Liofyllo is a Greek idiom to say olive leaf, and its founder, Ms. Alexandra Makrygeorgou, urges us to green this planet through creative recycling. She believes that “every action—and offer—should be done with respect to humanity and nature.” Only in this way will we be able to evolve as a species and create fertile ground for future generations! Read this interview to find out how a social enterprise can combine green, social, and female entrepreneurship in an innovative way.
What is Liofyllo about?
According to the legislation, the olive leaves are considered non-hazardous solid waste, just like the kernel. Most research focuses on the seeds, giving zero importance to the leaves and considering that disposing of them in adjacent fields or burning them is not harmful to the environment. It is estimated that in Greece, this waste reaches 150,000 tons per year. Liofyllo creates a novel eco-friendly material (International evaluation from WIPO – Assessment of the international patent – Copyright of member states) from untapped olive leaves and bio-based or/and biodegradable adhesives, in accordance with the principles of the circular economy.Its mission is to manage mostly the biomass of the olive leaves that is discarded during the production process of olive oil and replace materials that are not environmentally friendly (e.g., wooden panels, plastics, rocks, etc.). This new material is used for a wide variety of constructions, artworks, products, and objects in order to protect the environment and promote the Mediterranean and, in particular, the Greek culture. Until now, Liofyllo has produced the Welia (as wooden panels) and Marelia (as tiles and marble) panels. In addition, it processes panels that are destroyed during the production, and reuses them as raw material to create unique pieces of art. The products work as special souvenirs, awards, memorabilia, and works of art.
Why did you start this social innovation?
Liofyllo was created from the common concern of our team regarding the protection and “exploitation” of the environment at the same time. Our main purpose is to replace materials and products that are not eco-friendly, such as plastic or MDF, and give added value to existing products, while respecting and defending the values and norms of the circular economy. Additionally, our products promote the Mediterranean culture while extolling the Greek one.
Another main objective of Liofyllo is to highlight the environmental awareness. The ever-increasing pollution of the environment, leading to an inevitable and irreparable ecological disaster, predicts a bleak future for the coming generations. In addition, the existence of untapped raw materials, which are considered as waste while they can be exploited and recycled, has led contemporary research into the development of innovative materials. We are trying to develop a program module and a variety of actions to inform people, approach at first the new generations, as well as the third age which is a bit difficult to change habits.
How did you come up with the idea? Was a creative or collaborative process involved?
Since I finished my undergraduate studies, my desire has been to build my own business. I am the mother of two little daughters, and since my first pregnancy, I have been unemployed. My husband, Christos, is a PhD candidate in start-ups, and we also live among an olive grove. All the above characteristics, plus my aspiration to help the global effort to green this planet, were the stimuli for the creation of Liofyllo. The enterprise operates based on the environment, people, and the values and ideals of our country combined with innovation and technology. Our perspective is to become a source of inspiration for potential entrepreneurs. My dream is to grow it so that it can support the local economy and society and manage, at least in our country, the largest volume of olive leaf biomass, offering a healthy environment to society through creative recycling.
What were you afraid of at the beginning and how (if at all) did you overcome your fear?
The balance between work and family is perhaps the biggest challenge I face. When you have devoted 100% of your time to raising your children for the first 4 years of their lives and suddenly that changes, the balance of family life is lost. With the support of my husband, I have managed to normalize the situation, and I also feel more confident about what I am doing. Also, since the birth of the idea of Liofyllo, my biggest concern has been its failure because we have invested a lot of time and money to develop it. In time, however, this concern of mine was eliminated because I saw the recognition of our efforts and the admiration and appreciation in the eyes of those who had known our work.