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Transformation of canvas: from a world record to 5,000 eco-friendly bags
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BEIRUT: More than 7,000 Lebanese Red Cross volunteers are working to spread humanitarian and environmental values throughout the country as part of a campaign entitled “Hand to Hand to Make a Greener Difference.”

The LRC project, which is in partnership with Tinol Paints, aims to reduce the footprint left on the environment, while increasing respect for human rights and tolerance, organizers told a news conference Wednesday.

“With the help of Tinol Paints and the efforts of individual volunteers of the LRC, Lebanon was able to break the world record in creating the biggest canvas painted with the hands of thousands of Lebanese,” said LRC president Sami Dahdah, in reference to a canvas covered in handprints that was completed in October last year.

Dahdah announced the second phase of the project, in which the painted canvas, which measured 4,355 square meters, was transformed into shopping bags to be distributed across the country.

“Today, we [LRC and Tinol] announce that the canvas was transformed and cut into 5,000 environmentally friendly shopping bags that can be used as an alternative to nylon bags,” said Dahdah, adding that the biodegradable bags will be distributed for free in several parts of the country.

Dahdah also voiced hope that the initiative would spread environmental awareness and encourage the Lebanese to take steps individually toward being more environmentally friendly, such as refraining from using non-biodegradable nylon bags.

Tinol Paints deputy president Wafa Saab, who also spoke at the conference, said the significance of the project relies on LRC’s role as a beacon of humanitarian values. “Our decision to work with the LRC on this particular initiative is based on our faith in the LRC’s peaceful message and its role in leading civil society,” said Saab.

According to Saab, the painted hands on the canvas are a symbol of what Lebanese society needs. “The meaning of this initiative is a national and peaceful one … which stresses the importance of joining hands and pulling together efforts to build a society in which all sides cooperate against violence and racism,” Saab added.

Officials from the Guinness World Records officially declared that the canvas, which was constructed in Beirut’s Camille Chamoun Stadium, set a new world record for largest hand-painted cloth in October 2010.

“We now move from the phase of world records into a practical phase, to serve the environment and work to spread awareness of the dangers facing it,” said Saab.

According to Saab, Tinol Paints has already adopted a new standard of corporate social responsibility in order to incorporate environmental self-regulation into their business model.

One LRC volunteer, Kamil Hamaty, told The Daily Star that every individual who wished to put their handprint on the canvas had to sign an agreement.

“The agreement that more than 12,000 individuals signed was a promise to abide by the fundamental principles of tolerance, peace and human rights,” said Hamaty.

When asked about the reaction to the initiative, Hamaty said, “People have so far liked the idea because they have felt that the being environmentally friendly is affecting their lives.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 19, 2011, on page 3.
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