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Transforming Plastic into Purpose: Unispace's Art for Impact Program Making Waves in Nicaragua

Mar 29, 2024
The impact of discarded plastics on the environment, particularly in coastal regions of the world, can be devastating for both the people and the animals who live there. However, amidst this environmental challenge, a remarkable story of transformation and empowerment is unfolding in Nicaragua.

Guest Post by Antonia Walmsley, Head of Strategy & Design – EMEA at Unispace

In recent years, plastic pollution has gained significant global attention, and rightly so. The impact of discarded plastics on the environment, particularly in coastal regions of the world, can be devastating for both the people and the animals who live there. However, amidst this environmental challenge, a remarkable story of transformation and empowerment is unfolding in Nicaragua through a collaboration between Unispace's Art for Impact (AFI) program, the non-governmental organization (NGO) Casa Congo and a Nicaraguan women’s collective called Las Tejedoras.

From Trash to Treasure: A Transformative Journey

Las Tejedoras, which translates to 'The Weavers,' is a collective of 17 Nicaraguan women who have been crafting art from waste since 2007. Their mission? To tackle the plastic pollution plaguing the Pacific coast of Nicaragua and, in doing so, protect local marine species, particularly sea turtles. Through their dedication, they've been able to clean up the coastline, transforming discarded plastic bags into tapestries and textiles and enabling safe and clean nesting for the sea turtles.

In 2021, Unispace embarked on a partnership with Casa Congo and Las Tejedoras through its Art for Impact program, which connects businesses, artists and nonprofits to create positive change through art. This collaboration brought about the creation of 30 unique tapestries made from over 50,000 recycled plastic bags, utilizing the designers at Unispace to build out a catalog of designs. These artworks now grace the walls of offices across Europe, including those of major brands such as Zoom, Ford, and Kraft Heinz, instilling a sense of purpose and environmental consciousness within these spaces.

When Art Makes a Measurable Impact

Unispace's Art for Impact program goes beyond the creation of visually striking office art. It serves as a testament to the power of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) by offering an avenue for businesses to authentically connect with their communities and manifest their organizational stories, culture, and values in the physical space.

The success of this project exemplifies the profound impact that collaborative efforts between large corporations and NGOs can have on tackling environmental challenges while uplifting communities. Additionally, it underlines the transformative potential of art to drive social change, while also connecting people to a brand’s values, culture, and diversity and sustainability goals.

This partnership not only contributed to environmental conservation by helping to clean up the local ecosystem for the native wildlife but has also provided economic independence and social equity for the women of Las Tejedoras, demonstrating the far-reaching benefits of scaling up through the support of NGOs and corporations. Through this collaboration, the women of Las Tejedoras have been empowered with a means of income and financial security that has uplifted their lives and those of their families.

By incorporating these unique tapestries into their office spaces, businesses around the world have demonstrated their commitment to environmental and social causes, aligning their corporate values with tangible action.

These kinds of collaborative initiatives create real impact on the world and demonstrate to businesses how they can leverage their influence to drive positive change, both within their office spaces and in the broader global community. By working together with artists and nonprofits, business leaders can help to build a world where art, sustainability, and DEIB intersect to create enduring good.

Banner image: Delft Blauw rug, inspired by Dutch porcelain, designed by Antonia Walmsley, Head of Strategy & Design – EMEA, based in Unispace’s Amsterdam office. Photo courtesy of Unispace.

Antonia Walmsley is Head of Strategy & Design – EMEA at Unispace. Working creatively in the design industry for over 19 years, Antonia uses her extensive experience to collaborate with project stakeholders and create stunning, innovative workspaces.

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