Earthbound Creations | Daily News


Earthbound Creations

Saving the Planet from rubbish in useful and interesting ways
Saving the Planet from rubbish in useful and interesting ways

Juliet Coombe goes on a quest to find out how Kandy has cleaned up its act with successful projects like Earthbound Creations, which are now producing some of the most popular souvenirs purchased by overseas visitors.

“Our mission is to connect our traditions of family life with a sustainable future for our children, by making handcrafted products from recycled waste materials.” Everything I learn in Earthbound’s colourful factory is an opportunity, if you are creative, even rubbish and air pollution; if you have the owners visionary environmental mindset, then the world could literally be saved over night. Earthbound’s Kandy factory, which now employs over three hundred families in the region, makes simply stunning things out of discarded newspapers, glass bottles and bits of old sari material. I wander past stacks of rolled up newspapers as Sagara Ranga Liyanage explains, “15 years ago, I wanted to do something to extricate my family and many other families from the terrible poverty trap, which I observed through my lens, as a photographer, the career I chose, after leaving school.” Sagara Ranga, showing me the rubbish on the street, told me how in those days newspaper crafts, packaging, and bags made from tea dust, had not even been considered as a solution to the growing rubbish mountain, let alone paper pencils from read newspapers and books from up-cycled waste.

As a Kandyan, with enormous creative skills, he wanted to do something against poverty since his father, a government servant, had showed him that hard work and vision always pay off, as you will see from his beautiful flag ship shop in a historic building in the centre of Kandy at 28, Yatinawara Veediya. So, in 2006, he started making small recycled birthday cards out of discarded papers and found that people loved the personal touch of his greetings cards. One such buyer was Dilip Kumar, the General Manager at Jetwing Kandy Gallery, who asked him to create his wedding invite, which has led him onto creating unique designer limited collection from used newspapers for the Jetwing Symphony range. He now runs experiences that are anything but rubbish using things you usually throw away in your bins for Dilip’s high end guests, who love immersive travel and taking something truly special home as a memento of the place, that will also help save the world.

Sparkly-eyed Sagara Ranga sees opportunities everywhere, from stones on the ground which he has painted, to broken pieces of glass, which he has moulded into different household items. His aim is to give a message to his people and the world that you can reuse everything you have and, as he did not come from money, he realised that the best way is to start small and learn from your mistakes, as you work your way up to bigger and bigger projects. He started by taking old newspapers and rolling them up into long pieces, which he then dyed and turned into mats - an art which took over a year to perfect, which includes dying, varnishing and creating newspaper packaging. He now sells the items to Odel and Barefoot, with special customised designs that they request; they understand the variety of things that he can make and how they suit the changing markets. “The ideas,” he explained, taking me through his factory process, “came from my customers and the greater the challenges, the more I thrive on them.” Currently, he is working on a up-cycled Christmas tree and even considering building a house entirely out of up-cycled rubbish. He proudly tells me how he made a full size replica of a helicopter, and, before I could ask, he said `no it does not fly’, but looks like it can, and is a wonderful piece of life-size artistry.

Earthbound’s team dream of having a chain of shops around the world, teaching up-cycling at grassroots levels, creating jobs for communities in their homes everywhere, and ending the world’s rubbish problem, by turning it into great gifts for people. Recycled handmade crafts, newspaper pencils, newspaper handicrafts, newspaper bowls, bowl shaped lampshades, tables, bins and now even Christmas trees including decorations to go on them are all part of his exciting journey, from throwaway to the creation of a special gift. “Newspaper & recycled paper bags from tea dust are just the start,” he explains, picking up empty wine bottles. “Through to our creations, mainly intended to minimise environmental hazards caused by disposal of waste matter such as polythene, plastic, etc. Hence, eco-friendly recycled paper provides raw material for all our products. Our dream is to promote a greener environment for the owners of our future.”

Earthbound’s business model, I learn, operates as a social enterprise model (SEM), where employees are working from their own homes and deliver the products they make, to the factory, while empowering through employment, over 200 women and the rural youth. He says, “It is a fully homegrown company, which has progressed from humble beginnings, employing just 3 people at the start, to 360 now, in 2020. A main attribute of Earthbound’s success is its unique Sri Lankan design flavour, inherent in their products. The entire production process is eco-friendly and labour intensive, using waste materials, which is ideally suited for working with local talent, ranging from unskilled to semi-skilled, as well as skilled professionals, while also creating a line of great products, which are now being exported all over the world to countries such as Italy, UK, USA, Australia, Qatar, Germany, Hong Kong, Maldives and the Netherlands.”

His biggest challenge now is getting 8 tons of used newspapers every month and whether it is the UK, or any other part of the world that wants to upscycle their newspapers in an environmentally friendly way, give him a call, as his biggest fear is he might run out of rubbish to turn into art! He says it is a brilliant career, as you can be totally out-of-the-box in your thinking and push your creativity to the limits, everyday, while helping others to help themselves.“We believe in a world where everyone takes care of the environment, to ensure a totally sustainable future.”


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