As we continue to follow International Women’s Day across the month, we celebrate Nelly Gesare of Green Thing.

Nelly Gesare is the founder and creative drive behind Green Thing, producer of sustainable and eco-friendly home products in Kenya. Nelly didn’t originally set out to be an eco campaigner. Coming from the Kisii area, she moved to Nairobi for studies and began working in journalism. While doing so, she saw a big gap in the discussion about environment and sustainability, especially here in Kenya. Further spurred by the birth of her children, and the desire to create a non-toxic home for them, Green Thing evolved.

We caught up with Nelly for a chat about how the landscape of sustainability has changed since she entered the field.

Pursuing green living, as a mum, as an African woman, as a female business owner, Nelly’s goal is to provide both knowledge and products for people to transition to a greener lifestyle. She wants mums to be able to buy a locally made product that is good for them and their children. Green Thing makes things such as dish soap from coconut oil, bamboo dish brushes, and products that focus on re-use, like metal straws and refillable spray bottles. As far as possible, Green Thing products are made in Kenya. At this point that is 70%.

photo credit: Green Thing


As well as selling eco products, Green Thing looks at sustainability holistically and encourages customers to live a life as close to zero waste and non-toxic as possible. They offer sustainable living workshops to assist clients in achieving a green home. They look at what products customers can swap out and how to avoid plastic waste. If you follow Green Thing on social media, you’ll see lots of tips for cleaning your home without toxins.

“If you can manage how much waste is produced in the household, surely we can manage our resources as a country”

Green Thing began as a concept about 12 years ago, originally intended to be a platform to share information around environmental advocacy. Sustainability practice in Kenya has come a long way in a decade, but at that time Nelly found that there was no one to look to for examples of good environmental practice. As one of the first women involved in the circular economy here, she has seen some changes.

These days, sustainability has become a buzzword. Nelly points out that this can have the power to change, but can also water down the message and lead to greenwashing.

To Nelly, sustainability is very much tied to social justice and equity. For many people in Kenya, having access to clean, running water is more of a priority than purchasing a bamboo toothbrush. There needs to be a society in which people are healthy enough and educated enough to grapple with the issues around the environment. Solutions can then come from local experience, with circularity as part of sustainability: people look after what they have if it’s not disposable. Nelly’s views on sustainability being social as well as environmental show up in her employment practices, collaborating with her staff and empowering them to try out their own ideas for new Green Thing products.

See Also

photo credit: Green Thing

Locally led solutions

Nelly and her team look to locally led solutions and integrate local cultural elements into the design of the products. They hope to remind people that there was a way to do things before the introduction of plastics and disposables. For example, Green Thing uses lesos to make reusable make-up removers. A leso is very much part of Kenyan culture, and is used as a towel, a wrap, a gift for new mothers and more. Why not use this same item for make-up removal rather than buying into throwaway culture of disposables?

These are the ideas that Nelly is concerned with, more than the selling of the eco products.

So, having said that creating eco products is not the end game for Green Thing, what are the next steps? One goal for Green Thing is to create a central hub of access to various green initiatives. Currently, the community is fragmented and would benefit from collaboration.

Green Thing envisages their products as a talking point. Buying a bamboo toothbrush does not make a lifestyle green, but hopefully choosing to purchase an eco product will provoke thoughts of moving further into a lifestyle of sustainability.

Connect with Green Thing on and @greenthing.kenya