Lowering Pollution While Generating Income

Ripon College

The people living in the Blue Mountain area of Jamaica have few options for employment close to home, which has resulted in many of the residents spending January through March picking coffee beans in other regions. Often this is their only income for the entire year. When the Enactus team at Ripon College stepped in to help, they discovered a solution in an unlikely source. In addition to low job opportunities, this area was also struggling with large amounts of litter from unwanted plastic shopping bags and garbage bags. The team recognized they could teach the women of Blue Mountain to give this waste a second life as handbags that would create a new source of income. For a year Ripon Enactus members worked with the women to develop a production process for the bags that included collecting the used bags, cleaning them, cutting them into strips and then crocheting them into various designs. Next they devised a business plan for this new venture. This involved working with nearby resorts and developing outlets in the United States to sell the bags. This project has resulted in the creation of almost 100 handbags and has kept more than 11,000 bags from polluting the Blue Mountain countryside. Eco-bag sales have generated $1,600, making it possible for these women to send their children to school, make nutritious meals for their families and pay for needed health care.