The Sutra of thread – part 1

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Reading Time: 8 minutes

Ignorance, in the case of Indian textile crafts is certainly not bliss. As I put together this series on textile crafts and the sustainable fabric tradition of India, I am continually amazed at how rich, varied and wonderful our textile traditions are.

I am also angry at the myopic school system that I studied in: none of this made its way into our curriculum, and was only offered at an advanced level in college or as a part of a Masters Programme. This compounded ignorance led me, in my early working days to mass produced clothing which I found in Malls. This clothing was not really cheap, but it was easily available, and seemed to be the norm around me.

Today, when I see power loom fabric being passed off as handloom, and synthetic dyes and screen printed fabric ruling the roost, I remember my time as a young working adult, making financial choices, and realise my choices have created the word I see today.

As I reached out to textile enthusiasts and people passionate about handlooms and crafts, I found a world of information, environmental sustainability and beauty just around the corner. And I’m happy to see the Krya blog hosting this information.

We are happy to share this guest post written by Richa Dubey on the textile traditions of India and how different types of weaves and fabrics exist for the different seasons in India.

Richa wears many many interesting hats. She conceptualised and runs a gender activism campaign ( see www.bitly.com/GurgaonGirlcott ); leads public affairs for a prospective national innovation university; built an advocacy strategy for the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative’s India office; anchors a breakfast show on national television and manages an international world music festival.She also leads the marketing practice at niiti consulting a for-profit social enterprise consulting firm. She is a passionate believer in environmental, social, cultural and economic sustainability (which is why she works at niiti). Her life is currently ruled by her children (one each, canine and human) her work and her passions (and all of them intersect, so it’s fine)

We are especially proud that Richa is a passionate Krya consumer, and that is how we came to meet her and know of her work.

 Here is Richa Dubey’s lyrical, eloquent piece on how Indian textile crafts offer different fabrics for the different seasons of India.

How often have we heard of the diversity in India? Its climate, food, culture, philosophy (in the 6th century BC there were at least 200 different schools of philosophy that co-existed). One example of this rich diversity is textile. Marvellous in its variety, texture, fibre… not forgetting the textile techniques that embellish a fabric, there is possibly a traditional textile that exists for every single occasion in your life, though we shall limit ourselves to the seasons in this piece.

However, before embarking on this journey through the warp and weft of India, where a common thread of understanding runs through the land, it is important to touch upon, at least briefly, the reasons why it holds such an important place in our lives.

Right from the philosophical to the everyday, the understanding of fabric has been intrinsic to the understanding of India. The Rig Veda pictured the universe as a cloth woven by the Gods – the cosmos an infinite length of fabric with its warp and weft constructing a pattern upon which all life is painted.

Much later, Kabir, the 14th Sufi poet-saint (who was also a weaver) likened the Absolute to the divine weaver and our souls to a pristine scarf which is sullied by a life of ignorance and sin in “Jheeni jheeni beeni chadariya” (incidentally, this piece by the late Pandit Kumar Gandharv is my favourite rendition)

2. kabir

As with other facets of daily life in India, philosophy and common wisdom spills over into textiles as well. Just as Ayurveda advises the eating of fruits and vegetables in season, it makes sense to pick traditional textiles according to the season as well.

Beyond being weather-friendly, these natural weaves and techniques also reflect the changing moods of the year and incorporate festivals into their lexicon.

The essence of Spring

Beginning with the season of Spring which takes the first place in the time-honoured Indian cycle of seasons, we see it blooming in textiles as an expression of eternal rejuvenation. Vasant is the season of rejuvenation of cosmic energy. It stands for new beginnings represented by fresh blossoms. It is also the time when Kamadev releases his flower-tipped arrows of love.

The essence of Spring has been captured in the repertoire of Indian motifs known as butis, butas and bels. Different regions of India have interpreted these motifs according to their own aesthetic sensibilities. While the Bagru tradition from Bagru in Rajasthan  is famous for floral designs in dark vegetable colours, the Kalamkari tradition from Macchlipatnam interprets them differently. In North India where Mughal influence still lingers, they take on a stylized air in gracefully drooping flower-pots. From whichever region, whether painted, embroidered, hand-block printed, or more recently, screen printed, they form an integral part of the Indian design lexicon.

One of the most popular motifs which are symbolic of eternal Spring, is the Tree of Life. Although not native to India, it has been a symbol of life, fertility, livelihood, food and protection for centuries.

4. tree of life sweden

Thus, when Indian crafts persons or women at home sought to embellish textiles it was natural that the tree motif was often embroidered, woven, printed and painted on fabrics.

3. tree of life in kantha

 

Its symbolism has been shared in ancient cultures across the world and the tree motif has found expression, both in natural and stylized representations, in varied art forms. At another level the tree is a representation of the Great Mother Goddess. The physical and metaphysical source of life was considered to be manifested in the life-giving powers of the earth and the feminine body, which the Tree is said to symbolize. And there is perhaps no better a time to celebrate this form of fertility than the season of spring, when there is an abundance of blossoming life forms.

 

The summer begins

The fragrant breeze of Spring gives way to the scorching wind of the summer – the loo. People venture out only when absolutely necessary and then, clad themselves in the lightest fabrics possible. The thread of seasons weaves into fabrics like mulmul, jamdaani and kota…

The quality of the fine muslins of India was probably best described by the Sufi-poet Khusrao in the 14th century. “One would compare it with a drop of water if that drop fell against nature, from the fount of the sun. A hundred yards of it can pass through the eye of a needle, so fine is the texture…” So sheer was this fabric (woven in counts of 2000) that the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb is said to have berated his daughter for her indecency in appearing unclothed before him. The daughter responded that she was wearing seven layers of cotton mul!

According to Laila Tyabji of Dastkar, What is unique about India is that it transformed cotton from being a kind of a village fabric in to something that kings and emperors and queens… not just in India but all over the world used.

The most prized muslins were woven in Dhaka and were so coveted since ancient times that Roman texts blamed the vanity of Roman women for emptying Roman coffers of gold for Indian cottons. Some of these were especially reserved for the use of royalty. In fact it was these same muslins that drew the British to Bengal . The picture below is a depiction of a Bengali girl clothed in layers of fine Dhaka Muslin.

1.Muslin girl by renaldi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bengal was also home to a special muslin weave – this was the jaamdani – the ethereal weave which uses an extra weft and gives the motifs the appearance of floating on the ground. Jaamdaani lives even today as the fabric of choice for the humid summers of Bengal. UNESCO has declared the art of Jaamdani weaving as an Intangible cultural heritage of humanity.

