Imagine yourself sitting in an old-turned-new wooden chair, in your home-grown clothes from Kombucha mushroom, reaching into your ethically made limited-edition bag to pay for a delicious cup of coffee you just had. This is not a fictional scenario, it is our sustainable future. The project Green Economy for a Greener Society was conceived in response to a growing waste management issue in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The objective was raising awareness and introducing the concept of a green economy, which entailed an immersive showcasing of environment-friendly local practices of three green businesses.

The following project goals were successfully realized:

  1. a shoot of promotional videos for 3 businesses based on the principles of a green economy and their positive impact on the environment,
  2. the organization of a workshop in the field of biodesign, and
  3. visits to two businesses based on green economy in Sarajevo, Stribor, and in Zenica, Wood Surgery.

The project set out to improve the position of green local businesses in the community as a whole and to build awareness of the efforts that they invest in the welfare of society. Through a range of activities within the project, community members were encouraged to contribute to the preservation of that well-being.

Green Economy for a Greener Society was realized with the help of three paradigm-shifters in our local economy:

  1. Maja Halilović Biodesign

  1. Stribor

  1. Wood Surgery

The project activities centered on stimulating members of the community to actively participate in environmental preservation. Green businesses were allowed space to promote their work based on green economy principles and to raise awareness regarding sustainability practices in their branch of work. Strengthening the capacity of potential young entrepreneurs on the principles and steps necessary for the implementation of green businesses was at the epicenter of the workshops. 20 students had the opportunity to learn through demonstration, theoretical, and practical work, about the efforts invested into environmental protection by local businesses, and to develop their own unique green business ideas.

Maja Halilović Biodesign, a pioneer biodesigner in Bosnia and Herzegovina, is actively researching live matter and combining molecular and biotechnology to create new materials that are used for design. This approach to design would ensure the prevention of animal testing and cruelty that is, unfortunately, still present in the design industry. Maja’s work presents a shift towards a healthier and happier mode of life that respects nature and its fascinating laws, and the organisms that it birthed.

She also created a workshop for youth and adults, which contains an interactive and professional lecture where participants could pose questions leading to an in-depth understanding of the topic, considering the novelty of this creative direction in design. The workshop consisted of:

  • an introduction into biodesign,
  • a comparative study between the current design industry and a future one with biodesign,
  • the dangers and applications of biomaterial,
  • Maja’s work and the findings of her four-year research, followed by
  • a practical session where participants could invent a use for the materials and modify them per preference, to engage in an immersive experience that all enjoyed.

Maja reflects on her experience of collaborating on the Green Economy for a Greener Society project by saying:

By participating in [the project] with CENER 21, I had the opportunity to meet entrepreneurs who started their businesses with the core idea of working in accordance with rules that respect the environment. In my line of work, the industry of biodesign, it is important to meet and form connections through the promotion of green revenue. Therefore, I hope that more projects like this one will be initiated. I have attended lectures and established connections with other entrepreneurs who participated in the project with the goal to start a collaboration or for me to promote them through my work.

My business, in the field of biodesign, is promoted through videos and lectures given to students. Such promotional material and sharing of knowledge with new generations will prove to be an incredibly important step in the development of a green industry in B&H. It will also aid in the rumination of young generations about investing their energy and skills into a green economy.  I am thankful for the opportunity to be a part of such a brilliant project. I hope that this will not be the only chance for discussion and the promotion of a circular economy.

Students also had the opportunity to visit and learn about Stribor, a zero-waste, fair-trade, slow fashion brand created by fempreneur Edina Hadžić. Edina believes that high quality apparel, which is not designed to fall at the mercy of temporary fashion trends, is the key to fashion sustainability. Stribor designs collections in small batches and all the waste is further used wherever possible, so that discarded waste is brought to a minimum. While producing items of apparel, more attention is paid to quality rather than quantity. Every model can be reordered as desired, which is why there is no need for abundant and diverse collections that change with the seasons. Edina recognizes world fashion as a grand eco-polluter, which is her reason for not wanting to part-take in the problem but to work in an ethical manner.

As the last activity of the Green Economy for a Greener Society project, students visited Wood Surgery in Zenica, a company founded by Lejla Selimović who works in repair, restoration, and redesign of old wooden furniture, giving it its new glow. Thanks to her creativity and passion, Lejla revives old and discarded furniture that enrich the living space of happy new owners. It is fascinating that Lejla graduated in law, but she acquired her knowledge and skills in furniture redesign as a DIY-er. She shared her experiences with her student visitors and explained the benefits and charm of reusing products in their original form or for a different purpose. In this way, the product’s “lifespan” is extended before it becomes waste.

Financial support for this project was provided by the European Union through the NAGE – Networking and Advocacy for Green Economy program, implemented by the Network for Rural Development of Northern Macedonia in cooperation with the Networks for Rural Development of Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia.