Green Banana Paper: Turning waste into wealth for native islanders of Kosrae, Micronesia

Green Banana Paper are turning a sustainable resource of banana fibers into stylish wallets for men and women in efforts to create a sustainable and ethical alternative to leather, as well as jobs for the indigenous people of a remote island in the Western Pacific.

The wallets, which are being developed by a small community on the island of Kosrae, Micronesia, utilise community-based resources and are reviving traditional skills in weaving and rope twisting.

green banana paper

Green Banana Paper wallets, which come in three styles – men’s style wallet with card holders, women’s purse and a travel wallet for holding passport and other key travel documents – are strong and durable, with a leather-like consistency, that is both waterproof and stain resistant.

green banana paper womens-wallet-product-castaway-purple

Featuring art work by local artists, the designs adorned on the Green Banana Paper wallets are emblemic of the beautiful, remote island of Kosrae, Micronesia which sits in a quiet corner of the Western Pacific. Think thatched-roof huts, beaches, harbours and the flora of this idyllic, untouched island silkscreen printed on to the banana fiber wallets by artisans using a water-based acrylic ink. The wallets are 99% organic and biodegradable.

green banana paper mens-wallet-keyphoto-castaway-blue

Green Banana Paper products are manufactured from recycled banana trunks which grow abundantly all around Kosrae. Banana trees, which are rapidly renewable and will continuously self-multiply year round, produce fruit once and die. Usually, farmers must cut down the trunk and leave it. Banana fibers, which are found within the large stalk of the tree, have been used for thousands of years throughout the Pacific islands in rope making and weaving.

green banana paper travel-wallet-keyphoto-castaway-black

Known as the “Island of the Sleeping Lady”, Kosrae is a remote island in a quiet corner of the Western Pacific. According to Green Banana Paper, “[Kosrae] feels and looks like Hawaii did 50 years ago. A single paved road nearly makes it around the 42 square mile island”.

Half of the Kosraean population live abroad, but according to Green Banana Paper “most would prefer to return to their home island with family and way of life”.

green banana paper marvin

Green Banana Paper was set up by American expat Matt Simpson, who having worked as a young volunteer teacher at the local high school on the island in 2008, realised how few opportunities there were. Many of his former students were either unemployed or working in the US for minimum wage.

Life on the island is simple, where people have a respect for nature and their fellow natives. Green Banana Paper say: “Although most of us live very frugally, our quality of life is very high. Kosrae has traditional hospitality, familial support systems, strong faith, unspoiled natural resources, communal food security, and a culture quick to share a laugh together. We drive slow, drink coconuts, relax by the ocean, sing and dance, hunt for shells, and enjoy each other’s company.”

matt simpson green banana paper

In his efforts to create jobs as well as sustainable and exportable products from Micronesia, Matt Simpson acquired land by the beach in 2014. An open-air eco factory was built on the location with a a fully sustainable operation and offering that is respectful of the environment and low impact too.

At the factory, rainwater is collected from the roof for the water needed to make paper. A soda ash solution is used to create archival quality paper, before being placed in a water tank to be neutralised prior to re-entering the soil. The trade winds gently dry fibers. Fallen coconuts are burned for boiling fibers. The papers are sun-dried and stored in simple presses before artisans make the finished products.

green banana paper team

Green Banana Paper operate a zero-waste policy throughout its business, and strives toward a “closed loop manufacturing process”. The waste from the banana trees is put into a compost pile until it decomposes enough to fertilise the business’s small fruit farm.  Off-cuts and paper scraps are recycled and transformed back into the original fibers with almost zero waste.

Eighteen people are currently employed full-time by Green Banana Paper, and the company hope to employ 35 full-time staff within the next year. More than 75 farmers have earned an extra income from banana trees that would otherwise be waste.

With Green Banana Paper harmoniously settled in its remote island location, the company are now ready to share with the world its energy and innovation by selling their unique wallets internationally. The company have chosen Kickstarter as an outlet to make that happen.

Green Banana Paper recently exceeded its goal of $10,000 via Kickstarter. The campaign runs until the end of March so if you fancy switching your wallet to a sustainable option, reach out to Green Banana Paper on Kickstarter.

Green Banana Paper

All photos: © Green Banana Paper

Rosalind Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She is a journalist who writes about sustainable life & style, music, entertainments and wellbeing. Rosalind also works as a spiritual life coach and intuitive advisor helping people to become who they truly are and manifest their heart & soul’s desires into their lives: www.rosalindmedea.com

 

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