5. richa in jaamdani

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But despite the historic and near cult status of the Jamdaani weave, the Jamdaani weaver has no financial motivation to continue creating this textile art. A senior taanti or “ostad” earns about Tk 2,500 to Tk 3,000 per month. Junior weavers get much less, around Tk 1,600. As a result many weavers do not want their children to come to this profession. For many, the Bangladeshi garments industry, despite its several dubious practices and poor working conditions, is a better alternative to this craft.

 

Summer in West India

Beyond the East, the western part of the country also devised its own textile strategies to cope with the heat. A charming, but probably apocryphal story tells of the development of Kota. Kota which is now known for its coaching centres devoted to getting students into IIT also has a special place in India’s fabric tradition.

 

The story goes that a hill princess married into the royal family of Kota. But much as she tried to bear up under the fierce heat of the Thar Desert, she wilted under the heavy, coarse fabrics that formed the traditional garb of the region. Finally, unable to bear it any longer, she commissioned the local weavers to create a light fabric for her. The weavers wove the lightest, airiest fabric that they could – the princess was still not satisfied. Then they pulled out the threads from the warp and the woof at regular intervals to create a lacy chequered fabric. This grid-like ethereal fabric took the eponymous name of Kota.

5.richa in kota

Initially these were woven only in the seven shades of white prescribed in the Vishnu Purana: – light white, tooth white, pure sandal white, autumn cloud white, autumn or sharad moon white, conch shell white and motia or pearl white.The texturing of the fabric was done by the simple expedient of varying the number of threads and the shades of white in the warp and weft of the grid giving it a subtle sophistication.

Today, however, Kotas are available in various colours (and regretfully, synthetic yarn too) and remain a popular summer option.

This post continues tomorrow with Richa describing the fabrics that were woven for Monsoon and winter.

If you want to get a more local, and environmentally sustainable wardrobe, start reading here:

  1. Our introductory post on the sustainable fabric series
  2. On the One Person Satyagraha and why you should start one
  3. On the environmental and human health hazards of chemical dyes
  4. The primer to sustainable Indian fabric is here

And do tell us what you think of this new series here or on our Facebook page.

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From Arikamedu to Abercrombie – the sustainable fabric series

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Reading Time: 4 minutes

I’m not sure if my fascination with fabric is more or less than my fascination for washing fabric. But I have always loved Indian fabric and traditional textile crafts.

In school, I learned about the spice trade of India and how it helped many regions within India grow rich as they traded flavourful and hard to find nutmeg, pepper and cardamom which then found their way to kitchens across the world. Romila Thapar’s book on Early India, details this fascinating trade. Muziri located near Kodanganallur Village near Kochi was linked to the pepper, spices and beryl trade. A second century Ad Greek papyrus documents a contract between an Alexandrian merchant importer and a cargo financier of pepper and spices from Muziri, giving us an idea of the large volume of this trade.

6. Arikamedu

Excavations at Arikamedu tell us about a large settlement that used to be in trade contact with ships and merchants from the eastern Mediterranean. Apart from shipping locally available goods, Arikamedu has also been a place where certain kinds of textiles were manufactured locally to roman specifications and then shipped there.

5. Shakuntala

The Roman historian Pliny complained that trade with the East caused a serious drain on Roman income of which atleast 110 million sesterces went to India’s luxury goods. Roman records indicate that the Roman Senate actually banned the import of Indian Muslin for some time to stop the roman gold drain.

Apart from Rome, Indian textiles found their way to Egypt – scraps of Indigo dyed cotton Ikat textiles were found in a Pharaoh’s tomb. Excavations at Mohenjo-Daro unearthed scraps of Rose madder cloth along with spindles.Herodotus, the ancient greek historian, described India’s cotton as “a wool exceeding in beauty and goodness that of sheep”

Nothing symbolises the freedom and Swadeshi movement as much as the charkha does, and as does Khadi, the quintessentially Indian fabric.Khadi is not just a piece of fabric – it represents an ideology and the beginning of a movement that was founded on self reliance. This said that India could spin her own fabric and clothe herself, thus helping her own economy grow forward.

2. Gandhi spinning the Charkha

Khadi was promoted by Mahatma Gandhi as a fabric that would help promote rural self employment and self reliance, and made it an integral part of the freedom movement. But the Swadeshi movement then did not come cheap. Khadi was much more expensive compared to British made fabric. So when people started to complain to Gandhi about the cost of Khadi, he stopped wearing an upper garment and started wearing only a Khadi dhoti as a subtle, or perhaps not so subtle message: that it was better to wear as much or as little Khadi as possible instead of clothing yourself with something that was not made in India by an Indian.

 

Our choices today are multifold. We are a much more global economy, and we have free movement of products, and fabrics from different parts of the world into our country. Globalisation comes with its own unique sets of opportunities. And perhaps we have come back full circle to our days of yore, when enterprising merchants and financiers helped ensure the spread of Indian textiles.

 

With one key difference. The merchants of Arikamedu in ancient times, continued to grow, spin and wear their own cloth, and continued to hold onto their cultural and craft traditions. In fact they grew better and better at it until they had so much to offer, that they could not just make products for themselves but for everyone else as well. The textile crafts and traditions of India are fast disappearing today. They have morphed fast, have taken on several unwholesome aspects and are no longer bountiful or available in plenty.

3.sambalpuri ikat weaving loom
There are many reasons for this. And many hidden reasons when you start examining this. There are also several unhealthy consequences to this.

 

In this month when we celebrate the 67th year of our Independence, won by an extremely unique civil disobedience and non violent movement, we will focus on the equally unique Fabrics of India. This month, on the Krya blog, We will examine in great depth the history of Indian textiles while focussing on certain textile crafts. We will examine their environmental sustainability, explore how well they work for us in our tropical weather & speak to practitioners of the craft and designers who work with traditional fabrics.

1. Girl in pochampally

We will also explore Khadi in depth and study in detail the current issues we grapple with in textiles namely the spread of Bt cotton, the cotton farmer suicides, the environmental issues presented by the textile dyeing industry and the nascent but growing organic cotton industry. All along we will interview and present to you the works of young entrepreneurs and designers who have firmly waded into the fabric tradition of India and are working hard to provide us access again to our famed textile past rooted in the principle of being indigenous, local and environmentally sustainable.

