Article By: Rosemary Balami & Emmanuel Akumun (YRE Ghana)
In a pioneering event that marked both a celebration and a stride forward in promoting environmentally conscious living and inventive green solutions, the first-ever GoTo Sustainability Fair occurred on September 30, 2023, at the Accra Metropolitan Assembly. The event comes at a time of mounting appeals for a swift transition to greener practices. This urgency has been underscored by recent climatic incidents on a global scale as witnessed in Morocco, Greece, Bulgaria, and Turkey. Held on the assembly's forecourt, it marked a significant milestone in Ghana's ongoing journey towards a sustainable future. It brought together environmental enthusiasts, local sustainability-based entrepreneurial businesses, sustainability influencers, and communities to collectively embrace eco-friendly practices and foster environmental stewardship.
McKingtorch Africa’s booth displays decorations made from upcycled materials
The fairgrounds were a vibrant hub of activity as exhibitors from diverse sectors showcased their eco-friendly products, sustainable technologies, and conservation initiatives. The exhibition area vividly demonstrated the fair's commitment to environmental conservation, featuring an array of solar-powered gadgets, energy-efficient appliances, organic farming methods, and waste-reduction strategies.
While speaking with YRE news, Nabeela Abubakari, the Convener and Team Lead of the GoTo Fair on the impact this fair will have on the local community and the broader region in terms of promoting sustainability, highlighted, that the GoTo Fair holds the promise of making a substantial impact by acting as a catalyst for sustainability. She further expounded that, it does not only introduce and promote sustainable practices and products to the local populace but also supports and elevates local sustainable businesses. “Through educational workshops and interactive displays, the fair raises awareness about environmental issues and fosters collaboration and networking among stakeholders”, she added.
Among the exhibitors, Raphael Teye, Programs Officer for Sustainable Energy Technologies Ltd, showcased a range of products, including energy-efficient appliances, clean cooking stoves using ethanol, and various solar equipment such as solar home systems, solar generators with inverters, solar street lights, and solar lanterns. These offerings aimed to promote the use of green appliances in a country where a significant portion of the population still relies on wood or charcoal for cooking. With Cocoa farming and Galamsey being leading factors, Ghana’s Deforestation rate is one of the highest in the world according to the World Economic Forum. Additionally, the nation is grappling with escalating levels of air and water pollution, as noted by the World Bank.
Also present was Ishara, an online platform focused on tackling plastic pollution by bridging the gap between waste collectors and the community. All people have to do is sign up and have their plastic waste collected in exchange for cash and other valuable items. Speaking with David Nintang, Product Developer at Ishara, he highlighted the growing problem of plastic pollution and the need to find solutions as a matter of urgency hence the birth of Ishara to help contribute to effective waste collection and recycling efforts in the country.
Skin Gourmet, the Forbes-listed skincare brand whose products are so pure you can even eat, also exhibited their products made from shea butter which can also be used for cooking, scrubs, soaps, and body oils from shea, baobab, etc. with no chemicals, and are purely organic. “Although our products come in plastic packaging, it is recyclable and our customers can return their containers to be refilled which also comes at a discount for the next purchase to boost the culture of recycling”, said Irene, a marketer for Skin Gourmet.
Photo booth made from lawn grass, seat made from old bathtub
One of the highlights of the fair was the Fashion show segment and photo booth made out of old bathtubs, upcycled jeans, and old metals with “weed” as the backdrop. The fashion show had models strutting the runway in upcycled clothes, and jeans among many others with the aim of inspiring upcycling/recycling attitudes and promoting sustainable fashion. Another highlight was the “clothing swap” session on the grounds where participants could bring their old but fair-condition clothes for upcycling. “For people not to waste their clothes or just throw them away, someone else may need it but these clothes end up as waste so we do this as a solution to clothing waste,” said Princess Samy, team member, GoTo Sustainability Fair. This situation unfolds against the backdrop of numerous appeals from various civil society organizations, urging the Global North to cease what it describes as "Waste Colonialism" in Accra's Kantamanto, the world's largest secondhand clothing market, where it is estimated that, approximately 40% of the typical bales departing from the market ultimately end up as waste, frequently finding their way into locations such as Old Fadama or Ghana's coastline.
Alongside the main event, a series of side events took place, featuring practical training sessions conducted by startups like Green Space Ghana. These sessions provided hands-on experience to participants, educating them on gardening techniques using organic compost, with the objective of fostering home gardening and enhancing greenery in urban areas as the world strives to build more sustainable cities. Additionally, other startups like McKingtorch Africa demonstrated the art of upcycling plastics, while Upcycle It Ghana showcased creative ways to upcycle clothing items.
Green Space Ghana’s Organic compost & plants for home gardening
A participant at the fair, Mr. Kwame Mensah, expressed his enthusiasm, stating, "This fair has opened our eyes to the possibilities of sustainable living at a time when most of us are unaware of sustainable local products and services. So it's not just a trend; it's a responsibility we all share. Accra is leading the way, and events like these make us proud of our city."
“Limited consumer awareness is a significant hurdle. Many Ghanaians are unaware of the availability and benefits of innovative and sustainable local products and services. Our fair aims to change that by showcasing the value of these solutions.” noted Nabeela while speaking with B&FT Online ahead of the fair earlier last week.
Nabeela outlined future plans for the fair, which include expanding innovation and fostering extensive collaboration with stakeholders and spectators. The goal is to ensure inclusivity in the sustainable living movement. “Again, we want to take the train away from urban Ghana to other significant areas outside the urban areas. There are also plans to extend outside of lifestyle solutions to the hardcore technical parameters of sustainable development. In the next 5 years the community should have a great impact and local solutions should have become a part of the local people”, she added.
In an era when Africa and the global community are contending with the repercussions of climate change, largely propelled by our prevailing production and consumption habits, the GoTo Sustainability Fair 2023 emerges as a crucial platform. It showcases tangible, eco-friendly alternatives to our current approaches. This event serves as a poignant example that the sustainable entrepreneurship industry, with the necessary support from both the government and the organized private sector, along with individual initiatives, possesses the potential to be a pivotal driving force in Ghana's journey towards a more environmentally sound and sustainable economy.