  1. Paint toilet rolls (white preferably)
  2. Let them dry in the sun.
  3. Fold the top part (if necessary)
  4. Paint on desired features.
  5. Design your craft with glitter or bottle tops, or any other feature according to your design.
paint the rolls

1. Let the young ones paint the materials (they love it!)

painted rolls

2. Results after sun drying. (It’ll take less than 30 min)

owl ears folded

3. Designs vary. (I folded the ears for the owl effect)

ready to decorate

finished toilet roll

Finished results

 finished toilet roll

 

TWINE WRAPPED WINE/WHISKEY BOTTLES.

Jameson wrapped bottle

Finished Jameson whiskey bottle

Materials.

  • Old wine/vodka bottle
  • Old jewellery.
  • Yarn

Step 1, 2 and 3 repeated

It doesn’t matter how badly off the bottle is. The yarn will cover the bottle fully, giving it a completely new appearance. This was the best upcycle example I created, turning a completely discarded material into an item that can be resold  to consumers who’d appreciate the personalized item as a gift. (Take note Jameson and other famous brands :-)

image11 Old whiskey bottle

 Procedure.

  1. Distribute the glue evenly on one section of the recycled bottled.
  2. Wrap the yarn around the bottle ensuring little to no space is left between the layers.
  3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 till the desired point.

Decorate the finished bottle with buttons or jewellery or any other reusable material

image12

The finished wrapped bottle

The finished wrapped Jameson’s bottle

LAST BUT NOT LEAST …

PLASTIC INSPIRED ANIMAL FLOWER POTS.

Inspiration

from inspiration

to finished pot

to finished pot

Materials

  • Marker
  • Plastic bottle
  • NT cutter or craft knife
  • Glue
  • Scissors
  • Old calendar
  • Creativity :)

 wash plastic bottles

Procedure.

  • Wash out bottles and remove labels.
  • Cut out shape of respective animal from bottle.
  • Using an outdated calendar or greetings card, draw the features of animal to the respective dimensions of the bottle and cut it out.
  • Using glue, stick the calendar paper to the bottle and voilà, your very own plastic animal pot

 

Let your little helper wash out the bottle and remove the label. He chose for me the animal type too :)

wash the bottle

Cut out the animal shape with scissors, NT cutter or craft knife (carefully). Our chosen animal was a cat.

 cut out the shape

The cut out results.

cut-out cat shape from plastic bottle              

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy New Year-2016!! Not everything of 2015 will be discarded:          

old 2015 items

Cat design as per bottle’s circumference measurement.

cat design

Finished Results

plastic bottle cat

PROFESSIONALLY SPEAKING.

Studies show that people are exposed to chemicals from plastics multiple times per day through the air, dust, water, food and use of consumer products. The chemicals are absorbed by the human body causing hormone alterations. Plastic ingested by animals injures or poisons them, and plastics disposed of in landfills leach harmful chemicals that further danger human health.

Plastics are a major pollutant and the damage grows due to their easy affordability and availability. According to Wikipedia, plastics contribute to approximately 10% of discarded waste. Between 60% and 80% of all marine litter consist of plastics (Derraik, 2002). Most economies don’t prioritize the issue of waste management and the low level of funding that does go to the issue is taken by corruption, this mostly happens in developing countries. In developed countries waste is known to contain mostly inorganic compounds (plastics being a large portion), as compared to developing countries that record mostly organic products. The blame is on everyone.

One cannot however stop the production of plastics as they are important in the modern age. It has uses in packaging, hospital equipment, and new studies that encourage plastics for home construction are readily emerging. If properly recycled, we can live with plastics without encouraging environmental and health damage. But if not managed, the multiple decade lifespans of plastics will kill our planet.

Recycling and upcycling can create immense job opportunities, from the stakeholders of solid waste disposal to the craftsmanship of the individuals reconstructing the items. In the project displayed above, I used less than 500ksh to buy the tools and materials that can return thousands in profit, as well as help in environmental conservation. The low income majority and the unemployed can create job opportunities for themselves by selling these items. Did I mention that they all took less than an hour in preparation?