 

Our previous series on reusable menstrual products was an eye opener to us and provided us with a lot of perspective and inspiration. We have no doubt this series on the fabrics of India will be even better. We look forward to bringing you lots of depth, fresh perspective and inspiring reasons to choose a more sustainable and earth friendly wardrobe. Keep reading this blog.

 

 

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And one wash to care for them all – a guide to maintaining your cloth napkins

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Reading Time: 3 minutes

And we come to the end of our series on sustainable menstruation. And as promised, we end this series with a helpful eBook on how to wash and care for your cloth napkins.

Eco femme’s beautifully designed cloth napkins come with a 75 wash guarantee, so their pads will last you atleast 6 years or more. Kathy Walking tells me that she still has cloth napkins which are about 10 years old in her stash, which are soldiering on. So the bottomline, as we promised was that cloth napkins will last you for a long time. Which means that your EQ (environmental quotient) is large and strong everytime you choose a sustainable menstrual product.
Which brings me to the part that we get the most queries about. The washing. And the underlying fear of handling a lot of blood.

Menstrual blood as our high school biology texts taught us are the blood and endometrial lining of an unfertilised egg. So the menstrual blood you handle was created to sustain and nourish another living being. It is not waste. And it is not gross. And is a deep part of our sacred feminine. Many of the users who we spoke to for our switch pieces, echo this as they tell us that using a reusable product helps them connect back to their body and really see their menstrual flow.

But you might still feel suspicious about the work involved around caring for your napkins. As someone who has made the switch successfully and has used only cloth napkins for more than 2 years, I can testify that the hardest part about caring for your napkins is the mindset that it is unpleasant and difficult.

 

I estimate I spend anywhere between 5 – 10 minutes extra everyday I have my period to manage my napkins. But this extra time seems like a very small investment towards keeping tree gobbling and gas guzzling disposables out of our landfills, away from innocent animals and away from ragpickers who are otherwise forced to sort through it. Click here for a neat infographic explaining this.

And this extra 10 minutes means that I get to wear soft, fragrance free napkins that work just as well as my disposables, feel much more comfortable and are healthier for me.

In my book ,this makes these 10 minutes completely worth it.

Click here to download our guide to caring for your cloth napkins with the Krya detergent. And click here to buy the aforementioned Krya detergent.

Krya giveaway:

We are going to be giving away 3 cloth sanitary pad starter kits to 3 lucky people: each kit will come in its own reusable cloth bag (for you to shop with) and will contain samples of the Krya detergent along with instructions to wash and care for your cloth pads.

If you would like to win one of these starter kits, all you need to do is this. Follow our posts and updates in this series and tell us one reason why you would like to make the switch to green your period. Head over to our Facebook page to enter now.

 

More green period information:

To learn more about how you can consciously and sustainably manage your periods every month, start here:

  1.  Here’s an introduction to the world of reusables
  2. Here’s where you can find out more about the dangers presented by disposable sanitary products
  3. Here’s a piece chronicling Srinivas Krishnaswamy ‘s perspective on Reusables and Disposable products
  4. And here’s the first part of our Interview series: this is an interview of Lakshmi Murthy of Uger Pads, Udaipur
  5. Here’s Anita Balasubramanian chronicling how she shifted to reusable cloth pads.
  6. Here’s the second part of our interview series: this is an interview of Kathy & Jessamijn of Eco Femme, Auroville
  7. Here’s Susmitha Subbaraju chronicling how she shifted to reusable cloth pads
  8. Here is the perspective provided by SWaCH on the human rights and social justice issues presented by disposables
  9. Here is the third part of our interview series: this is an interview of Gayathri of Jaioni reusable cloth pads
  10. Here is Preethi Raghav chronicling her switch to reusable menstrual cups.
  11. Here is Sruti Hari of Goli Soda chronicling her switch to reusable cloth pads and sharing why she decided to start selling reusable menstrual products at her store, Goli Soda.
  12. Here is an interview of Tracy Puhl, the young, inspiring business owner behind GladRags reusable cloth pads.

 

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11.5 reasons to choose organic – and why we do

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Curious consumers and retailers often ask us why we choose to use only certified organic ingredients in our products. The debate on using organic ingredients in our food is of course far less today.

We have heard and read enough about the dubious effects of pesticides, and fertilisers on our food. We have seen examples of the devastating effects on human beings and the environment whenever synthetic substances are sprayed on our food.

No one I speak to today debates the merit of organic food – there continues to be some murmurs on its availability, perceived premium pricing and some musings on whether it has been priced to target an elite crowd.

The debate on using organic non-food products is only just beginning in India. For one, the certification standards for non food products are less clear. It is easily possible to certify a potato which has been  grown using organic methods. But certifying a detergent, or a cosmetic product that uses organic ingredients is less clear. In my research I have found these standards often to be surprisingly lax, as certifiers struggle to balance the known (how an organic ingredient is grown), with the unknown (using other chemical additives in combination with these natural ingredients).

A longer post on certifying organic non-food products is part of my blog list, and is something I would like to write about soon. But until then, I would simply like to state that we have given this a great deal of thought at Krya, and opted for the easier / more difficult route.

All our products so far and in pipeline products use upto 98% certified organic ingredients. The balance 2 – 3% is usually food grade dessicants which are allowed under the most stringent organic certification standards. By following a unique, chemical and water free manufacturing and product creation process, our non-food products meet our own, very stringent standards for what constitutes an organic product.

But that still doesn’t answer the question this blog post started with. Why choose organic at all? Isn’t natural just good enough?

To answer this question, and the many questions we continue to hear on choosing organic food, I’ve put together a presentation on the 11 and a half reasons We choose organic ingredients for the products we create at Krya and in our home for our family.

Through this post, I hope to inspire more heated enquiry on what goes into your plate, and on and in your body. Perhaps you too, like me, will decide to step off the cliff and dive into the delicious, nourishing, and sustainable world of organic food and products.

Here’s the link: http://www.slideshare.net/kryagoodies/115-reasons-why-krya-and-we-are-organic-29282266

As always, do read, reflect and drop in your comments.

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Mosquito Monogatari.

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Reading Time: 10 minutes

I live in mosquito land.

Every monsoon evening, clouds of DDT swirl around the air sprayed diligently by the corporation workers to stem the mosquito population. Every store I go to has a new product being launched that guarantees a reduction in mosquitoes. Electric bats are used by the security folks in every apartment complex, to nuke the mosquitoes which bite them in their lonely sojourn at night.

