A new life for life jackets
Two Product Design students from IED Barcelona travelled to the Greek island of Lesvos to learn about the reality on the island, and to help the team in the workshop of a local NGO, Lesvos Solidarity. This opportunity was awarded to them by the Barcelona Metropolitan Area (AMB), who decided to reward them for their projects on the reuse of life jackets abandoned on the beach as a consequence of the refugee crisis.
One of these proposals was that of Gabriela Serrano, who used the fabric and strap of the jacket to create a hip pack, which she named Fanny Pack Switch. The other was the project Foampot, created by Vittorio Lombardo, which proposed to make use of the foam in the jackets to create a new material that enables other products to be manufactured.
The experience was a valuable opportunity for the students to find out about the reality of the refugees first-hand. After returning from the trip, Gabriela Serrano emphasised the need to remind people that “this situation must not be normalised”, in fact quite the opposite: that it needs to be given visibility, and that “each person must make their own small contribution” to help to change the situation. She also explained that “we are not lucky enough to be able to decide where we are born”, but regardless of our place of birth, “we all have rights that must be guaranteed”.
Vittorio Lombardo believes that “the world doesn’t need one more lamp, rather one less life jacket”. He also encourages designers and design schools to look at and learn from this problem, and to commit to sustainability.
Currently, there are over 35,000 refugees on the island of Lesvos. Projects like these help to give visibility to and create a social conscience about the situation on the ground in Europe. Once more, design has demonstrated its commitment to society, and the will to change it, whilst continuing to follow the road to sustainability.