5 is here to celebrate and connect people and organisations who are having a positive impact on the world. Our High 5 series gives the stage to these inspiring people – and asks them to pass the High 5 on to someone who has inspired them.
What inspired you to do what you do?
It was really a combination of things which happened at around the same time about three years ago. Volunteering at a refugee camp in Calais working with clothes donations and wondering what happens to clothes that are no longer wearable; watching the brilliant BBC documentary Hugh’s war on waste which follows waste to where it’s supposed to be recycled (but often isn’t!) and learning about the fact that around two thirds of the carbon emissions of pretty much everything we buy comes from raw materials extraction.
So I thought, wouldn’t it be possible to make a product entirely from recycled materials, diverting waste from landfill in the process and changing attitudes to waste?
About BEEN London
BEEN London makes beautiful, unique handbags and accessories out of upcycled ‘waste’ materials. Its mission is to make a measurable impact on the fashion industry by proving that waste can become beautiful, inside and out.
BEEN London’s main line of products at the moment is handbags and accessories made from things like discarded IKEA and KLM uniforms, leather offcuts from tanneries, discarded pineapple leaves and plastic bottles. Our product’s carbon footprint is a mere fraction of any high street equivalents with an 87% reduction. The difference alone is the equivalent of leaving the lights on for almost a year. So we must be doing something right! But there’s so much more we’re planning to do in this field – I’m very excited about 2021.
What advice do you have for others who want to make a positive impact?
This is a bit simplistic, but I’d say just start and see where your passion for problem solving takes you. You’ll be amazed. Find some mentors and fellow impact makers – you’ll absolutely need that support along the way. And start with small steps. I’m a big advocate for doing something imperfectly rather than not trying at all.
Who do you want to pass a High 5 on to?
Charmian Love, co-founder of B Lab UK, for helping so many companies on their route to becoming B Corporations – we’re starting the process too!