It does not surprise me that one of the most popular queries received at Krya is a fervent demand for a natural mosquito repellent product. I get this from both consumers and retailers who are alarmed and appalled by the toxic load around their homes, especially of an insecticide nature.

And alarmed we should be.

DDT and DEET are the 2 primary chemical weapons of choice in our war against mosquitoes. DDT is used by city corporations in India, especially in Chennai as a mass fumigant to spray over large dense urban settlements and on stagnant urban water bodies with a hope to kill mosquitoes. It is not used inside homes or applied on the skin.

DEET is used inside homes in synthetic mosquito repellent products like coils and mats.

1.      DDT ( Dangerous, Don’t Touch)

DDT is an insecticide, first synthesized in 1874 was used to control malaria and typhus during the Second World War, after its insecticidal properties were discovered by Pauly Mueller, the Swiss chemist who received a Nobel Prize for this work.

After the world war ended companies that manufactured DDT were forced to find a use for it in peacetime. DDT was re-purposed as an broad spectrum insecticide with two main applications

1) Agriculture and

2) Mosquito control.

DDT usage skyrocketed. Shortly however, scientists in the U.S started expressing concerns about the possible problems associated with the use of DDT.

In 1962, Rachael Carson’s seminal environmental book, “the Silent Spring”, which documented evidence against the indiscriminate use of pesticides, especially DDT, sounded the death knell for DDT

The overwhelming public reaction to the “Silent spring”, led to the beginning of the environmental movement and a widespread outcry which finally led to the U.S government banning the use of DDT in 1972. However, by this time the U.S had already used close to 1.3 million pounds of DDT.

Why are we talking about DDT today, if it was banned in the U.S in 1972?

Continue reading “Mosquito Monogatari.”

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Soapberries : The eco-friendly cleaning solution

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Reading Time: 6 minutes

(This is an extensive article on soapberries that we had written recently for Eco Walk The Talk, an Asia focussed online green community)

If you think that detergents are found only on supermarket shelves, then be prepared for a clean, green surprise. It grows on trees and has been cleaning clothes (and people) since the time of the Buddha! In fact, some sources also add the Buddha to its list of satisfied consumers.

Say hello to the Sapindus – a group of around 10 species of trees whose fruits can be used as foaming cleaners or surfactants to use a more technical term. The unique surfactant property of the Sapindus fruit makes it an all purpose cleaner – for skin, hair, laundry, dishes and pretty much anything else that requires cleaning.

The name Sapindus is derived from the Latin words Saponis, meaning soap andIndicus, meaning from India. The part of the Sapindus tree used as a surfactant is the fruit and it is commonly known as soapnut. Since it is a fruit We prefer to call it the soapberry which is more accurate.

The Soapberry tree

India is home to several species of Sapindus. The two most well known of these are the South Indian Sapindus trifoliatus and the Himalayan Sapindus Mukorossi. In India, soapberries have a long recorded history of usage. Ayurvedic texts prescribe it as a gentle cleansing agent in shampoos and body cleansers and also as a treatment in dermatitis, and eczema.

In China the soapberry pericarp is called wu-huan-zi or the non illness fruit. In Japan, the soapberry pericarp is called the enmei-hi or the life prolonging pericarp.

The Soapberry

Fresh soapberry fruits look like grapes or gooseberry fruits and grow in clusters on the trees.

A well cared for soapberry tree can produce 250 kg of soapberry fruits every year, after attaining maturity which takes about ten years.

What makes the soapberry a soap?

The magic ingredient which gives the soapberry its halo is saponin, found in the fleshy outer part of the fruit.

The pericarp of the soapberries (the outer fleshy part of the fruit) contains saponins, which are the plants “immune system”. Saponins are a class of compounds, found in abundance in the plant world, and produce foaming solutions in water which can used for cleaning.

How can I use the soapberry in my home?

The soapberry is an excellent natural cleanser that can be used to substitute most synthetic cleansers in your home.

You can use the soapberry shells , soapberry powder, or extract soapberry liquid by making a concentrated tea with water and use this as a substitute for almost all your cleaning needs.

It can be used in the following ways:

1.    As a mild shampoo substitute

2.    As safe and effective detergent

3.    As a hypoallergenic baby fabric detergent

4.    As a food safe dish wash product

5.    As an excellent antibacterial / anti-fungal floor and surface cleanser

What are other uses of the Soapberry ?

Plants are wonderfully complex systems that are beyond complete human understanding. All along we have only talked about the surfactant property but the soapberry does so much more than just clean.

1. Pesticide removal action: fruits and vegetables

Soapberry powder works wonders on removing surface level pesticides in fruits and vegetables as well. Research done on tomatoes, aubergines, cabbage and grapes, which have a thin membrane and are prone to absorbing a large quantity of pesticides, indicates a 76% reduction in deadly pesticides like Monocrotophos, when these fruits and vegetables are soaked for 20 minutes in a solution of water and soapberry powder.

2.    Pesticide removal action: on cotton

Cotton is one of the most sprayed crops in the world. In India, cotton crop is sprayed with a deadly cocktail of chemicals including Lindane, Heptachlor, and DDT.

A simple test measuring the surface level pesticides on cotton yarn before and after treatment with soapberry, showed nearly a 70% reduction in the surface levels of Lindane.

3. Anti-bacterial and anti-fungal action

Soapberries have strong anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties. They have been prescribed in small quantities in oral medications in traditional Chinese medicine.

Extracts of Sapindus mukorossi were shown to inhibit the bacterium Helicobacter pylori which causes GERD, peptic ulcers, cancers of the oesophagus and stomach

Preliminary studies on Sapindus mukorossi and Sapindus saponaria show active action against many disease causing fungi like Candida albicans, and bacteria likePseudomonas Aeruginosa and Staphylococcus Aureus

How do I start using the soapberry?

Fresh soapberry fruits need to be dried well to be used. Once dried, they become a rich dark brown colour, depending on the species and look like this:

Once dried, they need to be de-seeded before they are ready for use.

Soapberries are extremely hygroscopic in nature, meaning that they absorb moisture from the atmosphere, so they need to be stored in a dry place.

1.Use whole soapberries

It  is  really easy to use soapberries for washing. If you’re using a washing machine, you may place 5– 6  shells in an old, clean sock or muslin bag firmly tied on top, so that the soapberries don’t escape. Toss this into the washing machine and let it work through both the wash and rinse cycles, but do remove before you use the dryer.

