As a marine biologist, Julie Church led a conservation and development program for the Kiunga National Reserve in northern Kenya. Julie organized “blue teams” who comb Kenya’s shoreline for refuse from the Indian Ocean. The debris is then sorted: glass, plastic, aluminum and flip flops. Yes, flip flops!! In fact, over 2,000 pounds of discarded flip flops are collected on Kenyan beaches every week.
As an environmentalist, Julie Church has made it her life’s passion to “flip the flop,” which is to say raise consciousness about ocean health and protecting the fragile African eco-system
In 2005, Julie left her position at the Kiunga reserve to help establish a company known as “Ocean Sole.” They have developed a process known as “upcycling” that buys flip-flops in 2,000 kilo increments and then washes, blocks, cuts and sculpts the material, into an array of colorful products. Sales began to soar when the World Wildlife Federation ordered 15,000 sea turtle key-rings. Today, they produce large sculptures of elephants, whales, dolphins, giraffes, lions, rhinos - a veritable safari of African wildlife sculptures. These works of art adorn schools, malls, museums, airports, government buildings and hotels.
“It would be ideal,” Julie says,” If we would do everything we can to prevent pollution in the first place. Meanwhile, it is critical that we create sustainable micro economies that facilitate effective waste management that in the process protect ecosystems and wildlife.”