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What is Efficiency? What is Stress? Searching….

 

Since the inception of Aarohana EcoSocial Developments in 2013 and our UPCYCLED-HANDWOVEN products in 2015, we have grown multi-fold now, from 2 to 24 now!  The first few years went in developing our unique concept of ECOSOCIAL development, identifying our location, setting up the workshop, training the tribals to become good artisans, developing designs, improving product quality, building market, gathering LOADSSS of outside support, streamlining financials and so on. However, now that we are getting a little settled on those points, questions of operational efficiency started making rounds of our admin team. Businesses got to be EFFICIENT, right?

So, since the past few months, we have started tracking our production efficiency more seriously. We realized that because we are personally present in the Pune workshop, things get tracked easily and operational efficiency is easier to manage. But the story at our tribal workshop was different, the statistics were inconsistent. Sometimes the production was great, sometimes it slacked. Quality of work was always good, but the numbers were inconsistent. So we decided to study, why is it so?

We watched the team very closely and tried to study various metrics. In the village, we have a team of 12 members now, all young tribals, 90% women/girls. Many ideas of improving efficiency were bounced back and forth within the admin team, such as the common ‘Carrot and stick approach’ i.e., rewarding them for  meeting the production goal, and penalizing for not meeting the target, giving training on efficiency improvements, motivation (actually, scolding) sessions to the team, and so on. They all worked, but not on a long run. After a few days, things got back to normal! And the best part was, even after multiple sessions of me blasting them for inefficiency, there was very little attrition in the team. Those who joined, stuck around. It was such a puzzle for me! Such a mystery!

This week, when I went on my routine visit, I took a very different approach, for a change. I just sat behind quietly watching them work, without giving any inputs at all. And I realized something really very important! I saw that they came on time, did their job properly, left for their lunch break, came back and continued their work and left in the evening. They were chatting, laughing, teasing each other, working very playfully. There was chaos in the way they worked, a little bit of indiscipline as well. Yes, it slowed down the efficiency a little bit. But hey, when I think of the best part, one important aspect was missing, the STRESS.
They weren’t stressed at all!!!

It was as if, they had come there to play, and by-the-way, work and earn an income. Financial motivation worked very little on them. For them, their basic pace of life is of utmost importance to them! Their relationships are their highest priority. They don’t mind bunking a day or two of work, if their mother is sick, their family needs help on the farm, if they need to go or get some firewood from the forest… All this is a high priority. And work is fun, where they meet their friends and get to gossip about others in the village. What a fun way to work?

And I started thinking, what are we doing under our vision of LIVELIHOOD generation. Are we creating another stressed out workforce in the village, like we all have in the cities? Or are we truly enhancing their lives, without changing their foundation. Are we training them to live a more meaningful life, or are we going to them to learn how to live life stress-free?

It has now become extremely important for me to find the answers for the following questions and more!!! What is efficiency? What is time? What is independence? What is our VISION?

The SEARCH begins!

 

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Aarohana’s Upcycled-Handwoven Products turn 3!!!

Happy Birthday To Us! Happy Birthday To Us! Happy Birthday! Happy- Happy Birthday! Happy Birthday to Us!

Yay! We are 3 years old. You can surely tell, we are excited. And why wouldn’t we be? In this past 3 years Aarohana Upcycled Handwoven has grown heaps upon heaps ( heaps upon heaps of Upcycled Plastic Bags and other products, that is).

These heaps of growth wouldn’t have been without you, our lovely customers and patrons.

You were there, loving and supporting us, throughout this wonderful journey. And it is time we, Team Aarohana, give you a little something-something. What could it be? A little box of happiness perhaps? Scroll down below, to see the exciting offers and gifts we have got for you. There is #somethingforeveryone.

*All you have to do is send us a little video or a photo testimonial, perhaps of your Aarohana Product and you get a special gift from Aarohana, right in time for the festive season.

**Shop at Pune Store or shop online and get and a free gift.

***And last but not the least, a special offer for our loyal customers. Bring in or ship your damaged Aarohana Product and we will repair it for free. Plus you also get a free gift

Come over and visit our new Office and take up these wonderful offers, before all our products are off the shelf.

Like we said, there is #Somethingforeveryone and no one will leave unhappy. Be a part of our birthday month celebrations and enjoy our wide variety of upcycled handwoven products, made with love and care of our #Upcyclingwarriors and Artisans.

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Messengers into the Future!