You can use the soapberries for upto 4 wash cycles, but remember to let them dry before the next wash.  You can use the soapberries until they turn grey in colour (indicating that there are no more saponins left). Best of all, as soapberries are completely natural and biodegradable, they can be composted.

2. Making soapberry powder from dried soapberries

For even better results and greater convenience, soapberry powder can be made by grinding dried, de-seeded soapberries.  They can be ground in a coffee grinder, and should be ground into large sized particles when used as a detergent or a dish wash product. The finer soapberries are ground, the faster they absorb moistures, so grinding them into large sized particles helps you store them for longer.

Soapberry powder can be used as a substitute to detergents and dish wash applications. Keep in mind that they do not dissolve completely like synthetic surfactants, so when using them in a washing machine or a dish washer, put the powder into a sock or muslin bag, to keep the residue from sticking onto laundry or dishes.

The residue after use as a detergent or dish wash makes for great plant food so do remember to compost the residue  after use.

3. Extracting Soapberry liquid

You can also extract soapberry liquid for use as a detergent or a floor cleanser. Soapberry liquid needs to be refrigerated and does not keep for more than a month.

It is prepared by soaking soapberries overnight in cold water or soaking them in hot water for 15 minutes to an hour and squeezing out the saponins mechanically until the berries turn grey in colour.

Let the soapberry liquid cool slightly before filtering out the soapberry residue. The residue can be dried and re-used again to make more floor cleanser (the cleanser made with this residue will be more dilute, so reduce the water the second time around) or to do the laundry. The soapberry powder / residue can be re-used until the residue turns grey, indicating the absence of saponins.

Do I have to work very hard to use the soapberry?

The soapberry is making a strong comeback into popular use especially in countries like USA, Australia, Singapore, India and other places.  A lot of the work done on the soapberry in recent times has been directed to making it readily usable so that you do not have to go through the process of buying the fruit and making a powder or extract.

Our company, Krya Consumer Products has just launched a washing machine ready soapberry detergent powder for the Indian market. Do search for options in your market in case you want a ready to use product and you will be rewarded with a unique experience in tasks like laundry which are getting done on autopilot mode now.

Why are we talking about the soapberry now?

We do many daily tasks like the laundry on autopilot now and understandably so. However several drastic concerns for the environment and human health are lurking behind many of these “autopilot” routines.

For example the synthetic detergent industry is red flagged for pollution by many governments. The red flags arise out of pollution concerns during manufacture and severe harm to water bodies and marine ecosystems by detergent residue post consumer use.

Apart from detergents many personal care products like shampoo, body wash, toothpaste use a synthetic surfactant as a foaming agent. Look for either sodium lauryl sulphate or sodium laureth sulphate (referred shortly as SLS) in the ingredient list the next time you are in the supermarket and you will be surprised by the number of times these two surfactants appear. There are many studies that point to these synthetic surfactants as carcinogens so much so that “SLS free “is an important new category of products.

Moving from autopilot to manual mode can throw up interesting natural alternatives to most of the products we use on ourselves and in the home. Every time you choose a natural alternative like the soapberry, you choose better health for your family and a cleaner planet.

(P.S. The link to the original article on Eco Walk the Talk is  http://www.ecowalkthetalk.com/blog/2011/07/14/soapberries-the-eco-friendly-cleaning-solution/)

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Encounters with Endosulfan

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Reading Time: 6 minutes

The endosulfan pesticide debate is trending in India and globally. All eyes are on India, which is one of the few big countries, that still allows use of endosulfan.

Nationally, V.S Achyuthanandan, Kerala Chief Minister and the Left MPs have been protesting India’s stand in the Conference of Parties to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POP) which began in Geneva on Tuesday.

V.S Achyutanandan and the Left M.Ps want India to support the increasingly popular global ban that is being proposed on Endosulfan by nearly 80 countries.

The mood at the Stockholm Convention has been described as tense, as a lot of battles are expected over the Endosulfan issue. Many countries in Europe, Latin America, the Caribbean, and Africa are supporting the ban, and the U.S, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, and others have already expressed support for the ban in the plenary session.

India is a prime dissenter in the ban, and accounts for 70% of the world production of Endosulfan (Rs4500 crores annually). India cites lack of scientific evidence as one of the key reasons to opposing the ban along with the fact that the proposed alternatives to Endosulfan are not currently affordable.

Where would I encounter endosulfan?

In many un-expected encounters.

  • Endosulfan is commonly sprayed on over 70 crops like vegetables, fruits, paddy, cotton, coffee, tea, cashew & timber. Studies have shown that in India, 20% of all fresh produce have pesticide residues above the maximum residue limit (MRL).
  • Many water bodies have endosulfan run-off & some studies have shown high endosulfan levels in fish
  • Potentially absorbed through the skin , as cotton crops are the significant users of endosulfan
  • Smokers through tobacco

A brief history of Endosulfan

Endosulfan was first registered for use as a pesticide in the U.S by Hoechst (now Bayer CropScience) to control agricultural insects and mites on a wide variety of field, fruit and vegetable crops.

By 2000, after consistent reports of water contamination due to the run off from agricultural use, the EPA cancelled Bayer’s License to sell Endosulfan for use in Homes and Gardens. In 2002, after further studies by the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service, the EPA determined that Endosulfan residues in food and water posed high health hazards, and imposed further restrictions on agricultural use of Endosulfan.

In 2007, Endosulfan was recommended for inclusion in the Rotterdam Convention on Informed consent. This is a multilateral treaty to promote shared responsibility on the import and use of hazardous chemicals. Specifically, this convention requires informing purchasers of these hazardous chemicals on all known restrictions and bans, so that purchasers can make an informed decision on whether or not to buy these chemicals

How toxic is Endosulfan?

The EPA (United States Environmental Protection Agency) classifies Endosulfan as “Ib” – Highly hazardous, as does the E.U. The Industrial Toxicological Research Centre (ITRC) in India also classifies Endosulfan as extremely hazardous.

Endosulfan is also widely considered to be a Persistent Organic Pollutant (POP). POPs are organic compounds that are resistant to environmental degradation and have been observed to persist in the environment, to be easily transported across long distances, to accumulate in human and animal tissue, increase in virulence in food chains, and have significant impact on human health and the environment.

Due to their chemical properties, POPs are semi volatile and insoluble. They attach themselves to particulate matter like soil, water and food, and travel long distances around the world, including places that do not even use them, like Antarctica.

