Faced with the problems of both plastic waste proliferating in her neighborhoods and the lack of book bags for the local children, social entrepreneur Thato Kgatlanye set out to create a business that addressed these in a way that could make a difference as well as a profit. What emerged was Repurpose Schoolbags, a company with a product that uses recycled plastic to make an innovative bag that doubles as a light source for kids to study by at night. It’s a simple innovation that makes a huge impact, as Repurpose’s bags each use the equivalent of twenty plastic bags and offers children the freedom to learn any time of the day, even if they do not have electricity. She contracts locals to collect the waste plastic, clean it, and upcycle it and her factory trains people in her community to construct the bags. Thato’s company employs people, cleans up the community in a measurable way, and offers a solution for helping generations of kids get educated. Repurpose Schoolbags has been incredibly successful with minimal to no advertising, even attracting the attention of one Bill Gates, who spread the word about the company to his audience of 36 million Twitter followers.
— Bill Gates (@BillGates) November 13, 2014
Thato’s idea is a great example of the Designed for Life philosophy, which champions products that upcycle, evolve, and leave a minimal production ecological footprint. This is Sustainable Capitalism at its finest and as Repurpose Schoolbag’s success shows, that this is a movement that can be the new goalpost for entrepreneurs the world over. Check out the video above, produced my Red Bull TV for their documentary film, “The Rise of Us.”