The big green switch – Sruti Hari , Goli Soda

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Reading Time: 9 minutes

Our series of posts on sustainable menstruation have covered 3 kinds of areas: We’ve presented facts about how disposable driven menstruation is un-sustainable, and given you charts, facts and blog articles.

We’ve then featured pieces from actual women who have successfully made the switch – both to cloth pads and menstrual cups,

We’ve then interviewed 3 companies who manufacture cloth pads in India, to understand what makes them tick, and why we should support their work.

But an interesting opportunity came my way when I spoke to Sruti Hari. Sruti is one half of the creative team that runs Ashvita – an art gallery, a series of cafes and retail stores focussing on all kinds of interesting products.

I first met Sruti at the Ashvita Bistro which we discovered a few years ago. A few conversations later, I discovered several areas of mutual interest and conversation.

Sruti’s passionate love for Cinema which lead her to save memorabilia and artefacts form Indian cinemas, sometimes from dustbins to build an impressive collection which now form a part of the Cinema Resource Centre.

1. sruti and ammu

Sruti’s deep love for animals and the environment is evident when you see her care for Ammu Kalyani (her beautiful, rescued Indian dog), when you see her growing her own basil for the pesto made at Ashvita, and when you see her passionately advocating and selling Daily Dump’s Kambhas.

Sruti’s interest for the environment meant that Goli Soda was inevitable. It is Chennai’s first (and perhaps one of the few stores in India) to focus on upcycled and environmentally sustainable goods. Goli Soda’s products are carefully curated to offer you quirky colourful ways to lead a more sustainable life – from coasters made of loofahs, to upcycled wallets, poo paper products, organic clothing and of course Krya’s products.

6. goli soda chennai

Goli Soda also sells Eco Femme’s reusable cloth napkins. We catch up with Sruti to chat about Goli Soda, her experience with cloth napkins and why she recommends and sells reusable menstrual products at her store.

 

 I am a film maker, a model and an environmental crusader.

I have felt connected with nature from childhood – girl guides and treks cemented the bond further. The very fact that my roots are in Kerala meant that I was lived a life that was enmeshed with nature. I spent every summer at my grandparent’s home in Kerala where we grew our own vegetables, used plants and herbs to take care of myself like turmeric for my face and hibiscus for my hair.

My love for animals and desire to lead an ethical life deepened my connection with the planet.

I started giving up non vegetarian food, leather and silk at 6. While I come from a vegetarian household, where even eggs are considered non vegetarian, my older sister used to eat chicken when we went out. So I grew up thinking of chicken as food which you ate outside your house, and never connected my eating with an actual bird.

I joined a summer camp at C.P Art centre where we saw films and had workshops of different animals and birds. I then understood what I had been eating was actually a bird with feelings, and decided to give up eating non vegetarian food. I progressively gave up using leather and silk as well.

 

I started Goli Soda for a selfish reason – to give myself access to ethical and sustainable products

I thought that when I retired I would go back to living more with nature – but then I was too impatient to wait. So I started holding workshops at Ashvita to learn more about the sustainable practices I wanted to learn like organic terrace gardening.

4. the otg workshop at ashvita

As the workshops grew, and my access to environmental products grew, starting Goli Soda became imminent. I wanted access to sustainable and ethical products without having to travel far or search extensively for them online. People on FB and other mediums started to share ideas about cool recycled ideas. But these remained as ideas. To actually make the switch, you need the convenience of products. And I figured there would be more people who want this as well. And given our retail background, starting a store focussed on environmentally sustainable and upcycled products came to us naturally.

 

We choose well designed products that are environmentally conscious to sell at Goli Soda.

Goli Soda started mainly as an upcycled store. We wanted people to understand that and that it was okay to reuse something and give it a new lease of life. We are particular about design and quality because of our background in art with Ashvita. We like to choose products with unique design and high quality.

Also, when it comes to environmentally suitable products, people tend to picture them as boring, and dull and not colourful or cool. We are trying to change that mindset and show people that you can be cool and design conscious with eco friendly products. This explains how we choose the products we retail at Goli Soda. They all have to be well designed with good packaging and product design – the two examples that come to mind are Eco Femme’c cloth pads and Oh gourd’s coasters.

We also offer natural cleaning products like the Krya detergent and the Krya dishwash at Goli Soda. Most people are unaware of how much synthetic household cleaners damage the environment. There is a greater awareness of environmental and human damage when it comes to personal care products but very little when it comes to household care and cleaning products. So we prefer to educate our consumers in that area and don’t offer personal care products at the store.

And of course these are products that I look for which is why I retail these. I don’t want anyone to feel compelled to pick up a synthetic detergent or a chemical filled floor cleaner – they have an alternative which works well.

 

I started selling Eco Femme at the store after my positive experience with their reusable cloth napkins.

Diapers and sanitary pads really affect the environment. Every day when I step out of my house I see used pads and diapers and can see cows and dogs eating this. That affected me. I started to educate people about segregating and composting their waste. When I sell people the Kambha, I tell them to segregate their recyclable waste from their food waste. But I used to be stumped when they asked me what to do with their disposable sanitary napkins and diapers.