Because of their eerie ability to travel, even countries that have banned POPs like Endosulfan, continue to find their residues in their food and environment as they travel from places where they are used.

How does Endosulfan affect human beings?

Acute effects:

Endosulfan is highly toxic and can be fatal if inhaled, swallowed, or absorbed through the skin. Consuming it orally is found to be more toxic than absorbing it through the skin, and this toxicity increases in the presence of solvents like alcohol.

Endosulfan directly affects the Central Nervous System, and high levels of Endosulfan in the body lead to convulsions, epileptic seizure or death. It also comprehensively damages the internal organs like the liver, lungs and the brain.

Chronic Effects:

Endosulfan is a proven endocrine disrupter, and exhibits estrogen like properties similar to DDT. Experimental evidence shows that this property leads to delay in sexual maturation in males or damage of the reproductive system. It also increases the risk of breast cancer among women, and has the ability to alter the chromosomes in mammals, leading to a risk of birth defects.

Tests on laboratory animals show high carcinogenic properties and internal organ damage.

What happens to Endosulfan in the environment?

Endosulfan is fairly immobile in soil, and highly persistent. It breaks down into further toxic compounds, some of which increase in production in tropical areas.  It does not easily dissolve in water, and can bio accumulate in the bodies of fishes and other aquatic organisms.

How widespread is the Endosulfan contamination in the environment?

Endosulfan residues have been detected in air, water and soil samples in India, river water in China, lagoons in Spain, vegetation in Madagascar, Zambia and Ghana, water from the Alps, and river sediments in Malaysia.

How widespread is Endosulfan contamination in the food that we eat?

Endosulfan has been detected in food samples from across the world: Australia (beef), U.S.A and Canada (food samples), Brazil (tomatoes), Cyprus & Croatia (vegetables), India (vegetables, vegetable oil, and seeds).

A high level of Endosulfan has been detected in human breast milk in India, cord blood in Spain, and blood and urine in Croatia.

Has Endosulfan actually killed or harmed people?

In India

Kerala was the first state in India to ban Endosulfan after a court order in 2003. This happened after the Endosulfan tragedy in Kasargode, which is widely considered one of the worst pesticide disasters to happen to a region.

Aerial spraying of cashew plantations began in 1978, and was done 3 times a year covering 15 gram panchayats in Kasargode. There were many warning signals which the decision makers ignored like the mass death of bees, fishes, foxes, birds, and congenital deformities in cows.

Endosulfan is a stomachic and quick contact poison, which destroys quickly but is non-specific, so kills everything it comes into contact with (not just the insect pests it is meant to destroy).

In 1994, independent health observations by a local health doctor, revealed a rising incidence of mental illness and congenital anomalies in Kasargode. Initially radioactive toxicity or heavy metal poisoning of the water bodies was thought to be the reason behind this. After several more complaints in areas where Endosulfan was being sprayed and the work of many national and international groups, Endosulfan spraying was linked back to the abnormal health problems at Kasargode.

The commonly noted diseases were neurobehavioral disorders, congenital malformations in girls, and reproductive tract abnormalities in males. Another report showed increased rate of cancer and gynaecological abnormalities.

A further study by the Kerala Health department reaffirmed the link between Endosulfan and this region’s health issues.

Following these reports, the Kerala State High Court banned the use and sale of Endosulfan in 2002; the State government followed suit in 2003.

Karnataka followed Kerala’s lead in February this year, with a blanket ban on Endosulfan. This followed after reports of physical deformities in areas using aerial spraying of Endosulfan, again for cashew crop in Belthangady, Puttur and Bantwal.

In Cuba

Endosulfan was responsible for the death of 15 people in the Western province of Matanzas, Cuba in February 1999. 63 people became ill after consuming food contaminated with Endosulfan.

In Benin

In Borgou province in Benin, official records state atleast 37 deaths occurred in the 1999 – 2000 cotton season, and 36 people were seriously taken ill.

Next Steps:

Endosulfan is just one of the many toxic compounds that are routinely sprayed on food. Several organisations and concerned political parties are battling with the Indian government to reverse its stand on Endosulfan. The good news is that under all this pressure, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has decided to have a scientific enquiry on the effects of Endosulfan and has promised to take a more considered view on the subject.

There are no debates on this – It is time to embrace organic food. Most major cities have 3 – 4 organic outlets, so supply is no longer an issue. Even if it is not possible to consume only organic produce ALL the time, every little bit helps.

The Good News

Studies show that just as POPs bio-accumulate into the body, they can also get reversed when more and more organically grown food is consumed. Also, personally speaking, organic vegetables taste delicious and burst with flavour so it is no hardship to switch.

In Chennai alone, Srini and I have visited 3 great stores: Restore , NStores and Dhanyam , and several more exist. More than 90% of everything we consume at home is organically grown, and we have seen a significant increase in our health and well being as a result of switching to organic food.

NGOs like Thanal have been at the forefront of the Endosulfan debate in India and have worked very hard to lobby the government and build awareness on these issues with folks like us. Even if it is not possible to work actively with them, they always welcome appreciation, so drop them a mail if you can.

Acknowledgements:

I have been thinking of writing this post for some time now, and many kind people have helped me on my personal quest to understand more about my food, and appreciate the value of organic food.

My thanks go to these people in no particular order:

  1. Ananthoo , Radhika & Restore team at http://restore.org.in/
  2. Kavita Mukhi of Conscious foods & Mumbai farmers market http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=345442782802
  3. Vandana Shiva of Navdanya – http://www.navdanya.org/
  4. Ramesh of NStores – http://www.nstores.in/
  5. Madhu of Dhanyam – http://dhanyam.in/

A special shout goes out to Thanal, who has fantastic resources on Endosulfan, which I’ve liberally used in this post. Thank you Thanal! (http://www.thanal.co.in/)

 

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Misty Mountain Hop from Peak Oil to Urban Gardens

peak oil hubbert curve
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Reading Time: 3 minutes

Last night, our friends screened for us the 2006 documentary, The Power of Community. This film tracks Cuba’s path to self reliance from the brink of complete macroeconomic disaster. This disaster was precipitated by the fall of USSR in 1991 and in the span of a week Cuba was cut off from soviet oil supplies and food imports. Virtually overnight, the soviet collapse created food shortages, electricity blackouts, loss of jobs and a general shutdown of the economy. The Cubans refer to this period in their history as “the special period”.

