On the importance of being hypoallergenic

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The prefix “hypo” means low, below or less of. So when the prefix hypo is applied to allergens, we get hypoallergenic, a substance that is less allergic than normal. In other words a hypoallergenic substance is supposed to cause lesser allergies. Hypoallergenic is a useful term for anything that comes in contact with the skin, like personal care products or clothes.

The question is: lesser allergies than what?

An industry standard with no definition

Cosmetic companies started the usage of the term “hypoallergenic “in the 1950’s and it is now a commonly used term to describe household products, textiles and apparently pets.

Most commonly used standards in the industry, have systems for validation and certification. (For eg: Organic produce is widely regulated with many certification systems)

But there is no apparent definition or well regulated standard for hypoallergenic. This is all the more surprising since hypoallergenic sounds like a formal medical term (which it isn’t, because the medical fraternity does not recognize it). For example the Harvard medical dictionary chapter on allergies does not define hypoallergenic.

So when a product says it is ‘hypoallergenic’ what does it really mean?

  1. It does not contain allergic additives – A number of chemical additives are well documented as allergens and excluding them is an indication of hypoallergenicity. Examples of allergic additives are fragrances, bleaching agents, colour dyes
  2. It had no allergic reactions when a group of humans / animals tested it – A “patch” test is conducted on volunteers / test animals to check for allergies.  The product is applied on the volunteers’ skin and abnormal reactions like itching, irritation or redness are monitored for 12-24 hours. If no significant numbers of abnormal reactions are reported, then a hypoallergenic claim is made. Of course, the volunteer sample must be statistically valid in numbers, and in the case of human volunteers there should be a representation of different skin types to get a robust claim.

Note: We do not test on animals nor do we use animal derived ingredients at Krya.

Krya hypoallergenic standard

The Krya detergent is hypoallergenic. It is an important benefit in a detergent because clothes come into intimate, extensive contact with the skin. We have used several methods to arrive at the claim

  1. Extensive product use research for over a year
  2. It is the only detergent We use
  3. It is made from a gentle , organic fruit
  4. The fruit has been widely used as a skin and hair cleanser with use documented for hundreds of years
  5. Absolutely no dyes, bleaching agents or fragrances added. (We have added just 1 ingredient, Calcium Carbonate as a desiccant, which is a natural, edible , widely used, and well-researched ingredient )

And this is our contribution to the Hypoallergenic Hall of Fame.

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Blue screen error interrupts Blue sky thinking

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For the last couple of days we have been completely swamped by the dastardly blue screen error. For those of you who haven’t encountered one ( Google search seems to indicate this would exclusively be people  without computers or with B&W monitors), this is what a blue screen  error looks like.

Blue screen of death

This is the first time I have encountered this error & the most cursory google search showed that is also known as the “blue screen of death” which occurs when the operating system encounters a fatal  error and the system crashes.

Blue screen error is not fun and it kept increasing in its severity over several abortive attempts to boot the system. The good thing about running your company is you can rearrange all other meetings and tasks to crack the blue screen error and in the bargain gain vital IT skills. And you can write a blog post about the process and potential solutions.

Level 1

Hope this is just one of those things and reboot the PC. Then some. Then in safe mode.

Level 2

We sneak in some PC time after a normal boot and Google search points to a registry cleanup as the best bet. But then windows crashes again, so you get the registry cleaner software downloaded from another PC. So we reboot in safe mode, and then try installing the registry cleaner only to be told that new software cannot be installed in safe mode. So after a couple of reboots, the registry cleaner begins do its stuff.

Level 3

We are surprised by the sheer number, width and depth of issues that are highlighted and fixed by the registry cleaner. It’s a wonder the computer’s been functioning at all. After the first level of registry cleanup we get some normal working time and think about writing the blog post du jour.

This of course means another PC crash and brings us to level 4.

Level 4

Now we think it is time to call someone else to take a look. The first call to a laptop specialist elicits a brisk response; clearly blue screen errors are all the rage. The specialist assures us that if we reload the operating system; we will have a sure fire fix. Of course he also guarantees us that every single byte of information that we have on the computer will be lost and he is rather dicey about backups. I am surprised to be told that this entire fix would cost just Rs 800 and something tells me to probe further. The new version of windows to be loaded apparently is a “cracked” version. Any way you say it , “cracked” is still pirated and that ends the call with the laptop specialist.

Level 5

However the discussions about “cracked” software lead us to another possibility. Since we got a dell laptop with factory loaded windows, there must be some way of accessing that copy of windows which we paid for once, fair and square. As expected there is something known as Dell factory image restore, which will reset the computer to the exact state when it left the Dell factory. Again this process will delete ever single email, photo, file, profile, program on the PC , so we spend the better part of 2 hours backing up everything in sight.

