The polar vortex that greeted many Americans at the start of the year, served as a rude reminder of the detrimental effects that global warming could have on our weather patterns. The fact that something has to be done to reverse or at least halt climate change is obvious, but the question for most of us is what and how? Turns out, that it doesn't take much money or resources - Just some ingenuity and will, both of which the founders of U.K. based design firm Studio Swine seem to have in abundance.
Their latest project is based in São Paulo, Brazil, home to thousands of Catadores or independent trash collectors that make a living searching the streets of the city for discarded aluminum cans and other trash they think they can sell. As you can imagine, the money they earn from all this hard work is barely enough to sustain them.
But thanks to Can City a mobile foundry project established by Studio Swine, things may soon change for the better. That's because thanks to this project, the Catadores can learn how to transform the aluminum cans into beautiful merchandise, helping them earn a better living and pick up artistic skills - All while helping the environment.
While that in itself is great what is even better, is that the entire enterprise is sustainable. Can City uses waste oil collected free from the street vendors to fuel the foundry. The molds to make the products are crafted from free sand picked up from the numerous ongoing construction projects. Even selling the wares is done 'sustainably' - On the bustling streets of the city, right where the foundry is located. This means that not only can this brilliant idea help spur economic growth in São Paulo, it can do so, without creating a carbon footprint!
For this project, the designers taught the Catadores how to create intricate stools that incorporate traditional Brazilian motifs and can even be customized, if desired. However they believe that the same process can be used to create a variety of merchandise ranging from souvenirs for the 2016 Summer Olympics to jewelry and even roof brackets.
Though Studio Swine's project involved establishing just a single foundry close to an aluminum collecting point in São Paulo, there are plans to expand the program to other parts of the city, once additional Catadores have been trained in the process.
What's even more encouraging is that while this is the latest and first such project in São Paulo, it is not the only one. The trash collectors in the Brazilian city of Belo Horizonte have been doing something similar, for almost a decade. Working as part of a cooperative called ASMARE, the Catadores recruit local artists who volunteer their time to teach them how to transform trash into all kinds of beautiful things - ranging from jewelry to furniture.
This is not the first innovative design project that Studio Swine has been involved with. The company also designed the Sea Chair, an award-winning furniture concept. Similar to the Can City stools, the chair is made from recyclable materials: plastic sea waste collected by fishermen. Just shows that a little imagination and ingenuity is all we need, to save our beautiful earth!