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MANILA, Philippines - Try as you may to make sense of it, but business partners and sisters Roma, 29, and Maan Agsalud, 27, fight each other for a living.
“One minute we’ll be arguing about booth designs, and next thing you know, we’ll be talking about what shoes would go well with my dress, ” says the younger Maan who works as a copywriter for an ad agency. "It’s a love-bicker type of relationship, but it works. We have no choice but to make it work since we’re stuck with each other."
Maan says her older sister tends to be more organized and kikay while she is a magna cum laude in procrastination.
They may be polar opposites but the sisters share the same passion — upcycling.
The Agsalud sisters are behind Popjunklove, an online craft shop that carries items that are handmade and upcycled.
"Upcycling" refers to recycling with a mindset of transforming junk into functional items.
“It stemmed from a need. We started to upcycle because we didn't have enough capital to design our own shirts. That's why we ended up embellishing our shirts with pins using junk from own house,” explains Roma, a former television reporter who is now a full-time entrepreneur. "From there, my sister and I learned that people have a soft spot for handmade and eco-friendly products."
Upcycling vs. recycling
The sisters believe that people indirectly help the environment when they make products by hand and re-use materials they already have at home. To them, upcycling is recycling on crafting steroids.
“You breathe in new life to old things. You make other people appreciate them more in a new light. When you upcycle, there’s no such thing as something being old, just a new way of looking at old things,” Maan says.
Being rat packs, Maan and Roma rarely throw anything away because they know they will find new uses for these things. For example, when they no longer fit in their old jeans, instead of throwing them away, the sisters made pouches out of them.
“We cut them up, made bag patterns, stitched them up, added zippers and chains for handles and now, what used to be jeans are completely different items,” Maan says. "We made them spunkier by studding them with tons of lego bricks as design details, giving them a bit more attitude and character. See?"
"We could have easily recycled our jeans by turning them into rags; but we opted to make something more out of them by turning them into cute, lego-lized bags."
A change of mindset
Maan says anyone can upcycle as long as there is a surplus of old things in their cabinets. She adds that upcycling — to some extent — involves a certain amount of revelation, an interesting twist, a surprise.
“Push yourself. Add something to it, remove something from it. What if you mix it with something else? Push the item and see how you can transform it into something new,” explains Maan. "It’s amazing what a little imagination can do to bring and inject purpose and life to things."
She advises aspiring upcyclists to look at the potential of an old item and not immediately deem it as rubbish.
There is a slight downside, though, when you think that nothing is trash:
“Our storage area is bursting with so many old items that we can’t possibly consider throwing away,” Maan laughs. “But at the same time, I think Santa would have placed us in the nice kids’ list because of that.”
Use your hands
For Roma, those who want to get into upcycling need to decide and commit to it.
“It's so easy to just buy a Php10 mass-produced accessory, right? Why go through the hassle of upcycling your own bracelet?” she says. "For me, deciding to do it and committing to it are the most important first steps to be a doer or a maker."
“Believe me... picking up your first pair of pliers is the hardest. Once you've committed and gotten over the initial laziness, it's so easy to just do more and make,” Roma adds.
She suggests making bracelets from soda tabs as a good start. “Collect old soda tabs. Buy materials that you don't have yet. Follow DIY tutorials online — there are so many!”
Here's a sample of a DIY tutorial on YouTube:
“Oh, and in case you failed the first time, don't worry. Many failed during their first attempt, even my sister and I,” Roma shares.
Mother nature's ambassadors
With too much trash around, the sisters believe it is everyone's responsibility to do their part, help reduce it even if just a little. Maan says their customers also get inspired to upcycle when they realize that the bracelets they bought were re-used old toys.
“You see it in their eyes, that spark of idea when they realize and think, I can do that too!"
"It makes us happy knowing that we inspire and influence them to upcycle as well," says Maan. "We’re like Mother Nature’s ambassadors — saving the Earth by sharing the magic of [re]creating, and transforming more and more people into upcycling crafters."
Roma — as expected — has a different opinion from her sister.
“I really don't think we're saving the environment. For me, it feels like the environment saved us," she says thoughtfully. "If we didn't leverage on the environment, then Popjunklove would just be another store that sells accessories."
"We owe our milestones and mini-triumphs to the environment. We're just returning the favor,” she says. - Rappler.com
(For more information on Popjunklove, visit their Facebook page.)
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