Article 1 : The “Covid” choc and the journey towards more sustainability

As you may already know, I have created We All Share Roots about 5 years ago as I wanted to bring income and skills into some of the most disadvantaged areas of Cape Town by manufacturing and selling handbags.

The company has never been a cash-machine but after 5 years of existence, I’m rather proud of the 5000 produced units, the dozens of local suppliers fully and respectfully paid, the growing group of underprivileged seamstresses who could work, get paid and be empowered in many ways, the hundreds of happy clients, the thousands of connected followers etc.

And then, obviously, Covid happened and almost everything broke down. Sales stopped, retailers closed and opportunities in negotiation disappeared. Thanks to some loyal and new customers, I have managed to keep the boat afloat (more or less…) and to support as much as I could the seamstresses with donations and new orders and collections.

As many business owners, 2020 made me doubt, made me feel like throwing the towel, made me feel like nothing was making sense anymore… (and also feel quite envious of those who could dedicate all their time and energy during lockdown to save their businesses, get orders, insure a constant presence on the social networks, when I was myself immerged into “toddler home schooling “ – if such thing exists – new-born nappy change, naps battles, etc while I was also looking at my business drowning!).

Well, I suddenly realized that this forced pause could also be an opportunity to rethink and make my company my REAL DREAM company. Don’t get me wrong, I love what I have created, and I could own every single product I have made because I sincerely do what I like. BUT there always have been some shadows in the equation… I have always wonder where, for example, the leather I use really comes from, if the animal was killed for its meat or for its skin, if it had suffered; I also wondered how the prints I used were dyed, etc. We all have seen terrible pictures of poor people living and working in horrible conditions, surrounded by chemical products, dyeing prints without any protection.

Image from PETA – France

Strangely I proud myself with being quite a mindful human being but I have ended up, like so many others, using materials I cannot trace and putting products onto the market, that cannot biodegrade or be recycled etc.

As an entrepreneur, you’re limited by what is available around you, you’re limited by the costs of the things, you’re limited by the knowledge you have (I have discovered only recently that polycotton is a mix between cotton and plastic and that makes it totally impossible to recycle or biodegrade for example… I have probably used thousands of meters of it for my linings!!!).

And there are also, as a small company director and founder, the things you park somewhere in your mind and want to investigate “one day” but the immensity of the daily tasks you have to do to deliver, produce, count, ship, purchase, print, etc makes that “one day” an always postponed target.

Well, now is my “one day”. Let’s see if a small company, settled in the southernmost tip of Africa, without much money to invest and only myself left in the shell, can do the switch.

Let’s try, fall, explain, investigate, discuss and see what happens… Let’s try to see what the barriers, obstacles and costs of eco-design* really are for the ordinary mortal.

And for this, I would love to have you by my side during this quest. Not only because I do believe we all can learn more about eco-design through this transparent journey, but also because I am deeply convinced that several brains together work better than one alone. So please feel free to send me your feedback and support, as well as to challenge my findings. Send me your energy.

Thank you for reading! See you in the next chapter!

* By eco-design I mean thinking and manufacturing a product taking into account all its components and impacts, trying to opt for the more respectful and mindful materials and avoiding all those which could have a negative impact on the planet and people (you’ll understand better with the next articles on that topic)