“We felt that children were an untapped audience un-exposed to the need to lead a sustainable lifestyle,” say Alia Tobala and Farida El Araby, co-founders of Nebny.
As two young Egyptian women with a perpetual interest in leading and promoting a sustainable lifestyle, Alia and Farida, who describe themselves as “two peas in a pod”, realized the need to introduce the concept of sustainability among children in Egypt. After being partners in multiple extracurricular activities at university, they began exploring how sustainable materials can be used in different, creative ways.
Stemming from their belief that the tiniest changes in day to day activities can create a strong impact, Alia and Farida noticed that a material as simple as cardboard has endless possibilities – in February 2021, online-only store Nebny was accordingly launched.
Nebny, which translates to ‘we build’ in Arabic, creates toys that are produced with 3-layer 100 percent recyclable cardboard, offering an all-purpose solution to conventional color-in toys whilst providing children the opportunity to play safely and sustainably. Through their website, one can buy a cardboard plane, a house, and a lantern. The toys come in separate pieces. Suitable for ages two to nine, the toys can be assembled, built, and then colored, allowing children to develop their creativity, imagination, and mathematical skills.
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“We created Nebny to bridge the gap between environmentalism and entertainment in children, therefore encouraging children to explore life beyond their screens by one simple creative activity that can definitely emit massive change,” Alia and Farida tell Egyptian Streets.
In the past few years, many Egyptians have taken steps towards a more sustainable lifestyle, with the government itself passing laws to promote a more sustainable future in the country, such as banning the use of single-use or disposable plastic in the Red Sea. However, these efforts were mostly initiated and done by adults; children have not been usually considered despite the importance of raising awareness in younger generations who are bound to inherit the repercussions of climate change and contemporary environmental issues, as often highlighted by Swedish teenage activist Greta Thunberg. As such, Nebny is a rare and local example where children are the focus point.
Alia is a graduating senior at AUC, majoring in Graphic Design, and Farida, who majored in Integrated Marketing Communication, recently graduated. Although they have expressed their struggle in striking a balance in their lives as students and business owners, Alia and Farida constitute the entire Nebny team, starting from product design and manufacturing, all the way to packaging.
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“On a broader scale, we aim to alter children’s choices and interests in games and allow them to independently choose a healthier activity. Other than that, we aim to be more accessible and widespread by establishing Nebny as a concept and lifestyle, rather than simply a toy,” explain Alia and Farida.
According to Alia and Farida, Nebny encourages children to play sustainably, independently, and creatively. “Our houses are not just a piece of cardboard; they are a blank canvas of endless possibilities.”
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