Iskashitaa Refugee Network

Iskashitaa Refugee Network LogoHow does this company exemplify the concept of “reducing”?

Iskashitaa follows a zero-waste model in all of our operations. We take seriously our goal of reducing food waste in Tucson. Our motto is “no fruit left behind,” and each year we glean 75,000 lbs. of local produce that would otherwise go to waste. In addition, by shifting the focus away from importing food from a distance and looking towards the abundance that exists within our community, Iskashitaa helps to encourage a reduction in the use of fossil fuels to transport foods. Finally, through education around native Sonoran desert edible plants, we help to reduce waste of our precious natural resources.

How does this company exemplify the concept of “reusing”?

For those occasional rotten apples or bad spots that we cut out of otherwise edible fruits, as well as for fruit skins and seeds from our food preservation workshops, we have a thorough composting system. We engage volunteers in rotating and sifting compost, which we then store in recycled feed and pet food bags and distribute to refugees for their home gardens and potted plants. In addition, Desert Tortoise Botanicals purchases certain herbs, fruit peels, and other items for their healing salves. We reuse boxes, bags, and equipment for harvesting, and we redirect what would be wasted produce to those members of our community who have the greatest need.

What is this company’s recycling policy and practice?

In the office, we recycle paper, plastic, and glass that can’t be reused or repurposed. Donations of household items are recycled (redistributed) to refugees who are in need of supplies for their homes. Our market bags make use of recycled fabric donations, and are produced on donated sewing machines. Both our Burundi baskets and our plarn water bottle holders are produced using recycled plastic bags. The market bags and water bottle holders have a further sustainability impact by serving to encourage reuse rather than relying on disposable resources. Refugee crafters also make and sell ragrugs out of old sheets and pillowcases that would otherwise be thrown out, creating a useful product and increasing their own economic self-sufficiency, while decreasing landfill waste.

How is this company engaging and informing consumers and employees about the 3 “Rs” and other sustainable practices?

We encourage the use of reusable water bottles by providing refugees with reusable water bottles, and by producing water bottle holders that make it easier for everyone to remember to bring water with them. We educate volunteers and the larger Tucson community about the tremendous amount of food waste that goes on annually in our city, and about how they can become involved in redistributing resources to those in need. We provide a “reducing your electricity bill” handout to refugees with information on unplugging electronics, turning off lights, and being conscientious about heating and air conditioning costs. By providing compost to refugees, we help them to make use of available resources rather than relying on chemical fertilizers.

What else would you like us to know about this company?

Iskashitaa is dedicated both to environmental sustainability and to creating sustainable communities. In the office, we are diligent about turning off lights and unplugging electronic items that are not currently in use. On a community level, we seek to integrate refugees into the Tucson community and make the most efficient use of resources that are available locally. We believe that this cooperative model is the best way to invest responsibly in our community’s future. In fact, “Iskashitaa” is a Somali word meaning “working cooperatively together.” None of Iskashitaa’s programs would be possible without the help of our volunteers. Iskashitaa volunteers work alongside refugees to harvest fruits and vegetables, separate high from low quality harvested goods (“cull”), prepare food products for sale, redistribute resources, reorganize and label stored donations, staff events, mentor, teach ESL classes, and empower refugees. Please visit our website at www.iskashitaa.org to learn more about what we do and how you can become involved.