The good news is that the dell factory image restore indeed licked the blue screen error. Not only that, it also gave the PC a clean start. For one year we have been accumulating several GB of data, photos, programs, freeware and we were able to un-clutter the system to a large extent.

It is never a dull day in the office at Krya.



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Why bio-degradable is not enough

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Quite often in our research on sustainability, we learn something that makes us sit-up.

We usually accept that it is awesome for a product to be bio-degradable and leave it at that. However when you pull at the thread of bio-degradability to follow it to the very end, you get a different picture.

So to begin, what is bio-degradability?

Bio-degradable matter is organic material with plant or animal origin. They can be broken down into simpler compounds by microorganisms (like bacteria) and they return to nature in a short period of time. For example wood & cotton are bio-degradable. Regular plastic is not.

The key phrase here is “return to nature”. That is, these bio-degradable materials can be re-used by nature to create new living organisms.

Enter Landfills

Human activity generates waste. Daily.

Waste falls in two categories. The solid waste, that goes straight into the dustbin. Then there is the liquid waste handled by the sewage system.

The solid waste goes from your dustbin to a dumping ground in the city called a “landfill”. Unless special, prior segregation is done, all types of waste get mixed up at the landfill. Plastic, food waste, paper, construction debris all become one massive pile at the landfill.

This means that bio-degradable waste anywhere below the top surface of the landfill has no access to light or oxygen. Unfortunately for bacteria to work their magic on most bio-degradable matter, they need light and oxygen.

This means that nothing happens to the bio-degradable matter at the landfill. The lack of light and oxygen will preserve them perfectly like mummies for eternity.

This is the crux of the post. Bio-degradability is potentially good. But it needs an effort to be converted to actual good.

A few numbers from our city

To further illustrate the point about bio-degradability, here are some numbers from the Chennai corporation

  1. Solid waste generated – 500 gm per person daily
  2. Total solid waste generated – 3200 tons daily
  3. Total area used as landfills – 550 acres in Chennai city (24 million square feet)
  4. Life expectancy of landfills – The year 2015

I was aghast that on average I am responsible for nearly 200 kg of solid waste per year. Also, 24 million square feet of perfectly good residential area are used as landfills. And in 4 years from now new landfills will be required.

Solutions

At the highest level, the solutions to handle solid waste are to not create solid waste. This means

  1. Reduce consumption
  2. Reuse stuff. Like reusing plastic bags.

In our case we carry our own bags every time we go to the store.

Once solid waste is generated, the options are recycling and composting

3. Recycling

Recycling is a terrific solution because it works at source, i.e. our home or office where the solid waste is generated to begin with. By recycling materials like paper, certain plastics we can prevent waste from entering the landfill in the first place.

For example, we recently bought office supplies that came in several corrugated cartons.

cartons for recycling

A few years ago I would have thrown them into the dustbin.  Now these cartons will be sent for recycling just like old newspapers

4. Composting

Compost is the natural end point of bio-degradable matter. In other words after the biodegradable matter has been broken down by micro-organisms we get compost, which is a great soil fertilizer and the pillar of organic farming.

Plain vanilla composting is just burying food waste in the garden. A year later the local earthworms and micro-organisms will convert it to compost.

Home composting is a massive step to help reduce the city’s load on solid waste management and reduces the need to create new landfills. More on that later.

To conclude, bio-degradable is good, and with some waste management effort it becomes great.

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Trendspotting 2011.

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It is always a good time to be trendspotting but the first week of the New Year is the best. I came across this useful presentation on the top 100 trends for 2011 put together by the creative house, JWT.

I was surprised by the large percentage of trends circling back to the space of sustainability, green, environment, carbon footprint & overall treading lightly

My top picks from the presentation

  1. Facebook e- commerce. Self explanatory.
  2. Self powering devices. Powered by the user interaction. Check this remote from Microsoft.
  3. QR codes. 2-D barcodes that can be scanned by mobile devices.

krya.in QR code

This is the QR code for www.krya.in

4. Non printable PDF format. From the big black panda at WWF. Saves the file with .wwf extension.

5.A restaurant menu with the carbon footprint equivalent of each item.

Here is the original presentation from JWT.

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Sustainable by Design – To liquid or not to liquid

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At Krya, sustainability, usability and beauty are the three core principles of product design.

Sustainability forces constraints, as many cheap & easily available materials and processes are ruled out. But that’s okay, because it is difficult to design it into a product retrospectively.

