I was fortunate enough to be invited to the Cies islands off the coast of Galicia as part of Cíes Camp 2019. Not only beautiful but also rich with history, wildlife and fauna, my time spent on the Cíes islands was full of appreciation and awe. Working with an international team of volunteers of all ages, our tasks included cleaning the trails and beaches, designing educational puppet shows, informing tourists on the wildlife within the island and reforestation workshops. As I arrived on the island, I saw the beauty that draws so many tourists to the archipelago each year – clear waters, pure sand and luscious eucalyptus forests. Working alongside a team that was compiled of some that I had met previously in England and Spain and also an international team of volunteers, each day I saw the passion behind keeping the region in its natural beauty, which was enhanced by the innovative ideas discussed in design thinking workshops.

As an allocated beach and trail cleaner, each day it was clear to see the positive impact each team of Cíes Camp members were having on the cleanliness of each beach, but there was still work to be done. We sorted through the collected refuse which included discarded food wrapping, pieces of fabric, fishing net fragments, clothing tags, cigarette buts and remnants of plastic objects – all of which were collected between the distance of the shore line to the sand dunes. Each day we recorded our findings and I was surprised to see the variety of objects that washed up on the various beaches of the island. What we also discovered was rubbish being hidden under stone benches and rocks, which was sad to find.

During the evenings, after we had enjoyed water sports activities such as paddle boarding, snorkeling and kayaking, each design thinking team worked to develop their prototype ideas which focused on providing practical solutions that visitors could utilise to protect the islands; reduce plastic waste and to inform guests of the history of its natural environment. Inspired by the reforestation workshop and learning about efforts to slowly reintroduce natural fauna back onto the island, I learned that the eucalyptus trees that I had found so attractive on arrival were actually non-native and invasive to the area. Using this as a lead I supported the ‘Bolboreta’ team with designing and making accessories, designed from waste eucalyptus bark. Working to a tight time scale, two prototype designs were created – one clutch bag and a backpack. Using my experience within the fashion and lifestyle industry, I encouraged the volunteers to think of the sort of materials that could be used alongside the bark such as new vegetable leathers and ways the bag could be constructed with as little material waste as possible and without using harmful substances that would counteract the natural focus on the design.

It was really inspiring to see each team present their ideas on the final evening and I was amazed to see what was achieved in such a short period of time. I am so grateful for having the opportunity to visit Cies, to better understand the history of the islands and to have worked with such a vibrant and passionate team. I am looking forward to hearing about the selections reviewed during an event in Porto, Portugal next year.


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