Creating funky and functional products from waste material is second nature for this hillcrest-based company, writes Jess Smit.
If there’s a fresh new billboard on your daily commute, we can only hope that the previous one has found its way into the talented hands of Carey Moran and her team. “Billboards are our gold,” says the social entrepreneur and owner of E’Yako Green, a unique local brand that upcycles end-of-campaign billboards destined for landfill into signature bags for events and conferences, as well as other green promotional items.
Strong relationships with outdoor and branding companies mean huge swathes of PVC are frequently donated to Carey and her team once a billboard is dismantled. It’s a challenging material to work with, very heavy and often dirty, but E’Yako Green are skilled at transforming it into customised corporate bags, such as backpacks, laptop bags, pencil cases, conference bags and shoppers.
Carey heads up product design and is assisted by a team of artisans in Hillcrest, along with a Johannesburg-based production partner, Justin Mukadi. The material is cleaned, cut and sewn, with as many as 1 000 items made from a single billboard.
A (very) Proudly South African brand, its clients include Nandos, Adcock Ingram, Old Mutual, Discovery Health, Unilever, Microsoft and Ramaphosa’s Investment Summits. And while E’Yako Green’s products inherently meet a corporate’s carbon footprint targets, it’s their social impact that is especially rewarding.
Having joined E’Yako Green in its early days in 2012, Carey has directed her passions into building the eco business into a brand that is making a difference way beyond its environmental sustainability credentials. Her love for African design, together with her desire to uplift those less fortunate through community initiatives and skills development, shines through.
“Our passion is to do business and do good at the same time,” says Carey about her journey with E’Yako Green. “Merging commercialism with kindness is the best way forward.”
In fact, each and every E’Yako Green bag made from a component of waste material carries an EKO tag, representing the Eko Earth Range trademark and the brand’s commitment to local job creation, creativity, innovation and quality.
E’Yako Green works closely with Embocraft Training Trust in Botha’s Hill, with their team of crafters sewing orders for lanyards, shweshwe bags and blankets. Such projects assist the trust in giving their trainees experience and income.
Carey’s first business venture – Rootz Creationz – has also been incorporated under the E’Yako Green umbrella. Started in 1995, the local craft business produces beautiful handcrafted and beaded products for the retail and export market from a small workshop in Hillcrest. With Prudence Mbanjwa at the helm, it is focused on empowering women in the communities surrounding Hillcrest.
The Mazda Foundation School Bag Project
Since 2019, E’Yako Green has partnered with Mazda Southern Africa to produce school supplies for children across South Africa from old Mazda billboards that would otherwise have reached the end of their useful life – with over 1 700 backpacks, 700 pencil cases and 650 book covers made thus far! In 2021 the worthy project was honoured for its social contribution at the International Mazda Awards.