Instead of just taking plastic and sending it to a factory for recycling, Greenish aims to solve the problem from its root cause, through four simple steps that anyone can adopt. “If your kitchen tap is open and the kitchen is flooding, what will be your first action be? To close the tap obviously, this what Greenish is working on, as the whole entire world is flooding with plastic,” says managing partner and co-founder Shady Abdalla.
Greenish was founded by Abdalla and his best friend Medhat Benzoher. “During the Christmas break of 2016, me and my late best friend Medhat decided that instead of travelling to an expensive destination with our friends, we would use the money to travel to communities outside of Egypt and raise awareness about plastic pollution,” Abdalla recalls, speaking of their initial incentive.
Both shared a passion for traveling and combating plastic pollution. “At this time, we wrote a status saying ‘If you know anyone outside of Egypt who can welcome us for a training about the environment, we would be more than willing to come.’ The status was highly shared, to our surprise, and we ended up traveling to Aswan and attending a workshop at a public school, in addition to delivering workshops at Hamata on the Red Sea, Alexandria, and even Siwa and Marsa Matrouh,” Abdalla recalls, speaking of trips where they educated and raised awareness about the environment. Today, Greenish is one of the most recognized environmental awareness organizations nationwide and is a frontrunner for banning single-use plastic in Egypt.
Thanks to their work and that of other environmental organizations, there is hope on the horizon for Egypt’s long-term sustainability. “After the Red Sea governor’s decision to ban single-use plastic in the Red Sea governorate, we see a great change and optimism [in tackling environmental issues] on the horizon,” Abdalla says. “The upcycling industry is growing, but with a focus on exporting due to the expensive pricing of items presented, so we are looking forward to more affordable upcycled work presented in the market.”
The public have also shown their preference for a sustainable lifestyle, as supermarkets have now begun offering reusable bags instead of single-use plastic. “Young generations are basing most of their decisions on conscious purchasing. Consumers create brand changes and demand. The more the green wave is growing in Egypt and globally, the more we find businesses that are conscious and aware of their consumption,” the ambitious and forward-thinking entrepreneur explains.
When it comes to household owners, we all must do our part. No matter how small it is, Abdalla has several tips for going green around the home. “Buy a filter. It will save the environment tons of plastic, and also save you money. Link yourself to an oil recycling company. This is essential. Remember to buy local, particularly products wrapped in little plastic and take your reusable bags and containers when you go to market. Avoid single-use culture.”
Outside the home Abdalla encourages everyone to continue living green. “Leave nothing but footsteps at the beach, and take nothing but pictures. Don’t litter. When you are packing, you need to pack sustainability essentials, which are reusable bags and reusable bottles, as well as environmentally safe sunscreen and AVOID STRAWS at all cost because they kill our turtles.”
The Circular Economy
The circular economy is based on reusing waste resources in order to create new products and to repeatedly do so in a circular fashion, thereby eliminating waste altogether.
“Any good businessperson will think branding, cost efficiency and circular economy is key for profitable businesses,” Abdalla tells Egypt Today. “All inputs need to analyzed and questioned Can we consume better? More sustainably? Also, businesses need to understand that change is never easy or smooth; yes, staff are going to struggle a bit, but if they are well engaged and oriented the business is both making money and building a good reputation, which will build a healthy environment for the surrounding community.”
Greenish have taken several steps to tackle plastic waste, aiming to eventually eliminate it completely. Among these steps is educating and raising awareness about plastic reduction and reuse, instead of recycling. “This means eliminating plastic from the source and substituting with more sustainable sources,” explains Abdalla, who also engages heavily in social media awareness campaigns and on-the-ground workshops to educate people about upcycling and turning trash into art or more valuable materials.
One of the projects that Greenish carries out is GreenishX, which aims to support entities such as schools to organize sustainability committees, comprising water, energy, waste, planting and sustainable development categories. The school committees are led by students and teachers in aims to reduce the waste produced by the entities and their CO2 emissions, Abdalla explains.
The committees are also responsible for planning a green transition for their entity under the support of the Greenish team, developing an action plan and ensuring implementation. “This model gives the children ownership over the change,” expresses Abdalla.
Greenish also certifies companies that are doing their part for the environment, as well as supporting their building of an effective environmental management system, including gathering workforce support. “Companies need to have willing staff members to build a sustainability committee. That committee can attend a one-day training session at our facility. They need to be willing to make their consumption figures visible, such as energy and electricity, and so forth,” says Abdalla.
VeryNile is co-founded by Greenish and Bassita, and takes on monumental efforts to clean up the Nile. It has successfully organized several cleanups, many with the participation of corporates. VeryNile is currently working on developing products from plastic trash collected from the Nile and banning plastic in Zamalek through raising awareness with the support and collaboration of the Ministry of Environment and the Zamalek Association, according to Abdalla. Their eventual goal is to ban single-use plastic altogether.
Greenish manuals are where conscious and sustainable entities, and even the public, can find information, guidelines and morefor running a green-focused campaign, cleanup events planning, preparation and execution, planting, recycling or renewable energy. The manual is going to be in both written and video format. “Our information is based on content created by experts and instructors in the field of development and environment, as well as our experience so far in community engagement covering the environment,” Abdalla further explains.
A project Greenish is still developing and will hopefully be able to launch soon is Locate Green, an open-source community brand that maps the green solutions in the market, gardens, conscious businesses and entities. The brand also offers an online database of conscious businesses and sustainable solution providers, along with environmental guidelines for adopting eco-friendly practices.
At the end of July, Greenish launched Plastic Bah, a collaboration with Go Clean, Montazah Center For Water Sports and Welad El Balad for cross-initiative support through training sessions in Alexandria. It also held a mega beach cleanup event in two locations, which hosted around 300 volunteers.
After Alexandria, they will be heading to five other different locations including Sharm El-Sheikh, Minya, Luxor, Kafr El-Sheikh and Qusseir. “This campaign is to create awareness among communities about the environmental challenges we face in water sanitation, waste management and how people can individually and collectively contribute to solve it,” says Abdalla.