03 Jul 2018
Beirut, Lebanon
Resource Efficiency and Sustainable Waste Management

One day, and like many other people, Jana Saleh and Gaston Valenzuela were unsettled by Lebanon’s torrents of trash. They resolved to start their own ethical business by upcycling materials to ecologically reverse the impacts inflicted by the fashion industry. By upholding such mantra, the married couple channeled a positive change through their nascent business, Lama Yulu.

“People like to look good so, we thought if we provide to that need and at the same time not be part of mass consumerism by creating upcycled products that are trendy and durable,” says Saleh who is Co-founder with her partner Valenzuela.

The pair attached such a thought with starting a blog explaining garbage and how far we’re polluting land and sea. “We started spreading awareness and creating workshops of educational value,” Saleh says.

Lama Yulu’s beginning:

Lama Yulu’s humble launch was initiated tradeshows finishing with an online shop in 2017, selling their products around Lebanon. “We’re moving slowly but surely with a diverse collection,” Saleh remarks. Saleh who is a yoga instructor added that they are currently working from their home.

Amongst the avalanche of trash that washes ashore in Lebanon, tyres are the most common and hazardous due to burning. Such hazards have short- and long-term health impacts which are highly dependent on the degree of exposure. They can vary from respiratory system problems to cancer.

And, one particular material Lama Yulu has been using is the inner tubing of tyres. “Tyres are usually disposed off in the sea or burnt on the streets,” explains Saleh. “So we have been using the inner tubes; we take them, wash and clean them and use them at our atelier. Some of them are laser-cut so we have to send them off to our manufacturers so we end up helping Lebanese workers as well.”

Not only do Saleh and Valenzuela independently and solely work on developing their products, they also do the packaging and branding of Lama Yulu. “So far we’ve been mainly using inner tubes, but we are planning on making bracelets and accessories out of plastic bags and then, hopefully getting into the industry of recycling plastic bottles.”

With such a credo in mind, Saleh and her husband are hoping for “washable carbon footprints on this planet.” Their team of two do everything from manufacturing and shaping of the products to the packaging and final presentation.

“We resort to professionals if we need materials to be laser-cut but they are only working with us when needed,” Saleh remarks.

How to sustain a business?

When Lama Yulu first started, they solely utilized their sources of income, between Saleh’s yoga classes and events they held. “The initial investment was made by us, and from there we were able to create the first collection that was sold, bringing revenues to make more accessories, to then sell and sustain ourselves to grow into something bigger,” Saleh adds.

Despite following the route of self-funding Saleh and Velenzuela are not entirely shunning the idea of partnering with stakeholders. “It’d be better if the person is following the same values of what an ethical business would be,” Saleh says. “Obviously, nobody is refusing to make money, however we do not want to make money on the back of our values,” she adds stating that they’d rather go small than compromise their values, bringing to the table new ways of implementation to grow bigger in an ethical way.

Akin to sustaining their business financially, there is the social aspect that helps perpetuate Lama Yulu’s aim. “We are what we are due to ignorance; we come from a country of war so survival is our main purpose,” Saleh explains.

Saleh’s fashion product is also a statement in favor of the environment. “We need to do more for social awareness, through web content and social media,” says Saleh. She believes that we have the free will and option of choosing products that benefit the environment.

Melanie Achdjian, a yoga student of Saleh and a long-standing customer, shares the same sentiment. “Who can argue with the benefit of turning used inner tubes [of tyres] into pieces of wearable art? I have purchased five pieces of jewelry from them. Some have been given as gifts. Everyone that sees the pieces, loves them,” says Achdjian.

She also expressed her admiration of Lama Yulu’s commitment to sustainability and spreading positive change as a brand. “Both Jana and Gaston do more than just talk about making a change; they put forth the energy and commitment to make that change; reduce and upcycle existing waste; and, increase awareness of the need to rethink our existing consumption habits,” Achdijan adds. “From the reclaimed wood that has been used in the Lama Yulu Studio to their jewelry, rejuvenating yoga classes and rock-climbing trips, they are walking outreach programs for sustainability and positive outlook. They provide inspiration for all of us.”

Out of a ton of rubber granules specifically extracted from inner tubes, Lama Yulu manufactured a thousand pieces. “We’re working on more and in August we’ll take part in MZA’ART SOUS LA TENTE’s annual exibition,” Saleh adds.





Learn more about Lama Yulu through their website, Facebook page, and Instagram.

Photos: Courtesy of Lama Yulu.

Eman is an editor, and a finance and startup ecosystem journalist.Eman El-Sherbiny
Out of tyres’ inner tubing, these Lebanese entrepreneurs are creating nifty accessories | The Switchers
Lama Yulu Resource Efficiency & Sustainable Waste Management