BEIRUT: On a corner in Beirut’s Hamra area sits a tiny treasure trove of local and eco-conscious goods. There, you won’t find a bit of plastic - unless, of course, it has been repurposed.
Recycle Lebanon’s Ecosouk, though just 11 square meters, offers a variety of goods, ranging from clothing and jewelry to plants and seeds, all created by Lebanese makers. Perhaps Ecosouk’s biggest allure, however, is their bulk dispensers of all-natural soap, body wash and detergent from Saboun Baladi and Honey and Herb, two local producers.
Consumers are encouraged to bring their own containers to prevent the accumulation of plastic packaging, which usually comes with such purchases.
“The minimum we can do is buying our products a bit more clean, a bit more consciously,” Joslin Kehdy, the founder of local NGO Recycle Lebanon and Ecosouk, told The Daily Star.
“Once we realize just how toxic everything we consume is to the air and water when they’re disposed of, hopefully we’ll be able to make better decisions on how we consume.”
For Kehdy, the concept of zero-waste and eco-conscious production in Lebanon is something that was embedded in its culture not so long ago, but has been erased in the modern, capitalist era.
“This is all only possible because people are already producing these products in Lebanon. There are still plenty of people regularly making mouneh [a preserve of cheeses, fruits and vegetables], making their own soaps.
“Unlike the West, we still have access to these roots of making products here with little waste,” she said.
Kehdy, a prominent face in Lebanon’s environmental movement, has long been a proponent of a zero-waste lifestyle, cutting down on unnecessary and wasteful packaging and refusing single-use plastic items in her personal life.
Through Recycle Lebanon’s “Bala Plastic” (“Without Plastic”) movement, which among other things advocates for restaurants to abandon single-use plastic and organizes beach cleanups, she has encouraged others to do the same.
Despite a drizzle during Ecosouk’s opening Wednesday evening, people flocked to the shop, scoping out ways they could consume more consciously.
Within a few minutes, the small store was filled with heads poking between shoulders to get a glimpse of the products.
To celebrate the opening day, local artist and environmentalist Charbel Aoun brought in several boxes of plants and cuttings of various trees offered for free in a tribute to Lebanon’s natural fauna.
Hadi Tabbara, an environmental consultant focusing on agriculture and water, told The Daily Star he had heard about Ecosouk’s opening at a start-up conference and decided he wanted to check it out.
“This is what is needed with all our issues with waste, whether it be solid or liquid. This is really the time for Lebanon to pick it up. I came here to get ideas, see how I can implement this in my own neighborhood” of Al-Tariq al-Jadideh, he said.
Maha Nasrallah, whose pottery was displayed at the shop, praised Kehdy for her efforts in changing mentalities about waste.
“She’s really trying to do something concrete about sustainability and recycling, while the government is only providing empty talk,” Nasrallah said.
“We’re swimming in our garbage, but this is not just a local issue. This is a world issue. I find that it’s constructive that individuals are taking initiatives, but it’s never enough. We need larger support.”
Other local producers featured at the Ecosouk include Lebanese designer Nour Kays, whose brand, NK, repurposes plastic bags into fashionable and durable handbags, as well as Lebanese brands Alchemy Spell and Precious Moments, which offer naturally made shampoo bars and salves.
“My goal is to make all of these products more accessible. On my part, I organize so you can have all these producers under one hub, but we already have a country of producers making natural, nontoxic and eco-conscious products for our everyday use,” Kehdy said.