The Power Of Choice & Building A Giant Plastic Boat with Dipesh Pabari on the Sustainable Jungle Podcast #sustainablejungle

Podcast #22 · Dipesh Pabari · The Power Of Choice & Building A Giant Plastic Boat

“I truly believe that we are in the era where saving the planet is the number 1 priority and I think all of what we do has to be with the bigger picture in mind that our homes and our planet is threatened at this time… for the innocent people that are victims of our way of living, we have a duty to try and make their lives livable.”

Dipesh Pabari

Dipesh is quite the eco-leader and one of the founders of the Flipflopi Expedition, a remarkable plan to build a 60ft dhow out of recycled plastic and sail it from Lamu, Kenya to Cape Town South Africa (‘just’ 5,250km!).  More on Dipesh: “Having lived on the Kenyan Coast for seven years, Dipesh became addicted to trash. He was obsessed with what else one could do with all the flip-flops and discarded bottles that he picked off the beach. For a few years, he had a lot of fun building giant size sculptures (have a look at Mfalme the Whale) from thousands of flip-flops as well as houses, water tanks and other structures from plastic bottles. Alas, his children, he was told, could not spend their lives picking trash, and school fees had to be raised, so he and his family left the coast and moved up country where he currently runs an outdoor adventure company near Mt Kenya where it’s far too cold to wear flipflops.”

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We visited Dipesh in Nairobi, Kenya and shortly after visited dhow maker Ali in Lamu where we got to see the “smal”l plastic pilot dhow for ourselves! In this wide-ranging discussion with Dipesh, we covered the following:

  • Dipesh’s background, growing up in Kenya, studying overseas, trial and error and his early career(s) as a teacher, writer and consultant (~01:25)
  • Working as an ethnographer on a male circumcision trial and what he learned from the experience (~04:10)
  • Dipesh’s history of turning trash into art while working as an education officer in Mombassa including the famous Minke Whale (~09:30)
  • Running school expeditions, designing programs to focus on environmental, educational and social outcomes (reusable pads, waste management, computer education, permaculture, etc… phew!)… and using plastic bottles to create structures for the programs (~16:50)
  • The impact of terrorism on the Kenyan Tourism industry (~25:15)
  • More on art with plastic, using flip flops collected from the beach and working with local artists (~27:00)
  • Why Dipesh cares about environmental and social issues and his activism during Kenya’s post election violence (~29:50)
  • An overview of the Flip Flopi Expedition and how it came to be (~38:00)
  • The dhow and a brief history (~41:20)
  • Where the project is at now, the logistics of making a dhow out of plastic and challenges faced to date (~42:55)
  • The ultimate goal, sailing the large 60ft dhow to South Africa (~48:20)
  • Where to from here and the funding needed to finish the project (~49:20)
  • Key messages of the project – the reason why the team is doing this and using influencers to drive change (~49:40)
  • The way the Flip Flopi is structured organisationally – a movement of people who help out on an entirely voluntary basis (~56:15)
  • Some press attention for Flipflopi and how it hasn’t helped much with fundraising (~57:55)
  • How the media has helped build awareness about the plastic problem (~1:00:00)
  • Thoughts on the future, plastic free and the challenges of being plastic free in Kenya when everything comes in plastic (~1:01:30)
  • What keeps Dipesh up at night from an environmental perspective (~1:03:30)
  • Is Dipesh optimistic? (~1:06:10)
  • Innovations Dipesh is excited about (~1:08:10)
  • The most important environmental changes individuals can make (~1:11:10)
  • Dipesh’s message to the world (~1:13:55)
  • How to support the Flipflopi Expedition, share inspiring stories and use #plasticrevolution (~1:14:55)

“The boat is an inspiring, positive message of hope… Here is a potential solution for a global problem.”

Dipesh Pabari
The Power Of Choice & Building A Giant Plastic Boat with Dipesh Pabari on the Sustainable Jungle Podcast #sustainablejungle

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