With Urban Earthlings, the young Egyptian yoga teacher and entrepreneur Amira Osman has taken up the challenge of offering the first online store of ethical home products in Egypt.
Before becoming a yoga teacher, Amira first studied Islamic architecture at the American University in Cairo. This experience still inspires her today, although she has since branched out into the wellness industry. One year ago, she decided to launch the first shopping platform in Egypt that offers eco-friendly and cruelty-free home products for animals. From bamboo toothbrushes to metal straws and eco-friendly tote bags, the young vegan entrepreneur hopes to sow the seeds of a more responsible and conscious lifestyle in Egypt.
How did you start adopting a more conscious lifestyle ?
I was aware quite a long time ago about environmental issues, and I even realized recently that I won an award about 12 years ago in an architecture competition for environmental projects. But I think there was a big disconnect between our lifestyle and the things we are studying in architecture school. For example, we used to do a lot of passive and active architecture design and we used to study heavily environmental architecture but we never made this connection between both. And it wasn’t until I switched to a plan based lifestyle, after watching a video on Youtube, that everything started to pop up in my head. I had really bad health back then and I was also tired with industrial farming, and I started to realize how our lifestyle affected the world. I learned how supply meets the demands and how we are creating demand not only by the food we eat but also by the way we dress or the way we commute.
What triggered the idea of Urban Earthlings?
I used to buy a lot of sustainable products abroad in order to be aligned with my new consumption lifestyle, like bamboo toothbrushes for example. I could do that because my sister was living abroad but I couldn’t help people around me and when they asked where I was getting my products from, I was always responding “this comes from Germany or this comes from the US” but most of the people in Egypt don’t have access to that. In the meantime, I started to be really sensitive to animal abuse in Egypt and was spending a lot of time and money to shelters and rescues, so I suddenly made a connexion between a concept we study in islamic architecture and a news business idea. Urban earthlings departs from this concept of waqf system where a commercial project shares all its benefits and proceeds for social projects. I decided that this was what I’m going to do. I’m gonna bring more sustainable basic products to the people and give most of the money to support the social projects and charities I’m really passionate about.
Some social projects erected around 4 pillars that we can find on your website, can you talk to us about it?
Yes of course! Basically, I’m involved in 4 main projects. The first one is the financing of dogs and equids shelters. The second one is reforestation projects I’m supporting here and there, although I’m also working on a massive tree plantation project in the future. I’m also trying to build a thrust fund in order to help egyptian students who want to study sustainable development abroad. And I also do a lot of research to relocalise my production by finding more locales alternatives in the manufacturing process. For example, I try to find some local materials with the same qualities as bamboo.
How does the Egyptian ethical products market look like today?
Most of the people are not even aware of how we exploit workers here. I know people from my generation whose families have clothes manufactured since years and still have really unfair work practices. I’m choked to see that even the young generation doesn’t have this awareness. This is why I only want to work with partners which are aligned with my ethics, which creates a lot of problems and makes my products more expensive because even for making a simple tote bag, I want to be sure that it has been made in avery clean and safe working space for its employees. Today, there are few initiatives like Very Nile or Up-fuse and we were recently brought together in a meeting with the ministry of environment to discuss how we could go further. It is very important to unite our forces because I deeply believe that community is what brings us forward
What are your projects for the future?
I would like to launch new products, to work on a better social media strategy so I can communicate on my projects and especially get involved in more awareness events and campaigns like some clean ups for example.