At Krya we think about sustainable design at 6 stages

  1. Product design: ingredients, format, packaging.
  2. Raw material sources and their transport
  3. Manufacturing process
  4. Transport to consumer
  5. Consumer in use method
  6. Post consumer use disposal

At every stage of a product’s life cycle no decision is too small to be ignored. And each decision has to balance sustainability with usability for the consumers. Take for instance, the choice of product format.

Product format: To liquid or not to liquid?

Whether a product is a solid, liquid or somewhere in the continuum between plays an important role in determining a product’s sustainability.

It turns out that liquid products and sustainability just don’t mix.

Here’s why:

  1. Liquids = complex, resource intensive manufacturing
  2. Liquids often imply effluents
  3. The addition of water into a product requires a clean , antiseptic environment
  4. The addition of water also means possible bacterial contamination so preservatives are a must in the end product
  5. Liquids need tough containers – So hello plastic, goodbye paper
  6. Liquids are expensive to transport – they are voluminous, need special storage, & can be easily damaged

At Krya, we have made the decision to choose a solid format over a liquid format every time.

This commitment extends to our personal life as well. We have eliminated many liquid products like face wash, shampoo and conditioners. We have created organic, natural, fantastic powder alternatives to these categories.

Choosing a solid format over a liquid format can make a huge difference to the environment.

All it needs is an open mind.

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Sapindus Trifoliatus: or how the fruit became a detergent – Part 2

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The Ministry of Environment & Forest classifies industries as Red, Orange and Green, depending on how polluting they can be to the environment. Red industries are defined as heavily polluting industries, whose clearances are renewed every year.

Synthetic detergents and soaps fall into the Red classification.

Detergent manufacturing is usually a resource intensive, potentially heavy polluting activity.

How Krya manufactures the fruit that’s a detergent

We ‘manufacture’ our detergent by getting the friendly neighbourhood village ladies to pluck the ripe Sapindus trifoliatus from the tree at Harvest time.

The magic lies in deciding when a fruit is ripe enough to become a detergent – The experienced eyes of Mr.Anki Reddy, our resident soapnut & all things organic expert, help us decide that.

After removing the seed (the seed is stored carefully for re-planting), our friendly crew take the fruit or the pericarps to a giant stone platform which has been specially built on the farm.

The farm is in a dry, fiercely hot part of Andhra Pradesh, perfect to dry a water loving fruit like the Sapindus trifoliatus. The fruits dry slowly under the sun for 3 days in the sun until they become brittle.

We then collect them from the stone platform, clean them and take them into our ‘factory’ where they are powdered in a large mill (similar to the flour mill that makes the atta ,though much much cleaner).

We put a lot of thought into how fine the fruit gets powdered in a mill.

Powder them too fine, & they absorb too much moisture; Powder them too large, & you would need to use a lot more of them to wash.

We powder them just right – so that they don’t absorb too much moisture, and give you a perfect wash every time.

Once our Sapindus Trifoliatus has been powdered, we mix natural, organic Calcium Carbonate to the powder. Calcium Carbonate, also called Limestone, helps keep our dried fruit powder dry, so that it remains a powder, and easy to use.

And that completes our manufacturing.

We don’t use heavy machines that are energy intensive. The process also does not release harmful vapours.

We don’t use water in our ‘manufacturing, so no river or fishes or tadpoles are harmed during the making of our detergent.

We use just 2 ingredients and 97% of the ingredients are available in the farm right next to the factory. Normal manufacturing would require several ingredients, which would need to transported to the factory using fossil fuels.

It is a fruit, so all those 100+ litres of water that your washing machine used to wash clothes can be sent to your garden. The remaining detergent can be composted in the earth.

Your garden thanks you and so does the municipality whose load you’ve just lightened by reducing the load on the city’s sewage system.

That’s what we call being sustainable – from the farm, to your home, and back to mother earth.

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Sapindus Trifoliatus: or how the fruit became a detergent

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We unveiled our first sustainable gooThe fruit that's a detergentdie yesterday, the fruit that’s a detergent.

The fruit has a name. Trifoliatus. Sapindus trifoliatus.

A year ago I had no idea of the existence of such an awesome fruit. Through an incredible concatenation of events, Preethi & I found ourselves with a bag of Sapindus shells. We were thoroughly intrigued by the possibilities. What started off as an innocent laundry experiment a year ago has snowballed into our first business venture.

However I digress.

The Sapindus

The Sapindus is a group of around 10 species of trees whose fruits can be used as surfactants. The name Sapindus is derived from the Latin words Saponis, meaning soap and Indicus, meaning from India. They are commonly known as soapnuts or soapberries. Soapnuts, though isn’t technically right – as they are fruits and not nuts. For the botany snob hidden in you, we can go a step further and call them “pericarps”

India is home to several species of Sapindus. The two most well known of these are the South Indian Sapindus trifoliatus & the Himalayan Sapindus Mukorossi. All species of Sapindus are useful detergents in their own way.

