Upcycling for a profitable and zero waste biodiversity-friendly enterprise

by May Anne Ramos, UN Online Volunteer

September 8, 2021

These bamboo-made mugs were handcrafted by women members of Manjuyod Vendors, Farmers, Fisherfolks Federation. Other products included keychains and other upcycled souvenir items. Photo: DENR-SMARTSeas PH

People’s organizations (POs) in selected marine key biodiversity areas in the Philippines can now look forward to generating profit from their biodiversity-friendly enterprises (BDFE), thanks to the technical assistance package provided to them by the DENR-SMARTSeas PH project. One of these POs is the Manjuyod Vendors, Farmers, Fisherfolks Federation (MVFFF) whose BDFE involves crafting upcycled souvenir items, which promote environmental conservation by using sustainably-sourced materials and reducing wastes that can end up in the ocean.

Upcycling is giving a second life and a new function to an old material that is no longer being used. This practice helps MVFFF incorporate its advocacy of protecting and conserving marine biodiversity in their area to its BDFE. Having witnessed the problem on marine pollution in their communities, the MVFFF’s souvenir shop, Tindahan para sa Karagatan (TIPAKA) promotes the conservation of marine biodiversity through upcycling.

The association produces baskets, hats, and trays using nito grass as well as coin banks, key chains, refrigerator magnets, and other trinkets using bamboo. Their colorful tie-dye shirts and sarong were designed using natural dyes like turmeric and coconut resin. Maridee Barocabol, MVFF public information officer, shared that even their BDFE center was built from an upcycled portable container van. It is parked along the national highway in Barangay Bolisong, Manjuyod, where pedestrians and travelers could easily spot it.

Maridee said, “Container van ‘yon na ginamitan din namin ng mga tabla na pang-flooring. Ginagawa talaga namin ang upcycling at ang TIPAKA para mas makatulong sa kalikasan (It is a container van and we used wood as flooring. We upcycle and manage TIPAKA to help the environment).”

Due to travel restrictions brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, only the local tourists have been supporting the enterprise for now. MVFFF, however, remains positive that people from other provinces and nearby regions will be allowed to travel soon and visit their souvenir shop—the first of its kind in Manjuyod.  

The DENR-SMARTSeas PH project facilitated face-to-face and online trainings to develop the skills of MVFFF members in souvenir production and bamboo treatments as well as basic enterprise management. They also participated in leadership and governance trainings to learn accountability and how to efficiently manage their organization and enterprise and develop sound policies.

Maraming naitulong ang SMARTSeas sa amin. Natutunan namin kung paano magplano ng negosyo at gumawa ng mga produkto na mapagkakakitaan na maganda sa kalikasan. Natutunan din namin ang kooperasyon para maging successful ang proyekto (SMARTSeas helped us a lot. We learned business planning and creating lucrative products that are also environmentally friendly. We also learned the value of cooperation in making a project successful),” Maridee related.

To help the association in its pursuit of zero waste, the Project provided MVFFF a device called biodigester that turns leftover food into fertilizer and biofuel.

In the future, MVFFF hopes to expand its operations and forge partnerships with more local producers or suppliers of raw materials for handicrafts and beach resorts to retail the upcycled products.