Manuela Wall grows a better future with her upcycled planters: Green Route

In this week’s Lockdown Life I catch up with Manuela Wall, the founder of Growbag, a small business in Cape Town that upcycles discarded advertising billboard material into eye-catching and eco-conscious planters.

I’ve known Manuela Wall, founder of Growbag, for about five years. I was looking for eco-conscious products and people in Cape Town to feature on my new blog. Manuela’s Growbags caught my eye – they are bright and colourful – plus they’re made from upcycled billboard signs. I went to visit her in the workshop and saw how the sturdy material is cut and stitched together with industrial sewing machines.

By Manuela Wall

I am 42 years old, was born in Split, Croatia and grew up in Berlin, Germany. I studied Marketing and Communications and at the end of 2006 I came to Cape Town for a holiday and stayed.

I got more interested in sustainability when asked to find upcycled products for a European client while running my online shop and sourcing business called in 2013.

Being European the consciousness about recycling and waste is instilled in me and so I was wondering what happens to the huge billboard advertising banners that one sees all over town on buildings and highways. While brainstorming products/sizes etc. and partnering up with an outdoor advertising media company in Cape Town – TRACTOR Outdoor – that is supplying me with most of the billboard material I started the Growbag project. I got to know the Soil For Life organisation and the wonderful work they are doing in underprivileged communities teaching people how to make their own soil and compost to grow their own veggies and live sustainably. The aim of my project was to make advertisers aware of their own waste, to create something beautiful out of it and to donate planters to urban gardeners in underprivileged communities.

Watch this video by Beautiful News SA showing how Manuela and her team transform old billboards into beautiful planters.

I live in Kenilworth with my husband and our beautiful daughter Stella and we have two cats. We live next door to my in-laws, my husband’s younger brother and their dog.

Lockdown life was pretty good, as I finally got to work through most of the things that were on my To Do list for ages, that is when we finally got into a rhythm of managing our time around our toddler’s schedule.

The effect of lockdown has been tough on the business as the main source of sales came from our stall at the OZCF market and the Watershed store and so unfortunately we had to scale down our staff in order to stay alive. This was the toughest thing to do as we grew into an amazing team in the last year and so having to lay half the team off was heartbreaking. And so going online was the only solution.

I updated my online shop and worked on marketing the Growbag products. It was slow at the start but picked up as people started to understand that living sustainably and growing one’s own food is the way to go. Most of our clients are people who already have a Growbag, which makes me so proud, as this means that we have real fans out there and that we have created a product that works! People are also taking more notice about their waste, where it goes and what it does to the planet, which makes me have a positive view about the future and reinforces my passion for what I do.

Lockdown Life:  Five Favourites

Soil For Life – a walk in their veggie garden is always an inspiration!

Norval Foundation – walk in the gallery garden is my favourite!

Newlands forest – for a good tree hug J and the recharge of mind and lungs!

Sea Point Promenade – for the smell of sea breeze and beautiful horizon views!

Beach walks – for the holiday feeling of having the feet buried in sand..

Businesses and initiatives to support:

Olive Handmade Soaps Because they do the best soaps in the world

OZCF Market in Granger Bay For the best experience in conscious shopping

The Beach Co-op For the great work they are doing in educating people about reducing ocean waste

The Watershed For the most amazing support they offered their traders / small businesses during lockdown incl. all kinds of interesting business related webinars. We’re looking forward to reopen our store in the Watershed first week of September!

Food Flow and Umthunzi Farming Community Love these for the way they are getting consumers see the importance of supporting small local farming communities

Typical Lockdown Day

Being kept busy by my beautiful toddler girl child. Studio production, admin and all things work related. I wish I could carve out more time to do things for myself and things like yoga etc,

What I appreciate most about lockdown The time we had with our baby girl and getting to know each other all over again..

What make me happy Little things like delicious food – homemade bread,  sunshine, walks on the beach or in the forest and stories of kindness. I love to see how excited people get when they discover our project/products.

Plant up potatoes in Growbag’s new easy-access design

We’ve got a new product! A potato planter that has a pocket for easy access of the harvest. (R290) What sets us apart from other similar products is that our planters have drainage hole and you can plant straight into them (except for the XS planter). 

The stripy range has a printed vinyl body but recycled base. All the other planter are 100% recycled from old billboard advertising material. We now offer a gardening starter kit with soil/compost and seeds from Soil For Life. Our floor mat is a new product that we have added for all that want to keep the mess of gardening to a minimum: R350. Our single and double pockets can be ordered in various colour with and without print/graphics.

Growbag on Facebook . Growbag website . Growbag on Instagram


Get 10% off Hemporium SA own-brand clothing, accessories and cosmetics

Hemporium SA sells sustainable clothing, accessories and cosmetics online. My Hemporium SA bag made from hemp twine by the women at H18 Foundation eco-NPO is my favourite and it’s great to be able to support an NPO when buying a tote. Did I mention how much I love my hemp twine tote? Use the GRZA discount code at the Hemporium SA online store checkout and get 10% off Hemporium SA own-brand clothing, accessories and cosmetics.

Note: GRZA discount applies only to Hemporium SA’s own-brand clothing, cosmetics and accessories, it does not apply to nutritional products like CBD, or to fabric or building materials.

Published by Melanie Farrell

Founder of Green Route ZA - the path to eco-conscious living. I live in Cape Town, South Africa.

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