My Project in Guatemala is mainly about studying the market of recycled materials, but I needed to find an interesting way to talk about this issue to young people and women. And because increasing the revenue and working opportunities of these two groups of people is also one of my objectives, I had to include some ideas of a business initiative.
My first inspiration was a visit to a handicrafts cooperative in Guatemala City. UPAVIM (Unidas por una vida mejor or United for a Better Life) is a great group of women that create jewelry and decorations from recycled materials such as aluminum cans, textiles, and plastic wraps. They are a great example of innovation, exporting their products and creating a school, a clinic and food services for the children of the workers and the community.
The idea I wanted to transmit principally is that waste materials can be garbage in a dump or can be a resource and prime materials in the right creative hands.
I started recycling things and making art crafts in Montreal, with a great Mexican designer and friends that used to host reunions in her house to transform CDs and plastic bags in earrings and artistic table cloths respectively. After that I started collecting broken jewelry (the best gifts my friends were giving me) and seeing almost all materials as potential craft material. Because I love mixing all kinds of materials, my creations are very colorful and nature inspired.
Eco Design is a type of objects or services design that takes consideration of all the stages of production. The effect a product has on the environment should be reduced at all stages, including the extraction of the raw materials, the manufacturing, its marketing and distribution, the use and the disposal. I may add other benefits such as: the costs of production are lower thanks to the availability of the base materials, there is an added value of creativity and an increasing interest in green, ethical and fair products.
In August, A friend invited me to give a workshop on this subject for the cultural guides of the Guatemalan Ministry of Culture. I had three days to prepare. But the ideas were already there. I really wanted to include the basic concepts of waste management, types of garbage, and the importance of the 3R: reduce, reuse and recycle. So, I developed a theoretical presentation followed by a practical session of creativity recycling all kinds of objects.
I asked people to bring things to recycle, I brought a lot too, and we shared all. It was great to see all the Mayan guides from different parts of the country (including men) sewing, cutting and transforming all this mix things into beautiful art.
After this great experience, I offered this workshop to a few organizations. I gave three to the girls of Starfish, a group that inspire them to become leaders and helps them through school. I gave one to ADISA, a group for young people with disabilities in Santiago Atitlan. They were already making beads of recycled paper, but I wanted to show them the possibility of using many more materials. In exchange, they showed me their techniques.
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I gave a few more in houses of people or in a park in the neighborhoods of Panajachel and San Pedro la Laguna. Here, the main objective was to show them how to transform used T-shirts into shopping bags. This way they were going to ask for fewer plastic bags in the market. One of these had the participation of the navy police and again, loved to see the men sewing!

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The thing is that in each workshop, I discovered very creative people, and they showed me different ideas, such as including their traditional huipiles tissues in the earrings, making beads by cutting plastic straws, giving different shapes to the T-shirt bags…all things that I can include now in the future presentations.

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Another great thing was seeing the happy faces of the participants when it’s time to choose the materials and start creating. I am sure for many of them it was a first!
The next step will be to help these organizations develop a market and organize the commercialization of their creations. May be combining it with the products they are making already. I hope a new volunteer coming soon will help me with this second part and the following up of this idea.
I also want to create more specific workshops for children. We can make toys, circus objects, musical instruments, kites, notebooks, even skateboards…all made by giving a second life to objects and preventing them to end in a landfill site. And I always use the opportunity to teach environmental education in a practical and fun way for all ages and publics.
Some of my recycled creations are in the Facebook Page “Helena Ruisseau Bijoux”. Hope you liked them, and hope that, as what happened to me, the pictures in this article will inspire you to create some art and art crafts too!