3. sruti at a kambha demo

A chance conversation led me to consider using Eco Femme reusable cloth napkins. I think Eco femme’s products are brilliant – the packaging is beautiful, and the product experience is awesome. So I had to have them at Goli Soda as well.

 

I started my switch to reusables gradually.

I started with Eco Femme’s panty liner at first. I thought my experience was brilliant. And it was better than disposables because it came with wings – so I had no side spots or staining. I started getting used to washing and caring for the pantyliners. Then I shifted to daypads for normal flow continuing to use disposables for heavy flow. When I got comfortable, I switched completely to reusables.

Now I still use disposables when I travel, but I am in the process of figuring it out. I have been using reusables for a year now – now when I use disposables I find it very uncomfortable.

 

Having switched to reusables, I discovered how uncomfortable disposables really are:

Before I switched, I used to think disposables could handle heavy flow and protect me from accidents better than cloth. Having made the switch, I now know better. I have had staining accidents only with disposables and not reusables. Using reusables has put me in better touch with my body and I’m intuitively able to handle my flow much better.

I am still figuring out how to adapt when I go to shoots, etc. I travel once every 2 – 3 months and sometimes my outdoor film work can stretch upto 6 months in all kinds of places.

Krya note: Sruti’s point about knowing your body better when using reusables is well taken. This is the case across many categories of reusables. Cloth diapering mums find that children on cloth diapers are more conscious of their bodies and adjust to toilet training faster than disposable diapered babies. Using a completely dry disposable, makes you unconscious of your body’s rhythms and cycles and isolates you from your body.

 

I love the comfort and bright colours of reusable cloth napkins.

I am instantly cheered up by the bright colours and designs of the cloth pads and love how comfortable they feel. There is no synthetic plasticky feel; it feels like you are wearing soft, padded underwear. There is no additional, synthetic layer like there is in disposables,

Of course washing and maintaining it takes a small amount of additional time. I prefer to hand wash my pads myself – but of course washing them is quite easy.

 

I ask other women to switch to reusable cloth pads simply for the comfort they provide.

The environment needs people to act now and not talk. I am tired of dinner table conversations about global warming where no change is made at the end. Everyone knows intellectually why eco friendly products are good – but they believe they are uncomfortable to use which is why they do not take to them fast.

 

While I am an environmental crusader, I find people getting on the defensive if I lecture them about their ways. So I focus on the superior feeling of comfort a product like Eco femme’s cloth napkins can have. I always used a disposable – a combo of wood pulp and gel pads. I don’t know any other way apart from disposables. But the minute I switched to a reusable cloth napkin, I felt good.

When I wash out my own blood and do not throw it into a dustbin, I feel more connected to myself. I ask women to transition slowly – so that they understand their flow and gently transition so that they get comfortable with the experience.

 

We’ve had a reasonable rate of success selling reusable cloth pads at Goli Soda.

I found most people are interested in it. For example, when I heard of cloth pads, I had the image of smelly rags in my mind. When I opened up Eco Femme’s pack I loved it. I find this happening to many people at our store. Some come in armed with information and know what to buy; others take back our flyers and mull over the information.

When I’m around, I’m happy to answer questions about my experience as well. Many people follow my advice and transition gradually. Some give up at the pantyliner stage. But many people carry on and make the switch.  And that makes me proud.

 

And it makes us proud too Sruti. To see your work. To shop at your store. And to have Krya associated with you and Goli Soda. Thank you for taking the time to talk to us and sharing your experiences.

 

Please do support Sruti’s work at Goli Soda and at Ashvita Nirvana (Chennai’s first PETA certified cafe offering vegetarian and vegan food) by visiting them and by liking their Facebook pages. Ashvita Nirvana has a delicious and sinful vegan menu as well – I recommend the hazelnut chocolate vegan shake!

 

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.

 

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. 

 

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A cup of happiness – conversations with Preethi Raghav

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Reading Time: 8 minutes

Our series on reusable menstrual products has received a lot of questions and queries from women wanting to make the switch from disposable menstrual products. As we have discussed previously, disposable menstrual products come with several questionable environmental and human health antecedents.

 

For one, the environmental footprint of using a disposable sanitary product is very large. A wood pulp based napkin uses up pulp from old heartwood trees, contributing to the decimation of our forest cover. A modern SAAP napkin or a tampon uses highly specialised derivatives of plastic which itself emerges from the fossil fuel industry.

 

Again, a whole lot of technology has gone into producing this SAAP which was itself derived from incredibly ancient fossil reserves from the earth which is a finite resource. Read more about the peak oil crisis here. And our alternatives today are much more sophisticated than the “smelly old rags” sanitary napkin ads are always ranting about.

 

One of the set of emails we got at Krya came from users of menstrual cups. Many cup users wrote to us about the comfort, and invisibility offered by this reusable menstrual product.

I personally confess to an irrational fear of internal menstrual devices. Despite Srinivas being a brand manager in our earlier life of a major brand of tampons and despite the samples he brought me to get me to try one, I was freakishly unreceptive to the idea.