When we started Aarohana EcoSocial Developments 5 years back, the purpose was to spread this message of ‘EcoSocial’ development to all parts of the country. My partner, Nandan Bhat and I travelled the length and breadth of India; we went to Kashmir, Karnataka, Jharkhand, Gujarat, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, ofcourse Maharashtra and Dadra Nagar Haveli (where we now have our workshops) and many more places. We didn’t just travel leisurely, but took up surveys, impact studies, implemented some grassroot level projects; all in the areas of Sanitation, Education, Livelihoods, Health, Waste management, Water conservation and a lot more. The first 2 years were filled with curiosity and an urge to learn and understand the current status the society and the environment were dealing with. We worked with all kinds of people, villagers and urban dwellers, tribals and non-tribals, rich and poor, young and old! But guess, who were the most receptive and reactive of all? Yes, CHILDREN and YOUTH! No matter which state, which religion or caste, which gender, children and youth were the most receptive. They understood what we were saying; without any bias or prejudice. That’s the difference, elders are biased against a particular group of people, religion, caste, geography, political party and so on. But children are so pure. They are the closest to existence that we can get. If nurtured well, they can be our ONLY messengers into the future!
When I was a kid, the whole of concept that plastic is not good for our environment was sown into my mind by my science teacher. She might not even be aware what she had done right now, but I am thankful to her for this incident: I was in my 8th grade, studying in Silvassa, when I had participated in a science seminar contest, where we were to present on the topic of Waste Management. These were days before the internet, so researching was spending time reading books in a library, or spending time interviewing other learned people. We also didn’t have easy access to computers to create powerpoint slides nor projectors to display them. So, the entire lecture was handwritten and the chart were also created by sketching manually. It was lots of effort, and my seminar was also unique and appreciated by everyone. Most importantly, it was a changing point in my life, where I realized what plastic and other non-biodegradable material were doing, and if not handled on time, are bound to create a havoc! I stopped taking polythene bags from shops. They would be surprised as to what was wrong with this kid! The funny part is, even today I do the same to shopkeepers and they wonder, what is wrong with this woman!! 😀 I only wish that their childhood would have been as impactful as mine!

At Aarohana EcoSocial Developments, we started our UPCYCLING project 3 years back, and believe me, since the very beginning our largest supporters have been children and students across all age groups. They have collected waste for us, generated awareness about not using disposable plastic, not creating waste and in-fact, making their parents switch to greener alternatives such as using Aarohana’s upcycled-handwoven products. Our office workshops are also very popular with a younger age group, as they are always keen to learn.

 

The most recent example is of the students from St. Michael’s Ahmednagar, who collected loads of plastic from their classmates, packed it very efficiently, and brought it to our doorstep in Pune. Their teachers and the Principal were to their support all this while. And now, they have even planned an event in their school, where they all plan to sell our products to visitors. We are so proud of them for taking this bold step. Below are some pictures from their visit to our office.

 

So, if you are parent, teacher or an adult, please make sure to you create situations where your children or students or any child around you, is positively impacted. First, you yourself spend some time reading about conscious and sustainable living, and make these experiences available for them. Instead of teaching them through lectures, let them learn and grow with such experiences. Their mind is like a huge sponge, which absorbs what they see, hear and experience! You are more than welcome to visit us at our Pune workshop!
If you are a child, reading this blog, then you are on the right track already! 🙂

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Treks, Trekkers and Trash!

I have been trekking in various mountain ranges for over 18 years now.  I started trekking in the Sahyadri mountains and forts of Maharashtra, but the boundless nature of the sport, took me to the Americas to hike in the Rockies, Smokies, the Grand Canyon, the Zion Canyon, Paulo Duro Canyon and finally the mightiest of all, the Himalayas of India!
  • Trekking makes you realize how tiny you are in front of the vast canvas of existence. It literally shows you your place! So, I go to them every year, just to remind myself of this ultimate truth!
  • When trekking was not so popular, very few of us went up the mountains and most of us being nature lovers, made sure that we didn’t leave back our ‘mark’.. However, with the advent of internet, and the breath-catching, picturesque locations being posted on social media platforms, a huge crowd has started making their journey into the mountains.  Definitely, some are humble lovers of the nature and are very aware of their footprint. Such trekkers are most welcome! However, a majority of the so-called ‘trekkers’ are going to the mountains with very little awareness of their impact on the ecology as well as the society neighboring these treks.  Unfortunately, the disease called ‘consumerism’ is as active in them in these far flung areas, as much as it is in the cities. They bring along, the same junk food, biscuits, wafers, noodles, juices, chocolates, water, disposable cutlery and what not. Mimicking them, enterprising villagers set up stalls to sell this junk instead of selling their home grown traditional food, which is far more tastier, healthier and environmentally friendly. But our urban dwellers are blinded by their unhealthy lifestyles, and leave the trash they generate, behind in the nature, expecting that their city municipalities are going to come behind them to the mountains to clean up their trash. Well, they pay taxes you see!!
  • But alas, that never happens.. Neither the municipalities, nor the gram panchayats clean this trash. Some mindful villagers do gather this trash, but have no other way to dispose it, other than setting it on fire. What they don’t understand is, that they are breathing poison with the fumes that burning trash emits; polluting their own lungs and the fresh air for which trekkers visit these places. Such has become the condition!
Aarohana's UPCYCLED-HANDWOVEN Beach bag made of Waste Plastic bags and Wrappers
  • Don’t you feel something must be done about this??  My partner and I felt the same for several years, and that was one of the reasons why we founded Aarohana EcoSocial Developments in 2013 and now, are succesfully upcycling a lot of plastic!
  • Many of you already know the story of our UPCYCLED-HANDWOVEN products made from waste plastic, for others, do check us out on www.aarohana.org ...
  • So, as I mentioned earlier, my love for trekking takes me to the mountains each year, and to my solace, this years’  trek was not just an excursion!! It was bundled with something more!!
  • I had heard a lot about Indiahikes, so I started reading more about them since last year, and came across their Green Trails project. As I read about them on https://indiahikes.com/green-trails/, I was so amazed that Indiahikes was not just another money-making endeavour to introduce urbaners to the mountains, but they were taking one step further to conserve them. I got in touch with them, introduced Aarohana’s work and congratulated them on their efforts. I brainstormed with Laxmi (who is the Green Trails Lead) about potential ways I could contribute with my experience working with this sector. We had various conversations and even got the opportunity to meet her and their founder, Arjun during my visit to Bengaluru last year. They both motivated me to go visit their most popular trek Roopkund, and witness the important work Green Trails has undertaken to clean up tonnes of trash from the mountains.   With several deliberations of whether I want to spend my vacation on a crowded trek, I finally pushed myself into it. A dear friend Sucheta and I registered and also decided on spending a few days after the trek helping Green Trails in whatever way possible.
Waste plastic strewn behind a roadside dhaba
  • The dawn on 25th July, we hopped into a bus to Lohajung from Kausani, we had halted for the night.
  • As I sat on the bus, appreciating the nature, I realized that as any town or city came by, there was a heap of trash at the entry and exit of each village and the streams and rivers seemed constricted by trash thrown under the bridge.
       
  • As Lohajung approached, my anxiety of seeing a similar scene was daunting me. But to my surprise, it wasn’t that bad!!  Also, the entire trek to and back from Roopkund, was quite clean… opposite of what I had imagined and was told by friends. How was this even possible? What were Indiahikes and Green trails doing to make this happen? How were they taking this difficult task of working with trekkers and villagers in making this happen? I had to think and analyse it!  This is a small effort in listing down my points, without making it too long:
  1. The modest ‘EcoBag’ – This is a small waist-pouch given to each trekker. It’s each trekker’s responsibility to bring back their own trash down with them. I found this poster at Indiahikes Loharjung camp:
  2. Wall poster at IH Campsite - Lohajung.. Isnt it true?
  3. In addition, each trekker can also help pick up trash left behind by other irresponsible trekkers. This modest EcoBag has done wonders!
  4. Collection from Dhabawalas – These are village-based entrepreneurs, who have setup shacks to sell tea, maggi, omelette and junk food. Earlier, these Dhabawala used to throw away their trash in the mountains and sometimes burn it up. Now, the Dhabawalas are made aware of the problems this causes, and hence all of them store their trash in segregated sacks, and hand it over to the Indiahikes team. This is then brought down by mules at the expense of Indiahikes.
  5. Segregation by Green trails Volunteers and Fellows – The sacks of waste collected by Dhabawalas and segregated bins at the base camp are manually segregated by the Green trails team. The recyclables are sent to a nearby city and rest is sent to a city landfill. Hats off to the dedication of the Green Trails volunteers and staff.
    Bench made using bottle bricks at a bus stop in Muling.
  6. The ‘Bottle brick’ project: Some ‘Trekkers’ are addicted to aerated drinks and mineral water. They consider fresh spring water, fresh lime juice or rhododendron flower juice as LS (Low Status)! Hence, lots of bottle trash is generated. In addition, there are lots of non-recyclable wrappers of biscuits, chocolates, candies and so on. The idea of Green Trails was to start making Bottle bricks, by stuffing over 100 wrappers in each bottle. The bottle is so stuffed now, that is as hard as a brick. This is used to make benches, tables and lots more. Students from village schools are also giving a hand in making such bottle bricks and are excited about making tables and chairs at home. How cool!
  7. Pillows from waste: Women in the villages aremaking pillows from waste clothes and plastic wrappers. These are then sold to trekkers as trekking-pillows. Plans are to sell these online! I’m just excited imagining how much waste could go into each of these pillows!
  8. Little Rukmini gathers waste around her house to stuff it in her bottle brick!
    Waste-free houses: They have identified 5 houses in neighbouring villages, and the family members are being trained to live a waste-free life… Could we do this in our cities as well?
  9. Education: Green trails volunteers and fellows go around schools and teach them environmental science. Again, Hats off to their dedication!
There is a lot more work which is being carried out by Indiahikes and their Green Trails project. Words wont be enough! I was so happy that my vacation enabled me to undertake such a useful task, extremely close to my heart. I have taken back some learnings from this, and now plan to implement them in our tribal village, where Aarohana’s upcycling project is being run. Aarohana’s entire focus is on non-recyclable waste and such partners as Indiahikes are a treasured relationship. I’m glad we connected and I hope that we, as Aarohana EcoSocial Developments, can associate with Indiahikes in the near future. A message for all trekkers from the bottom of my heart: Let’s pledge that we keep our mountain ecology intact and keep our humble villagers away from the consumeristic societies we all come from! Let’s leave a better planet for our future generations to come, witness and cherish!  I’m sure no one likes to see trash when they are on a trek! Let’s not leave any for them!