Teaching Young Children from Vancouver to Reuse, Recycle and Upcycle

To mark Earth Day, we spoke to Mubaraka Doctor, an Early Childhood Educator and member of the Vancouver community of Dawoodi Bohras, about her work inspiring children to care for the environment.

What inspired you to upcycle plastic?

I have been working with children for 18 years and in my spare time I enjoy making crafts. I had seen preschool teachers use plastic fruit cups for pouring paints for art.  This inspired me to be creative and so I came up with different ideas for using different plastic materials at my work, such as using fruit cups to hold art materials and to make crafts like Easter baskets.

How did you learn how to upcycle plastic in this creative way?

As I love arts and crafts, I took a workshop where I learnt to make a swan pot. This workshop inspired me to be more creative, so I created my own pot out of the yogurt container.

What are the benefits of upcycling and what does it teach children and parents?

Plastic waste is doing untold damage to the environment. Upcycling teaches parents and children to be creative by making use of plastics that would otherwise be sent to landfill, and instead giving them a new look and purpose.  For example, you can create a marker or crayon holder with a used plastic cup.  Upcycling also teaches us how to save money by making use of some of the plastic materials for learning. For example, young children can use milk can lids and fruit squeeze pouch lids for sorting colours, counting, and writing numbers and letters.

The Dawoodi Bohras’ Happy Nests Initiative seeks to teach people about the importance of reusing, recycling and upcycling, and the benefits of living more sustainably. When was Happy Nests launched in your community?

The Dawoodi Bohra community of Vancouver launched Happy Nest about a year ago, in April of 2021. I have always recycled plastic, but this campaign taught me the importance of reusing and upcycling plastic materials. Happy Nests has inspired me to create learning activities for preschoolers, and given me enjoyment through making crafts.

What would your advice be to our future generation on living sustainably?

We must eliminate single-use plastic and find creative ways of reusing and upcycling the plastic that we do use. For example, use reusable bags at the store instead of plastic bags, and only drink from reusable water bottles.

Commenting on Mubaraka Doctor’s work, Natasha Tucker, Executive Director of Plastic Oceans, said, “In a time where we are producing more plastic than ever, it is imperative that we shift our focus to a circular economy to extend the life cycle of products for the health of our environment.  The efforts of Mubaraka Doctor and the Dawoodi Bohras are a shining example of how creative solutions can result in extending the life of materials, thus keeping what would otherwise be discarded in the trash and giving a new life! Great work!”

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