IN CONCLUSION.

-The materials I used are cheap and unemployed individuals can make and sell these items, investing as little as 500ksh as start up capital.

-The materials can be used for decorative, as well as utilitarian purposes in a household

– Schools can involve children in such projects, as they are easy to make and highly informative

-Companies can adopt such upcycling methodology. This will help in solid waste management, as well as limiting landfill developments.

Report by: Tracy Mukami Kimathi.

Contact Information: tracykamy@gmail.com, +254 712 950183

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    Ecosystem-Based Adaptation for Food Security Assembly

    One speaker, Mr. Michael O’Brian of Green Peace Africa said “If there was an Olympics Competition for Policy drafting between continents, Africa would win hands down”. All conference participants burst out in laughter, but not because it was funny. The reason is because it is true. We are very good at drafting policy documents, but devoid of action.

    The Plenary_2nd Africa EBAFOSC

    The Plenary_2nd Africa EBAFOSC

    Delegates__2nd Africa EBAFOSC

    Delegates__2nd Africa EBAFOSC

    The Drafting committee_2nd Africa EBAFOSC

    The Drafting committee_2nd Africa EBAFOSC

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Like I had informed you earlier, the ‘2nd Africa Ecosystem Based Adaptation for Food Security Conference 2015’  ended with adoption of  “Nairobi Action Agenda on Africa”   and a “Constitution of the Ecosystem-Based Adaptation for Food Security Assembly” symbolized the official start of the “Ecosystem-Based Adaptation for Food Security Assembly (EBAFOSA)”. We hope this time we are going to be a continent of action.

    Follow the links below to read the declaration and constitution:

    1. THE NAIROBI ACTION AGENDA ON AFRICA 31072015.pdf
    2. CONSTITUTION – EBAFOSA FINAL 31072015.pdf
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      Ecosystem Based Agriculture for Food Security Conference 2015

      I had the opportunity to attend the ‘2nd Africa Ecosystem Based Adaptation for Food Security Cnference 2015’ held at the UN complex Gigiri, Nairobi Kenya on 30th and 31st July 2015. There were over 1200 invited attendees, comprising of dignitaries, professionals, farmers and students.

      2nd Africa EbA Conference

      2nd Africa EbA Conference

      A Major concern of the conference was addressing the continent’s transecting challenge of

      hunger and malnutrition in the growing and increasingly young unemployed population, in the face of climate change. The conference intended to showcase how, by investing in its ecosystems and working with nature, Africa can climate proof its food production systems and achieve sustainable agricultural productivity hence enhance food security under the changing climate; and how, by investing in value addition process along the agro-value chain, potential opportunities for employment for the youth are created.

      Here are some powerful quotes from some of the speakers;

      “Imagine Africa without hunger, poverty, malnutrition, obesity…” Dr. Patrick Kormawa , FAO SRC Eastern & Rep to AU, ECA

      “It is not the analysis that we need at this time, we need to go beyond that. We need to take action.” Dr. Cosmas Ochieng, Executive Director, ACTS

      ”It is within the power of our generation to sort out the challenges of food security in Africa” Dr. Cosmas Ochieng, Executive Director, ACTS

      ”From a youth perspective? It is our time now. The youth should take over” Youth Delegate from South Africa

      ”Let us not just speak about what the government can do for us, what the private sector can do for us.. We must be self determining” Alice Kaudia , Environment Secretary. Min. of Environment Kenya

      The Drafting Committee_2nd Africa EbA Conference

      The Drafting Committee_2nd Africa EbA Conference

      Food Security, as defined by World Food Summit is the condition where all people at all times have social, economic and physical access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary and preferential needs for an active and healthy life. Africa has an immense agricultural potential. It is estimated that about 65% of the world’s arable land and 10% of internal renewable fresh water sources are in Africa, yet;

      • About 240 million people (25%) in Africa go to bed hungry and over 200million people suffer the debilitating symptoms of chronic to severe malnutrition. (UN-FAO)
      • 6million tones of grain annually are lost due to degraded ecosystems. These are enough to meet annual calorific needs for 30million people.
      • Sub-Saharan Africa loses food worth up to USD4billion annually (about 23% of field harvests), enough to feed 48million people per annum in Post harvest losses (PHLs) due to inadequate financial and structural resources for proper harvesting, storage and transportation, as well as unfavorable climatic conditions for food storage. (UN FAO)
      • Africa’s annual food import bill is over USD35 billion. Imports exceed exports by 30%.
      • In Africa, a 10% increase in crop yields translates to approximately a 7% reduction in poverty, according to the World Bank.