This 53 minute documentary is time well spent at two levels. Firstly, the remarkable recovery of the Cuban people is a story that needs to be told and heard, perhaps in many more ways. When the crisis hit Cuba, the problem was unlike any ever faced, ready-made solutions were not available from history, and the US, the one nearby country that could have helped, further tightened sanctions on Cuba.

Then there is the cinematic merit. Director Faith Morgan’s single pointed attention to the task set out for herself, to wit the precise solutions evolved by the Cubans in the areas of food & agriculture, transport, housing ,medicine etc is admirable. There are other angles to explore like the political will, Cuban cultural quirks and Individual heroes of the special period but have been excluded, which makes the film compelling viewing.

Peak Oil

This is a U.S. film with its genesis in the debate on Peak Oil. The peak oil theory suggests that global oil production follows a logistic distribution curve which reaches peak production at a point in time. After this peak, the production of oil declines rapidly till all the oil reserves are exhausted. Simply put, there is a very finite limit to the oil supply of the world.

peak oil hubbert curve

The first peak oil curve plotted by King Hubbert in 1956 accurately predicted the 1973 oil crisis. As per the current Hubbert curve, the world has already hit the peak in 2010 and oil production is now in the rapid decline phase

Inspiration from Cuba

This debate around peak oil intensified in the early part of this century and primary concern of the experts was that the world was walking blind into an energy crisis, with no plan B. Then of course it was pointed out that Cuba had an artificial peak oil crisis in 1991 and was a great simulation for the rest of the world to learn from.

Is a crisis always necessary to do the right thing?

The Cubans had no idea what hit them and were pushed to the limits of their creativity in the special period. The first dramatic measure was the import of a million cycles to replace public transport. The extra physical activity combined with food shortage, resulted in a national average weight loss of 20 pounds in the first three years.

The next response was urban organic farming. With no oil to manufacture fertilizers and pesticides, organic farming was the only way out, and a wonderful unexpected side effect of the crisis. With the economy in a tailspin and no jobs or food, highly educated professionals of all stripes became urban farmers. Today in Cuba, the farmers are among the top earners, very unlike farmers in the rest of the world.

All these outcomes came from an organic response to a crisis and not from a careful long term government plan.

It is tempting to conclude that we need a full blown crisis to get the country together to do the right things, a dim fatalistic view that I do not care for.

For now I think a great way for all of us to start is to get exposed to different ideas on sustainability. I have a quick list of some of the well known films and books to get inspired.

The environmentalist must watch/read list

  1. One Straw Revolution, Masanobu Fukuoka (book)
  2. An Inconvenient Truth,Davis Guggenheim (documentary)
  3. The power of community, Faith Morgan (documentary)
  4. The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan (book)
  5. Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser (book)
  6. Food Inc, Robert Kenner (documentary, excellent companion to the books by Pollan & Schlosser)
  7. Silent Spring, Rachel Carson (book)

End notes

As luck would have it the screening happened in a house with a spectacular rooftop urban garden. All around, nearby rooftops had rubble, cables and clothes but I was in a lush green farm producing at least 50% of a family’s vegetable consumption. And it helps cool the house below. For a fresh produce newbie, seeing actual okra, colacasia, tomato plants was a delight. And I could picture a misty mountain hop from Hubbert’s peak to rooftop urban gardens.

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Ruminations on Rice

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Reading Time: 5 minutes

Srini and I went to an organic fair this Saturday, organised by the Safe Food alliance. There was a stall in the mela by the Sirgazhi traditional farmers co-operative on the bio diversity of rice.

The information available at the stall was extremely thought provoking.

For instance, did you know that 4, 00,000 varieties of rice existed in India during the Vedic period?

Even today nearly half this number is found in India, which is staggering.

Unfortunately, despite having so many varieties of rice, ( even if you ate a new variety a day, it would take you 500 years to exhaust the whole list), our consumption of rice in India is limited to 10 varieties on the outside.

How did we end up consuming such a small variety of rice?

When the Green revolution started in India, a small number of paddy varieties were selected for their capacity to give high yields in response to high doses of fertilizer. As a result, the genetic base of the rice we eat today has narrowed down considerably.

Also, industrial agriculture, promotes plantation style monoculture cropping, which we had written about here.  Monoculture cropping produces high yields in the short term, but severely degrades the quality of the soil and the resultant strains of rice over time. Genetic uniformity of the crop also makes it susceptible to pest or virus attacks wiping out several years of crops in difficult times.

Why is it important to increase our base of rice consumption and support indigenous varieties of rice?

1. Indigenous rice is naturally hardy and pest resistant reducing the dependence on pesticides

  • A case in point: In the 1970s, a virus called the Grassy Stunt virus decimated rice cultivation from Indonesia to India. The rice cultivation at that time in Asia, had been sparked off by the Green revolution, supported by the efforts of the International Rice research Institute. The IRRI bred and developed the paddy varieties used across Asia during the Green revolution to give high yields.These paddy varieties were then called ‘miracle rice’.
  • None of these miracle rices could withstand the attack of the virus. After a 4 year search, researchers found one indigenous variety of Oryza nivara, growing near Gonda, in Uttar Pradesh that could resist the virus’ attack.  Today rice hybrids have been bred that contain this wild Indian gene; these hybrids are grown across Asia. Bred rice is vulnerable to pests; indigenous rice is not.

2. Indigenous rice is not needy; different varieties have adapted themselves to different land conditions from alkaline soil to saline soils, and in drought prone areas and water logged areas.

3. Growing Indigenous rice adds to our food security as a nation. If we used only commercial High yield Hybrids, we are vulnerable to a single pest wiping out our entire rice production.

  • A case in point: The Irish potato famine was a period of mass starvation and immigration from 1842 – 1845. This was caused by a potato disease called the potato blight.
  • Potato blight is caused by Phytopthora infestans which probably arrived in Ireland from the Andes through guano carried in ships. Guano was in demand as a fertilizer in Europe.
  • Nearly 1 million people died as a result of the famine, wiping out 25% of Ireland’s population, changing the course of Ireland for ever.

4. As indigenous rice has already adapted itself to grow in different local conditions, rice can be grown in non-traditional rice areas, reducing the pressure on ‘rice bowl areas’.

5. Indigenous varieties of rice are naturally suited for organic farming, as they need fewer inputs in the form of fertilizers or support in the form of pesticides and herbicides.

6. They are valuable in the agriculture eco system, as they yield straw that is valuable to farmers as cattle feed as well as roofing material.

