Located in Ottawa, EcoEquitable is a non-profit social enterprise that creates employment opportunities for immigrant women. The women who work at EcoEquitable use their existing seamstress skills to make a range of trendy totes from locally donated textile refuse. EcoEquitable focuses on sewing contracts and repairs, production and sale of recycled items, diverting textile refuse from local businesses, organizations, and individual community members away from local landfills, and educating the community about the numerous benefits of textile recycling as a part of sustainable living.
Products & Services
EcoEquitable provides services including sewing contracts and repairs and alterations. They turn unused textiles into fashionable eco-totes made from banners, flags, vinyl, and more. EcoEquitable is also a fabric boutique that sells donated fabric at low costs.
EcoEquitable offers public sewing classes on Saturdays to give immigrant women the chance to learn the basics of hemming, zippers, shortened sleeves and much more. The course runs for six weeks and is offered to intermediate sewing enthusiasts at a low cost. Another program offered is “Sowing for Jobs” which is designed to provide immigrant and underemployed women sewing training, financial literacy, hands-on experience, and individual mentoring in order to be a bridge to a sustainable livelihood and long-term employment. This course runs for a total of 5 months.
The staff can also communicate in a range of languages, such as French, Spanish, Punjabi, and Italian, so they are able to serve women from many different nations.
Impacts & Outcomes
EcoEquitable gives female immigrants and refugees a place to connect with others in the Ottawa community. They build everlasting friendships with others in their community while promoting sustainable living by recycling textiles, and encouraging others to do so as well. Textile waste is diverted from added waste in the landfill. EcoEquitable is an organization that empowers low-income Ottawans to transition to financial independence.
Development of Enterprise
They have the objective to grow, along with a specific plan to develop. For this to happen, EcoEquitable has identified conditions to meet: adequate financial resources support,
human resources, and technical and equipment resources, along with training and scientific expertise would have to be addressed. Logistics support and network and partnerships strengthening would also have to be in place.
New and vintage textiles and notions are donated by businesses and individuals in the community. Proceeds are put back into sewing, training, and employment programs for immigrants, refugees, and marginalized women.
“I knew I wanted something that was out of my comfort zone and EcoEquitable successfully helped me accomplished that. By the time I left EcoEquitable I felt like a different person… EcoEquitable has bombarded my brain with so many new experiences, opportunities and inspiration.” – Mindy, Volunteer
Challenges & Lessons Learned
EcoEquitable has encountered operational challenges including securing adequate funding, recruiting and retaining competent staff, building capacity and strengthening governance, aligning processes with mission, values, and vision, elaborating a strategic plan and implementing programming.
EcoEquitable has identified conditions of success it employs to address these challenges. They find it is beneficial to build partnerships, strengthen networks, and evaluate and optimize processes, such as benchmarks and best practices. They also engage in program training to build capacity and believe in organic growth and participatory involvement of staff and volunteers. Being visible, connected to the community, and confirmed in what they do underlines their philosophy.
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