      Very interesting facts there. The road to Food Security in Africa, it is believed, lies with the adoption of the Ecosystem based Adaptation driven Agricultural strategies that aim not only at maintaining but also improving the fertility and productivity of ecosystems which often include traditional practices such as conservation agriculture, crop rotation, inter-cropping and biological pest control.

      The delegates summarized the conference with strong resolutions to achieve Food Security in Africa, adopting the “Nairobi Action Agenda on Africa’s Ecosystem Based Adaptation for Food Security” declaration. The chief guest  H.E. Mrs. Rhoda Peace Tumusiime, Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture of the Africa Union Commission closed the conference with a strong message; ”Together we can build the Africa we want”.

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        Beans Farming in Narok; Lessons on Planting, Weeding and Pest Control

        I will give you a very brief description of the lessons we learnt on planting weeding and pest control because. Take them very seriously. This phase of crop cultivation is what really determines whether you will reap bountifully or not.

        • By all means, select your seeds well. Seek help from available agricultural institutions/practitioners if you aren’t sure. If you cannot get certified seeds, get the ones that you can but take you time to sort them well, selecting the healthy, undamaged ones for planting. Good quality seed means high quality produce.
        • If possible, pre-spray a broad spectrum herbicide two days before planting. This will go a long way into saving you the trouble of dealing with the weed menace when your crops germinate. Even if weeds grow later, you will have more time concentrating on improving yield rather than controlling weeds. Remember that more weeds means more pests, so if you are going to wait to deal with weeds later, you sure will have to deal with very destructive pests harbored in there at the same time. If you destroy weeds and leave pests, they will have only crops to feed on.
        • Do a good research on modes of planting. I will tell you for sure that so far, in Narok, there is no planter for beans. They lie to you that they have but truth is that they are using the maize planter. The gauge (spacing and number of seeds) will not be right. Available planters are for wheat and maize. Last year (2014) I cultivated 10acres of beans and used people (manual laborers). I did not regret.
        • When planning to spray, whether herbicide, fertilizer or pesticide, consult agricultural experts if you aren’t sure what chemical to use. It is also wise to decide early whether you want to use a tractor or knapsack sprayer. Whatever you choose to use, consult the operator on the amount of water they normally use on an acre of land or per drum used. It will help you make closer approximations on the amount of chemical(s) to buy for your job.
        • Do not do things in a hurry. Plan well your timing and finances. It will cost you much if you delay in carrying out any particular measure, be it weeding or any other. Close monitoring of crop is critical and so is quick decision making. Delays will cost you.
        • If you come across a situation, be it weeds, pests or disease invasion that you do not comprehend well, a photograph can help when you are seeking help from an expert. Make use of your smart phone.

         

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          Beans Farming in Narok; Germination, Weeds and Pest Control

          We kept in contact with our landlord, checking on the beans’ progress for two weeks before we traveled back to Narok. The rains had disappeared ever since we put seeds in the ground, and we were getting worried. Last year had been bad news, the rains had started well but after a week and a half they disappeared for good. Farmers in Narok did not harvest anything, literally. The cultivated wheat became livestock food. The beans withered and fed soils with their humus.

          So there we were, worried that we were going to face same catastrophic fate. Our beans had germinated, but not very well. There were gaps, areas that had not germinated at all. We went digging randomly along the planting strips and our only relief was seeing the bean seeds still lying in the soil desolate but hopeful. We prayed for rains. It was the best we could do.