7. They are inexpensive to cultivate and promote self sufficiency in the farming community

8.There is no need to buy seeds or inputs (fertilizers, pesticides) from anyone.  The farmer saves seeds from every year’s crop and uses it in the next season. Seeds are also swapped between farmers, giving everyone access to a larger gene pool.

Interesting varieties of indigenous rice found in Tamilnadu and their health benefits

1. Thanga Samba (Golden Samba)

  • The golden colour of the matured grains, gives this variety its name. This rice is extremely fine and long, and it is believed that long term consumption of this rice keeps you young and healthy.

2.Neelan Samba

  • A variety of rice suitable to areas that experience water logging as it can be cultivated in the vicinity of lakes. It is resistant to pests like the brown yield hopper and ear head bug and is recommended for lactating mothers to increase their milk yield. Also, as its straw is very long, it is well suited to use as roofing material.

3. Mapillai Samba (The Bridegroom’s Samba)

  • Many indigenous varieties are rice are known to increase the energy of the eater. In folklore, a bridegroom once had to display his strength by lifting a heavy stone called the Mapillai Kallu (The Bridegroom’s Stone). Eating the Mapillai Samba rice gave him enough energy to lift the stone and presumably win the fair maiden.

4. Kurangu Samba (Monkey samba)

  • The ear heads of the grain are very long, with 267 grains per ear head. It is a versatile variety that grows both in dry areas and areas prone to water logging. It is highly resistant to pests and diseases.

5. Kalarpalai

  • The 2004 Tsunami caused a lot of damage to the agricultural lands of the Nagapattinam coast. The land became unfit for cultivation because of the inflow of sea water. The Kalarpalai rice came to the rescue of the farmers as it was tolerant to salinity and could be grown in saline soil, unlike most modern varieties.

6. Seeraga samba (Jeera samba)

  • This rice resembles the shape of the Jeera or cumin seed. The rice is extremely fine and aromatic, and though it has a lower yield compared to modern varieties, it is prized in Tamilnadu to make aromatic rice dishes like biryani. This rice fetches a high price because of its aromatic quality.

7. Kullakar Rice

  • This rice is suitable to make idly, dosas and porridge. Its growing duration is short, and can therefore be grown throughout the year in all 3 seasons. Kullakar is also highly resistant to pests and disease.

8. Samba Mosanam rice

  • This rice is good for preparing dosa and poha (aval), and idly. As it is suitable for growing near the vicinity of lakes, it has been used successfully by farmers whose land gets waterlogged in the monsoon. The stalks of Samba Mosanam remain unaffected despite having nearly 4 ½ feet of water stagnation in the land. But stalks of high yield varieties like Ponni rice, germinate in this water, resulting in crop loss.

9. Thooyamalee rice (Pure Jasmine rice)

  • As the rice is white in colour, and as the ear heads of this rice look like flowers in the flowering stage, this rice is called the ‘Pure Jasmine’ in Tamil. It is a fine rice that is highly resistant to pests and disease.

10. Kalanamak (Black Basmati)

  • Kalanamak rice, is one of the most important scented rices of India, and gets its name from the black colour of its husk and its tolerance to saline soils. It is said to be better than Basmati in all aspects except grain length, and is considered the finest quality of rice in international trade.

11. Kouni Nel (For the baby in the womb)

  • Kouni Nel is used in ceremonies like the Seemantham, performed when a woman is pregnant. It is believed that consumption of this variety of rice provides specific nutrients required for during pregnancy.

Srini and I are committed to organic food, and have been eating organic for a year now. Visiting the Rice bio-diversity stall added another element to our food choices – look for local, indigenous crop wherever possible.

After some investigation, we have found that local grocers in Chennai stock indigenous varieties of rice like Jeeraga Samba, and Kitchli samba, which are available on request.

Consuming locally produced food has always been a carbon friendly habit because of the savings in transportation and storage of the food. It is great to explore it from another aspect and see how well it fits in with sustainability, self sufficiency and good health.

Sources:

  1. Seerkazhi Organic farmers association stall at Semmozhi Poonga, Chennai
  2. Material on Rice Bio-diversity – Centre for Indigenous Knowledge and Systems: www.ciks.org

 

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The R4 philosophy

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Reading Time: 2 minutes

Do I have to work hard to be sustainable? This is the question that people have been asking since the dawn of time or in my case for the last few years.

The short answer: it depends

The long answer: it depends on your frame of mind. With the right frame of mind, clearly fixed on the big picture, sustainability is effortless. The right frame is like the difference between the special theory of relativity and the general theory of relativity.

The 3 Rs of sustainability

When I use the word sustainability, I am trying to compress a massive amount of meaning into one word. One frame to define sustainability is: use resources thoughtfully in the present moment in order to have an endless supply cycle of high quality resources.

The holy grail of sustainability is the 3 R framework, to wit

  1. Reduce
  2. Reuse
  3. Recycle

The order of the 3-Rs are very important, they are in the descending order of preference. The most important goal is to Reduce; think carefully about our consumption of resources and reduce sensibly.

The next R is Reuse, which means once something has been produced, it is a resource when reused, reduces the load on further production.

If all else fails, recycling is also a noble option. When we recycle, for example an old cell phone, we can extract a fraction of the original resource. That is better than just trashing the old cell phone to a landfill.

The 4th R : Replace

This brings me back to my original question: Is sustainability hard work?

Not if one takes care of the basics; which is having fun and enjoying the process. As things stand today, sustainability is vaguely about the environment and about saving the planet in some distant future. There is no accounting for individuals having sustainable fun right here right now.

This is an important reason why it is difficult for most of us to start taking any action on the 3 R framework however well we may understand it in theory.

Which brings me to my 4th R: Replace

Start with replacing things that are important to you on an immediate daily basis with more sustainable choices which surprisingly are also more fun & the other 3-Rs will soon fall into place.

For example I have known for some time now that regular coffee is grown on unsustainable plantations with absurd pesticide levels and often dubious labour practices. I have replaced that with fantastic shade grown, organic, fair trade coffee from a farm close to my city. And it has made all the difference. I have a unique coffee experience everyday & I know that my coffee is great for me, the environment and the coffee growers.

All I did was replace the old product with a sustainable alternative to make an immediate, direct contribution. And I am quite happy to pay about 4x the cost of regular coffee.

This single act of replace is a great starting place to start thinking about the other 3-Rs. Suddenly remembering to carry a bag every time you step out to the store (Reuse) is not so much a bother, nor is it about some vague benefit in the distant future.

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