Trashtastic Tuesday with Erica Dolland


  Last week I had catch-up drinks with Erica Dolland, an old friend from high school who just returned to New York after a couple years working in Ghana.  I told her I now have a trash blog.  She told me that among other amazing activities she had undertaken since we last hung out, she taught Ghanaian kids to fashion handbags out of the plastic bags water is sold in throughout Africa.  And so another trashtastic tuesday was born.  Expect to see much more everydaytrash coverage on the privatization of water  in the coming weeks.  I’m all riled up and have some cool stuff to share.

everydaytrash: How did you get the idea for the project?

Dolland: It was a two-fold interest from needs I identified in the community: environment preservation and income generation.  Running water is not accessible in many of the rural areas of Ghana, and its not distilled.  Therefore, Ghanaians resort to purchasing water bags to consume drinkable water but then dispose the bags on the ground when finished. I’m a huge environmentalist!  One thing that is so captivating about Ghana is that the country occupies a beautiful, serene, lush green landscape.  But there are minimal efforts and initiatives dedicated to environmental conservation.


In Ghana, women are also severely marginalized and their employment opportunities are scarce due to a myriad of social injustices. You have a segment of population that can’t participate and is impoverished.  I wanted to create a project that would generate income for women and their children, as well as improve environmental conditions.



everydaytrash: Who participated?

Dolland: I opened the workshops to people in the community who were interested in learning how to make the bags to generate additional income for themselves.  I had a lot of receptiveness to the project from Ghanaian youth in the community.  I don’t think a lot of adults were keen on carrying around former trash, but the kids thought it was cool.  I really only expected girls to be interested, since they are groomed at a young age to take interest in catering and sewing activities.  Much to my surprise though, boys expressed the same level of interest.  I ended up conducting several workshops in the local elementary and junior high schools.  The younger students definitely had a harder time, since they weren’t as adept to using a sewing needle–that’s right, no sewing machines here, way too expensive–but they ended up creating a functional bag to carry school supplies in.  Their teachers even loved the idea and participated in the workshops.


everydaytrash: Is it ongoing?

Dolland: I was sent to Ghana by an organization called The International Foundation of Education and Self-Help.  The over riding mission of the organization is to “help others, so they can help themselves.”  When I conceived the project I wanted to make sure it was sustainable after I left.  It was mandatory that anyone who participated in the workshop was required to to teach someone else in the community. When people would come to my house asking for one-on-one lessons, I’d say “Nope, find so and so, she’ll teach you how to make it.”  It is my hope that people will expand on the basic construction that I taught them to create even more unique bags.

everydaytrash:  Sweet.  We’ll look out for them!


Workshop photos supplied by Erica.  Photo of Erica tutoring ripped from her Facebook page.

3 Responses to “Trashtastic Tuesday with Erica Dolland”

  1. paula Says:

    Love it! what a wonderful seed to plant in young minds, I’m sure they will take this idea and expand on it further with other things as well. good post!

  2. Little Shiva Says:

    You definitely need to be a full-time trash journalist. I love the stories you find and present!

  3. everydaytrash Says:

    Thanks! PS, I love the veg stand design!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: