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How did I start asking ‘Stories’ behind the stuff I bought?

I grew up in the 1990s when consumerism was growing fast; especially with the advent of television, media and advertising! I remember our buying choices had also started changing and new brands were entering our homes. Like the best advertisement of shampoo and soap by Diana Hayden or Juhi Chawla were our favorites! So was true with upcoming food brands, which were replacing our traditional breakfast of ‘sattu-jaggery porridge’, with what the advertisements said was tastier and ‘healthier’! My sister and I always asked for the latest products looking at these advertisements and our generous parents got us what we wanted! Shopping malls had started popping up and as we grew up, we started visiting them, instead of the local retail clothing stores in the neighborhood or getting clothes stitched from local tailors.
 
As I grew older, and had started earning for myself as a proud IT engineer, times were super exciting! Usually, the first week of every month was a planned shopping spree with friends to the nearest city mall, where global brands started catching our attention. This grew even better when I landed up with a job in the Consumer’s Paradise i.e the United States of America! And even better, my job was right in Downtown Chicago, with the sprawling State Street and Michigan Avenue (or Magnificent Mile!!) just a hop away! That got all the best brands in my wardrobe! Who cared about what materials were used, where were the products made, who made them, how were they made, what dyes were used, whether it helped any artisan or not    … What mattered the most was the “SALE” signboard outside the shop!
Then, started online deals, and shopping!! Consumerism has never grown so exponentially before!!!
 
DOES MY STORY SOUND LIKE MOST OF YOURS’ AS WELL?
 
However, while in the US itself, I had started attending many ‘Green’, ‘Sustainable’ and ‘Conscious’ events.. I heard Blake Mycoskie (of Tom’s shoes), Jim Gibbons (the blind CEO of Goodwill), Vandana Shiva (of Navdanya), Ray Anderson (of Interface carpets) and many other renowned people, who were trying to bring about a change in how consumers could think or how products could (or SHOULD) be designed and made CONSCIOUSLY and not gobbling up the entire planet with our ‘greed’… I started reading numerous books.. and yes, my work consulting on sustainability, with some of the biggest brands of the world including Starbucks, Mattel, Staples and so on, made me start to realize the change in my own thought process!
 
That’s when the concept of ‘Greed vs Need’ sank inside me!!
 
Thats about the same time, when I had decided to move back to India and for the first few months, I was to stay in the Financial and Consumer capital of Mumbai (a city of 20 million people!!!!).. The market was no different than what I had experienced in the US..
 
The real ‘conscious’ change started when I stepped out of the city and into rural India.. and started to understand the lifestyle, the mindset, the impact of the urban consumerism on our own natural ecosystems.. Thats how REAL India was! I was lucky to spend time with many change leaders, who had consciously changed their own lifestyle. My business partner Nandan, and I started traveling all over to experience the real India. We went to non-touristic places of Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Himachal, UP, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Goa, Dadra Nagar Haveli, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu…everywhere! . We were fortunate to get some very good projects to work on as consultants, in the early years of Aarohana EcoSocial Developments. So, that kept our families satisfied of our explorations 🙂
After watching the other side of ‘just being a consumer’, I started realizing some very important questions which I had ignored earlier:
what materials were being used, where were the products made, who made them, how were they made, whether it helped any artisan or not?? WHAT WAS THE STORY BEHIND EACH PRODUCT THAT I HAD USED till now?
 
I had started becoming more conscious! I literally asked all the sellers/resellers in the city ‘Whats the story of this product?’. If not all, I made sure that I bought the product which ticked atleast a few of the questions above! My wardrobe now had more of cotton (even organic cotton) silk, wool, handspun/handwoven, naturally dyed fabric, block prints, hand painted, or things made by non-profits working for the underprivileged. Even food and consumer choices changed to more organic, hand-threshed, handmade, natural, sustainable (even sustainably packaged) and so on!
 
 
I was a regular at farmers markets and handicraft fairs (as a shopper and later as a participant ;))
The shopping had a MEANING..and though I had to seldom spend an extra buck, I knew that the extra price was for the extra effort taken to CONSERVE THE ENVIRONMENT or HELP THE SOCIETY. I was happy to trade that extra rupee for the many unnecessary expenditures I anyways incurred!
 
Being a conscious shopper now enabled us to launch and implement all these practices in our own conscious brand ‘AAROHANA’S UPCYCLED-HANDWOVEN’ fashion accessories, daily utility and home decor products! With this thought process, we could develop each and every aspect of our brand consciously… Right from what material we use, to where we source the material from, to where it is made, who makes it, how its made, whom do we hire, where do we exhibit, whom do we partner with, how do we plan to expand….everything is ECOSOCIAL!
And I am very proud of this venture that Nandan and I have setup with our lovely team… And it gives even more pleasure when we get accolades for our work from of you, all around the world, our lovely supporters and conscious consumers!
 
We WEAVE  a STORY every single day! Be it with our artisans, our staff, or our selfless interns and mentors, or be it with our wonderful customers! We thank you all for believing in our STORY and helping us create more stories together!
 
I didnt know that the Journey to being a CONSCIOUS SHOPPER would be so interesting.. .and I am enjoying every moment of it!
 
By,
Amita Deshpande
Founder 
Aarohana EcoSocial Developments

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Why upcycled home decor is in high demand?

Cushion Covers from waste plastic

 

Things were thrown away and were considered trash after it served its purpose, are now finding its way back into people’s home. People are now looking for options that are more eco-friendly, can give a new twist to their home décor and also to cut down on spending because honestly buying new furniture isn’t cheap.

India generates 1,00,000 metric tonne of waste every day. In fact, cities in India rate among the top in generating garbage in large quantities. About 82% is collected and 28% is treated and processed. Much of it goes to landfills, open dump grounds and/or is on the streets, frequently clogging drains.

Repurposing or upcycling old furniture, things like glass bottles, tires, barrels etc., has become one of the hottest trends around the world. More and more DIY (do it yourself) and craft enthusiasts are posting videos on Instagram, YouTube, Facebook for viewers about transforming the junk and throw-away things into practical pieces for home décor. We all clean our homes once in a while but there are few things we immediately want to get rid off! Wait… don’t be too hasty in throwing away things!

For example, tires can be converted into sitting stools; same with barrels, entertainment centers can be repurposed into garden or for children's play kitchens; and coffee tables can be repurposed into ottomans, bottles can be use for lighting purposes, old car seats can be upcycled to restaurant’s sitting, an old dressing table with a missing/broken door(s), can be turned into an open storage dresser (remove the drawers completely). Open storage dressers can be used for keeping folded towels, linens or clothes, and can also be used in the garden with various sizes of pots on it and much more.

Grow Pot made from plastic waste

While waste management is the process of segregating and recycling the waste; upcycling adds value by transforming or reinventing an otherwise-disposable item into something of higher quality. It is the “in-demand” to upcycled and now there is a whole industry which is coming up.

Presently, we live in such a world where there is no room for error. Just because we are recycling now that doesn’t mean we increase our consumerism and then throw it all away. We need to take a step back, evaluate and change our patterns because upcycling is the only way forward!

If we look at Indian history, recycling has roots in our traditions; it is embedded in us as individuals. For example, we don’t discard clothes unless we use for rags and dusters till they can’t be used any further. Upcycling and recycling are not new to India; it’s been going on for years.

Hence, the more we buy, the more we waste, and it all ends up in landfills, where it will sit for a few hundred years before bio-degrading even begins!! There are endless possibilities that can be created from materials already in hand. So, the better idea will be to reuse and repurpose what you already have. All it takes is some creativity and imagination, we just need to get our creative thoughts flowing and think about the environment and………

…….. Voila! You have a new, beautiful UPCYCLED creation of home décor in your home!

 

There are so many great ideas out there; we just need to do a little research on Google or Pinterest to get your creative ideas flowing because it is a great idea indeed. In fact, this has become an earning job for many people.

- by Shivalika Mohan

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Being Sustainable

Every individual on this planet wants to survive and persist in the best possible way. For better living, we all adopt some standards and habits from childhood as per our backgrounds. Some standards like using sanitizer are good but can be affordable by some set of people whereas poor people cannot. So as per financial background and culture, our standard of living can be defined. We often get busy with the trendy habits which are materialistic which describes the above example of sanitizer. But we often ignore to take care of natural assets which we are utilizing and consuming daily. We need to be aware and take care of our planet and the environment.

Everything in nature is made up of five basic elements: earth, water, fire, air, and space. These elements are unique and precious. Let’s have gratitude towards our earth which definitely doesn’t need money and any standards. It can be easy to sustain if we develop some eco-friendly habits in our daily life.

Let’s take some examples of what sustainability means……..

SAY NO TO PLASTIC

Resources are limited and therefore, their overutilization is leading to their extinction. The waste generated is also exceeding the absorptive capacity of the environment. Rivers and other waterways are getting increasingly polluted due to the excessive dumping of wastes into them. This waste includes plastic sources which are very hazardous. Let’s focus individually on this problem for a minute. If we really adapt to use paper bags or eco-friendly ways then we all together can avoid this situation. We can avoid using plastic bags for each and every daily need which we do unknowingly. There are many ecofriendly organizations in every city nowadays where we can do submission of waste material like plastic and in turn, they convert this into useful materials. This is the best-explained example of sustainability.

SAVE WATER

Again as a responsible human being, we should respect to save water. Water is such a scarce resource and with more and more news of areas fighting with water shortages and droughts, saving water and using it more efficiently has become an absolute necessity. Even if your home has an abundant supply of water, saving water and reducing wastage becomes a common responsibility towards our future generations. Reducing your water usage will also reduce electricity used directly or indirectly.

AVOID AIR POLLUTION

Air pollution has a major impact on the environment, climate change or global warming and on human health.

We all can, of course, avoid air pollution. Traffic congestion on inadequate road infrastructure is a daily reality of India’s urban centers. Increased traffic leads to carbon consumption in the air which leads to heavy pollution. It can be prevented by avoiding trips of vehicles by accommodating only one individual. We can start syndicates which can prevent traffic congestion. We can shift to electric vehicles and promote shared mobility.

From a poor person To a rich person, From a salaried To a business person, From a child To an old person, We all firstly belong to Earth and get a ray of sun. We all own our mother earth as her daughter and son. We all need to take initiatives to avoid pollution. Let’s all be responsible by BEING SUSTAINABLE…!!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        – By Aparna Burghate 

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Plastic Ban In Maharashtra

 
As I wait for the signal to turn from red to green, a woman walks up to me and say, “Please buy garbage bags, throwing away trash will be easy for you, since the government has banned plastic bags”.

On 23rd June, the Maharashtra government banned plastic, citing harm done to the environment and animals, across the whole state. The government enforced the ban with immediate effect and the person who violates the law will be fined from 5,000 to 10,000 for the first time and second time offense and the third time offender will be charged 25,000 as well as 3 months of imprisonment.

Plastic is bad. Period. Everyone knows how damaging it is to the environment. The plastic takes more the 500 years to decompose. Animals die a horrible death after eating them; the marine life is suffering terribly due to plastic being dumped in oceans. The Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan (Clean India Movement) campaign aims to achieve the vision of a ‘Clean India’ by 2nd October 2019. The streets are littered with plastic bags, the wild animals continue to feast upon them because most of the garbage is thrown away food, resulting in the death of the animals as well as creating pollution while it is being burned down. Maharashtra is the second populous state in India and the government had enough reasons to ban plastic; the state generates 1,200 tonnes of plastic waste every day. Plastic packaging contributes to almost half of all the plastic waste and much of it is thrown away immediately after consumption. Some plastic wastes are collected and processed/recycled, while the remaining plastic goes into drains, streets or is dumped in landfills.

Many vendors, traders, consumers blame the government for implementing the law without any proper implementations and alternatives in place. But, a ban can only succeed if all the stakeholders participate in making our environment safe. One can’t expect the government to do all the work; everyone has to do their own bit to build a safe environment for the generations to come. Until and unless vendors stop giving products in plastic packaging, consumers will not think of adopting other measures. Presently, we live in such a world where there is no room for error. The implementation was right but it wasn’t well thought. People need cheaper alternatives otherwise they will continue to use cheap, single-use plastic. Why? Because it’s easier. After 6 months of the plastic ban in Maharashtra, walk into any rustling vegetable market and ask for 100 grams of garlic and ginger and it will come in colorful see-through plastic. A vendor without hesitation and fear of the law whips out plastic bags and the consumers? They happily purchase it. We don’t think twice about it! Why? Plastic is cheap and yes, it is easily available but at what cost? Are we so willing to destroy our environment for the future generations that we can’t make an extra effort? But this is where one’s conscience comes into play; customers should carry their own bags when they go out to purchase. Many of us have gone to the hills and stood at the echo points. We experience that whenever we throw our sound across the hills, it reverberates and bounces back to us. The same is with our environment, the more we thrown trash and abuse it, and it will bounce back with us with a lot more. Look what happened during the monsoon 2018 in Mumbai. The whole marine drive was filled with 9 tonnes of trash, mostly containing plastic waste which was thrown back and the sea proudly said to us, “No, Thank you, keep your trash with yourself”. Are we so willing to put our future’s future to risk? We have to stop and think about how one act of ours will affect our present as well as future generations to come. Also, the last but not the least, the plastic ban will help the government to collect tonnes of plastic. But the question arises what to do with the plastic? Plastic can be recycled into making of roads, public benches, clothes, accessories, fuel etc. Our Prime Minister Narendra Modi pushes the plan to end the use of single-use plastic in India by 2022 and as responsible citizens, we have to do out a bit also! 

By – Shivalika Mohan

By Shivalika Mohan