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Festival promotes sustainability and renewal

Published: 
Monday, April 3, 2017
The healing fire
(LEFT) Chenelle Etienne and Marsha Trepte of Weecreate, who will be exhibiting their goods made from recycled material at New Fire Festival. (ABOVE) The plants bags are part of WeeCreate's Green Line Collection. They make tote bags, yoga mats, makeup bags, jewelery and other products from repurposed material. (BELOW) HydraStation has been providing water in reusable containers at outdoor events. They claim to have prevented 10,000 plastic bottles of water from reaching local landfills.

They design logos, packages, labels and brochures. And they do stage makeup, costumes and props.

Now, thanks to the experience they had decorating the sustainable lifestyle festival New Fire last year, they can add a range of environment-friendly products and services to their offerings.

In what they’re calling their Green Line Collection, they’re selling tote bags, yoga mats, makeup bags, jewelery, plant bags and other products that they designed and that were all made from repurposed material.

At New Fire this year, in addition to selling these products they’ll be conducting workshops on upcycling, the term used for taking something originally intended for one purpose and using it for another.

“This was never in our minds before,” said Weecreate’s Chenelle Etienne, giving a testimonial before the crowd gathered in the rotunda of the First Citizens Corporate Centre for the launch of New Fire 2017. “Because of the New Fire Festival it became clear in our minds what we wanted to do and where we wanted to go forward.”

New Fire, which comes off on the weekend of April 8 and 9, is an opportunity to promote behavior that will help the social and physical environment of T&T.

Along with the upcycling workshops, there’ll be a composting demonstration, a talk on climate change, meditation, yoga and many other activities that support progressive ideas.

It will also be a place to enjoy alternative music, with a concert featuring acts like Freetown, Nigel Rojas and Sheldon Blackman and a late-night rave.

But New Fire, the only festival of its kind in the Caribbean, is also proving to be a valuable business opportunity - drawing entrepreneurs into the budding local green industry as well as providing a showcase and customers to those already in the industry.

“To inspire new ideas—that’s what New Fire represents,” New Fire founder Gerry Williams told the T&T Guardian.

Williams himself made tables and benches out of discarded wooden pallets for the festival last year. He sold them afterward and the demand led to him continuing to make and sell different kinds of pallet furniture, including wine racks, beds and desks.

“There’s so much value in the things that we throw out,” he said at the New Fire launch, standing behind a lectern made from pallets.

The Hydra-Station—which supplies non-bottled filtered water—ebuted at last year’s New Fire and has gone from strength to strength since then, supplying water to sport gatherings, a beach cleanup and other events. The water is given free to attendees and the Hydra-Station is sponsored by companies who provide branded reusable bottles.

With the motto: “saving our nation by bottle elimination”, it’s the only service of its kind in T&T and returns to New Fire this year.

Lyndon Jones, the industrial relations consultant who founded and runs the Hydra-Station, estimates that it has so far prevented almost 10,000 disposable plastic bottles from reaching T&T’s landfills.

He saw Gerry Williams and New Fire co-organiser Elize Rostant on a morning show promoting the festival last year and contacted them about putting what was then an idea into action.

“I saw it as a great opportunity to launch and meet people who are like-minded but also meet potential customers who see this as a viable solution for their events,” he said. Jones plans to launch another green initiative at the upcoming New Fire.

The five-year-old Santa Cruz Green Market, which supports local and sustainable produce and products and takes place every weekend in Santa Cruz, is partnering with New Fire for the first time this year. Some of their vendors will be at the festival.

“Having a festival like this allows them to better showcase and reach a wider audience, and that helps them develop their businesses,” said Green Market spokeswoman Rheanna Chen.

Chenelle Etienne and Marsha Trepte of Weecreate explained at the New Fire 2017 launch how the festival changed them personally and professionally. It was Weecreate’s first major job.

“The New Fire experience changed the way we lived our lives because we started recycling, composting and even planting our own food,” Etienne said.

“I never grew a thing in my life and now I’m growing my own vegetable garden,” Trepte chipped in, to laughs.

Like other vendors and service providers who worked with the festival, the women were challenged to be sustainable. They procured old vinyl banners from various companies and used them to make banners for the festival and leaf-shaped decorations for the performance stage. They got spoiled t-shirts from a printing company and turned them into rope that was used to hold the banners up and form the barricades that lined the pathways in the festival. They made lanterns from plastic shopping bags.

The experience helped them grow their expertise and led them to using the banner and t-shirt materials to make the products for their Green Line Collection. Their plant bags are made from used cocoa bags to encourage people to garden by giving them something decorative and convenient to grow produce in. (The plant bags can go in the kitchen, Etienne explained.)

“It’s all about learning new things,” Etienne told the audience at the launch.

“We were constantly thinking how to repurpose our waste instead of throwing it away.”

 

The New Fire Festival takes place on April 8 and 9 at Green Meadows, Santa Cruz. For more info visit newfireworld.com