          Then there was this other disappointment concerning the spacing; the strips were almost a foot and a half apart, maybe even two. You could see a whole lot of space inhabited by very healthy weeds, wasted. Weeds occupied greater space than crop, a sore sight. We reminisced how we had asked those planter guys whether they had used right ratio and spacing, and how they swore that it was the correct bean planter setting.

          We left, and it wasn’t until after another week that it rained for the first time. The rains were so heavy that the entire farm was flooded. From that day on it continued pounding like it was paying up for disappointing farmers the previous year, and early this season. There were reports of flooding in Narok town, and the big damages caused by waters trying to find their way into the Enkare-Narok river. The heavy rains and resulting floods lasted for weeks and it was wise to stay away from that town until they subsided. The next time we visited was weeks later, and alas! The farm was all green and pretty. Most of the beans had germinated well, but you couldn’t miss to notice how choked they were by weeds.

          C360_2015-06-18-13-13-04-429 C360_2015-06-18-12-47-31-403 C360_2015-06-18-12-42-37-081

           

           

           

          Common weeds in Narok

          It was only given then that we had to weed the farm to save our crop. After consulting the, and with consideration on costs and time, we chose to use herbicides instead of doing the manual weeding. 32 acres of land with that amount of weeds would take a whole month to dig out, and at Kes. 3,000 per acre would cost a whooping Kes.96,000. However, having chosen to use a herbicide, we were advised to get “Beans Clean”, a broad spectrum herbicide that is selective on beans only. An agricultural officer advised us to use 1.5litres of the chemical in every 200litres of water. Ideally the entire farm was to be sprayed using 2600litres of water. The summary of cost for spraying was as below:-

          • 20litres of Bean Clean@1200= 24000 – (11litres@1200)= 10800
          • Labour (spraying using the engine pump) at Kes.300 per acre = 9600
          • Water supply at Kes.15 per 20litre can= 675 (we used 900litres of water)

          You notice that we only use 900litres of water against the predicted 2600litres. That is one ambiguity that puzzles me till today. This is my fourth year in farming but not once have we ever used the predicted amount of water while spraying. That should also tell you that we only used a few bottles of herbicides, nine to be precise. We had to sell the remaining 11 bottles with the help of the agro-vet shop we’d bought them from; and you guessed right, that took quite a number of weeks. Sad truth is that this herbicide did not work very well and as usual there were a myriad of excuses from all corners. The agro-vet guy told us the weeds had grown too strong and we sprayed quite late. The fact however was that spraying against herbicide in so much rain would have been useless. Other people said the guys who sprayed did a shoddy job. When things go wrong there are many local doctors around with all sorts of ‘solutions’.

          C360_2015-06-18-13-09-29-606 C360_2015-06-18-13-12-10-994 C360_2015-06-18-13-09-53-665

           

           

           

          Images of  Mature weeds on some parts of the farm even after spraying

          About three weeks later we came back to spray liquid fertilizer and insecticide as we had been reliably informed that worms had invaded the crop. After looking at the farm we decided against using fertilizer. By then the weeds were flourishing, and adding fertilizer would only invigorate their growth. Our beans weren’t doing so bad, but the worms had done quite some damage.

          C360_2015-06-18-12-15-42-012IMG-20150714-WA0004 IMG-20150714-WA0003

           

           

           

          Images; Bean leaves damaged by caterpillars

          Pesticide cost 1000 per liter, and we used 5litres in 1200 litres of water. The worms were surely eradicated, thankfully. So far that was the single most successful activity we had undertaken, maybe because this time we did it differently. We split the farm into three portions of about 10 acres each and gave strict instructions for spraying to be done on each strip on three different days unlike the herbicide that was done in about four hours the entire 32 acres.

          As I write this, the beans are mature, and have started turning (ripening) for harvest. We can only wait to see how much harvest we shall get. Good thing is that we have a ready market, one thing that most people forget to work on till it is harvesting time. A few lessons were learnt over the period between after planting to date, and those will be my main discussion in the next article “Beans Farming in Narok; Lessons on Weeding and Pests

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