This backpack designed for poor kids does so much more than carry books

Monday, November 3, 2014

Sometimes, the best innovation isn’t an app.

South Africans Thato Kgatlhanye and Rea Ngwane are co-founders of the business Rethaka. Their brand of Repurposed Schoolbags are made from recycled and reinforced plastic shopping bags. Recipients are all poor.

But it’s so much more than a bag. Because the kids often live in shacks and remote areas with no electricity, Repurposed Schoolbags are built with some other smart features. On the outside of the flap is a pocket for a solar panel, which charges on the long walk to and from school. That screws onto a Consol glass jar that the kids use as a lamp at home when doing homework in the evenings. The bag is also reflective because many of these kids wake up at the crack of dawn and walk in the dark to get to school on time.

Aesthetics were also important, says Kgatlhanye, who is in charge of branding and marketing. “We spent a long time on the design, asking ourselves what kind of bag we would be proud to be seen carrying.” They did not want to be like those people, she says, who give away blankets they would never sleep in themselves.

The bags are colorful, and their attention to detail is evident. “The mesh at the bottom of the bag is made out of cut-offs we used to throw away, until one employee (who works at the factory, where they employ eight workers) came up with an idea of how we could use them. That adds an extra pop to the bag. These children also want to look cool,” says Kgatlhanye.

Source: Quartz (link opens in a new window)

Categories
Energy
Tags
consumer products, solar