Wednesday, 23 September 2009

On the bottle

What motivates the upcycling phenomenon? In some communities, upcycling in fact is no phenomenon - instead it's an everyday matter of economic necessity borne of limited resources. In other places, upcycling is almost a backlash against excess, embraced in a spirit of aesthetic experimentation and environmental action.

Yesterday Kedar got me thinking about the upcycling-by-economics motivation. (Kedar is a copywriter in New Delhi with a blog filled with great ideas and lovable illustrations - check him out here.) Anyway, Kedar introduced me to a fantastic word, "jugaad". The Double-Tongued Dictionary defines it like this:
jugaad n. an improvised or jury-rigged solution; inventiveness, ingenuity, cleverness.
And Wikipedia has this to say:

Jugaad are locally made motor vehicles that are used mostly in small villages as a means of low cost transportation in India. Jugaad literally means an arrangement or a work around, which have to be used because of lack of resources… "Jugaad" is also colloquial Hindi word that can mean an innovative fix, often pejoratively used for solutions that bend rules, or a resource that can be used as such, or a person who can solve a vexatious issue. It is used as much for enterprising street mechanics as for political fixers. In essence, though it is a tribute to native genius, and lateral thinking.

So what if you're practiced in the art of jugaad? Then you're a jugaadu. (Awesome.)

I also had lunch with Lucy yesterday, who recently met a social entrepreneur called Cameron Saul. His dad started the Mulberry fashion house and Cam did volunteer work in Uganda. Armed with these two bits of background, he launched the charity Bottletop, which could be the place where the upcycling-by-economics and the upcycling-as-aesthetic motivations meet. Bottletop funds education and sexual health initiatives in places such as Malawi, Brazil and Rwanda. How it works is Bottletop will set up in a local community, paying members of the community for resources that can be upcycled, like bottletops or ring-pulls. The charity also pays people to manufacture these resources into fashion accessories, like belts and handbags. The Bottletop team brings these to the UK where they're sold online and in upscale shops, and the money goes back to projects in the original community. (I don't speak Hindi, but doesn't this make Cameron a jugaadu?)

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