RepurposeMe Finds New Life For Everyday Items
RepurposeMe finds creative new life for ordinary everyday items.
by Noha Mohammed
Malika Elshibiny, the one-woman force behind RepurposeMe, found her calling in university while working on a school project. The political science student specializing in environmental and developmental studies says it has always been her passion to carve out a career saving the environment, and a visit to the Zabaleen area in Moqattam inspired her to start an upcycled design line made entirely from unwanted items. Today her collections are doing well and gaining quite a following from people who see not only uniqueness and beauty in her pieces, but also a sense of local tradition.
Sustainability has become crucial, but in Egypt very few people are aware of it. What needs to be done to raise awareness?
People should be more aware of sustainable design and green building. They need to know how it has a huge impact on their lives on a daily basis. Look at how the environment is affecting human health already. We protect ourselves when we protect the environment around us. People need to know the value of the products they get rid of or abandon every day. Some countries now import waste only to recycle it because it conserves their natural resources. Upcycling is even considered better than recycling because it doesn’t require extra energy for the recycling process and mostly it does not degrade the quality and composition of the material for its next use like recycling. This is what we do in RepurposeMe.
How did you come up with the idea of eliminating waste by repurposing everyday items?
I guess the first time I grasped the concept and the positive impact of recycling was in my last year in university when I was working on a research project about the zabaleen (garbage collectors) community here in Egypt. When I visited the area, I decided that this is what I want to do; I wanted to recycle, but I couldn’t find an opportunity to get into the recycling business. I didn’t give up — I started doing individual studies on other waste solutions and that’s when the idea came to me. I began to look at everything differently and realized that with just a bit of imagination everything around us could be a resource for something new. Imagination and resourcefulness have the ability to completely transform — but the trick is to retain the powerful story and history each item holds.
Tell us a little bit about the RepurposeMe team.
I was a political science student specialized in environmental and developmental studies. It has always been my passion to work in environmental issues and I believed that I didn’t want to be a product of my environment, I wanted my environment to be a product of me and that’s why I decided to create RepurposeMe. For now, I’m actually a team of one, but I’m looking for other people who are passionate about upcycling to join my team soon.
Where do you find your materials?
I actually find my materials in my everyday products that I use. I can also find them on the streets or sidewalks. I also find things in basements, and other places where people keep their old stuff.
What’s your favorite item from your collections?
Every product has its own story, so I can’t really favor one design over another because eventually each item will fulfill its purpose. When I’m done with a piece sometimes it inspires me with a whole new design for another one.
Where can clients find you?
I don’t have an actual store, but I do have my workshop which is located in Maadi, my small working space, and I will open it soon for anybody who wants to have a look at my products and sustainable collection. For now I use Facebook and Instagram to showcase my work. I always focus on incorporating social media into my daily life to be always in contact with my followers.
What inspires your designs and colors?
I get inspired by so many talented, upcycled and sustainable products and environmentally conscious designers. I always have my eye out for them. I always choose the colors from things around me mostly nature.
What tips do you have for people who would like to start repurposing?
The best place to start making a difference is right in your own home. People should always keep a space for their old things. You should repurpose at least once a week so your recyclables don’t crowd you.