The secret ingredient

The secret ingredient in the fruit is the Saponin which makes it a useful surfactant (or detergent).

Ergo, the fruit that’s a detergent.

How Surfactants clean

Plain water does not usually remove oily particles or tough dirt stains from clothes. The addition of surfactants helps to clean clothes in a two step process.

1. Reduce surface tension

    The surfactant molecules have a water-loving head that attaches to water molecules and a water-hating tail that attaches to the dirt molecules. This creates a force that detaches the dirt from the clothes & suspends the dirt in the water. The agitation of the washing machine or scrubbing by hand further helps detach the dirt from the clothes. As a result of the dirt getting detached the water now starts looking murky.

    2. Emulsification

    Now that the dirt has been removed, it is critical that they don’t re-deposit on the clothes. This is the done by the second action of the surfactant i.e emulsification. Emulsification is the process by which the dirt and the water form a mixture. This keeps the dirt suspended in the water till it is washed down the drain

    But the Sapindus is so much more

    The fruit that’s a detergent is a great surfactant which explains why it cleans so well. However it is so much more than just a surfactant.

    1. It is a certified organic product fruit. So it is absolutely bio-degradable and once used for washing leaves no trace of its existence.
    2. It is powdered to make a great detergent, so it consumes very little energy to manufacture.
    3. It is hypoallergenic, so it is gentle on hands, leaves no chemical residue on clothes, that can be harmful to skin.

    Food for thought

    In the first month of our experiments with the Sapindus we completely eliminated regular chemical detergents. However I am constantly amazed by how well the innocuous, light brown fruit cleans.

    But think about it, regular chemical detergents have been around for the last hundred years or so. However humans and dirty clothes have been around for thousands of years. More often than not it has been the fruit that’s a detergent that saved  the day.

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    Krya’s first sustainable goodie

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    Today is the first day, of a super exciting year. A brilliant day to talk about the first sustainable goodie from Krya.

    So we’ve made a detergent.By powdering a fruit.

    It washes really really well. In our washing machine. And in a bucket when we feel like it.

    We’ve washed everything known to us with the fruit that’s a detergent.  It Works.

    We save tons of water per cycle – because it is a non-fussy fruit, you need to rinse just once.

    And we direct all the wash water into the garden and not down the drain – it is safe because, hey, we are washing with a fruit.  And our plants grow really well.

    So we’ve established it is a goodie.

    Now for the part that makes it a sustainable goodie:

    1. It is a fruit.
    2. It is a certified organic fruit.
    3. It is a certified organic fruit from a polyculture farm.
    4. It is a certified organic fruit from a polyculture farm following fair-trade.
    5. It is a certified organic fruit from a polyculture farm following fair-trade that is powdered to make a pure, natural, organic detergent.

    We’ve been using this fruit, which is a detergent, exclusively for 1 year to this date.

    Happy new year! And Happy washing to you too!

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    Year in Review – What we ‘shipped’ in 2010

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    This is a riff inspired by Seth Godin’s post today, on what we ‘shipped’ in 2010.

    1. Incorporated 2 new companies to start shipping products in 2011.
    2. Created and designed the Krya brand
    3. Built the first prototype of a D.I.Y Film Appreciation product
    4. Decided that it needs more work
    5. Turned vegan after 2 attempts
    6. Started writing consistently through the Krya blog, and our film journal.
    7. Started many gedankenexperiments including an ongoing, complete break from newspapers and news channels
    8. Moved heaven & earth to find and eat organic produce – we now eat only organic vegetables and grains, but are still looking for organic fruits & organic restaurants.
    9. Continue to push the boundary on new artistic experiences especially in expanding our cinema oeuvre . (Of course, this meant a lot of hard work in sourcing this movies and other books on film.) Some examples include :
      1. The Legend of the Suram Fortress – Sergei Parajanov
      2. The Housemaid – Kim Ki Young
      3. The American Soldier – Rainer Werner Fassbinder
      4. The Rules of the Game – Jean Renoir
      5. Coffee & Cigarettes – Jim Jarmusch
    10. Started a garage start-up in the true spirit of the word – there is a garage in front of our office
    11. Successfully resisted buying a car and bought 2 cycles instead – our carbon footprint continues to be enviably low
    12. Consciously worked on our positivity and mental fortitude this year. (All you need to be a successful entrepreneur is wake up and think positive). Many thanks to Esther, Jerry & Abraham for all their support.

    Happy New Year!  We wish you lots of joy, health and abundance in this coming year.

    Preethi & Srinivas

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