But the many many users of cups who have managed to get over this initial apprehension have gone on to experience a whole lot of comfort and security around their periods. And of course, compared to cloth napkins which we have been discussing, menstrual cups involve very little maintenance.

So for today’s piece on menstrual cups, I have Preethi Raghav, sharing her story of
the switch.

About Preethi Raghav
Preethi Raghav is a very interesting young lady. She is one of the most committed vegan and animal rights activists we know, and does a lot of stellar volunteer work for Blue Cross along with her husband, Raghav.

1. Preethi with the animals she love
Preethi has just started a venture of her own to provide cruelty free, earth friendly jewellery alternatives made from terracotta. Preethi’s beautiful terracotta jewellery is made following special eco friendly process. She has designed her own terracotta stove that does not use electricity and does not emit too much of smoke to create her earth friendly pieces.

2, preethi with no harm charm

In addition to No Harm Charm, Preethi creates educational content for an NGO working towards providing quality education to rural children,  and helps conduct healthy-cooking workshops for SHARAN (a not for profit working in the field of disease control following a cruelty free, whole grain, plant based diet). Previously, She spent a year heading the English department in a government aided tamil medium school, where English was being introduced for the first time.  

Preethi’s other interests include Krav Maga, painting, warli art and doodling. She takes great interest in conservation and other related issues threatening our planet and has been an ethical vegan for more than 3 years now. 

Preethi put all her principles to practice in her wedding which served only vegan and cruelty free food where no silk or gold was used.

Here is Preethi sharing the story of her switch.

The horrific sight of used disposable pads thrown carelessly on the terrace of the school I taught me, made me decide to make the switch.

It was a rainy afternoon in 2011, when I was having fun teaching English to an enthusiastic bunch at a slum, in the heart of Chennai. I had planned a spoken English lock and key activity, and so needed a larger space. That’s when I decided to take the kids to the school terrace. As I reached there, a poor sight awaited me. I saw at least 5-10 used sanitary pads, thrown uncovered on the building terrace. Just before I could ask the children to do a U-turn, they started running all over them, like they were used to it.

This incident shook me. I couldn’t get that off my mind. I immediately took responsibility and began research on how periods should be hygienically managed, so I could talk to the girls about it.

Talking to my friends did not help:  I was just 19 at the time, and all that we were exposed to then, were sanitary napkins. With Google’s help I stumbled upon the existence of menstrual cups and cloth pads. It was then that I decided to make the switch, but honestly I took almost a year to get rid of the “sophistication” that disposable sanitary napkins offered me.

I loved the green-ness of a cloth napkin, but did not like its wet-ness.

Chennai being super hot, I always love some rain and wetness outside, but I did not like feeling wet inside – this was something I disliked even with sanitary pads.

But then once, while I was reading a little more about menstruation to prepare a presentation on the same, I hit upon an informative article that spoke about the essential vaginal fluids that are discharged during our periods, and how they are helpful in maintaining the pH levels.

A year later I developed a hyper sensitive skin condition called dermographism. This condition meant that using even a cloth pad would trigger intense itching in my body, which is when I decided to switch to the menstrual cup.

I loved the neatness and dryness I could experience with a menstrual cup

When I began using the she Cup, I loved it. I additionally needed to put in no extra effort to wash it and dry it. However, I must add that it needed me to do a bit of gymnastics to try to figure out the best way to fit it in for it to seal well, but, that’s because I didn’t see the many helpful videos online then. After about 2 cycles of trying it, I loved it!

I found the idea of inserting a sizeable menstrual cup inside me a bit nerve wracking.

It took me a day’s time to get used to it inside, but, I had to make the try to realize what a wonderful alternative this is. However after a couple of days, I hardly felt it! And the dry feeling was simply so comforting (they don’t dry us out completely the way sanitary pads do, since they just collect the discharge).
I found many reasons to continue to stick to my menstrual cup.

When I started, I simply wanted to help myself from the dreadful hours-long itching that I used to have before due to dermographism. Later, because of the simplicity in usage, I continued to love using my menstrual cup.

Even on my heaviest flow days, I have worn it for 7-8 hours at a stretch before having to empty it, and it still wouldn’t stain.

I also get to measure my periods, which I can’t say is very useful, but very fascinating, and I feel very connected to my system with those measures. Menstrual cups can hold nearly 2 times more vaginal discharge than what a cloth pad absorbs. At times, on my heavy flow-days, I use both the cup and the cloth pad together.

My family and I have found the transition to reusable menstrual products much easier because of the cup.

After fine tuning my mind to accept the switch, I find there is no other discomfort. My partner thinks it is a neat system, as I do since the blood isn’t absorbed like in a cloth pad. So are no external smells or any evidence of blood at all.

I held some myths in my head about menstrual cups which had to change before I accepted the switch.

The greatest myths I held in my mind were :
Myth1- The insertion of a silicone cup, and it’s possibility of leading to infections
Myth2- The disposal of the blood while I’m outside, especially in our not-so-neat public toilets
From the studies available, silicone is widely studied as an implant and is considered non-toxic and inert. Most cups available in the market are medical grade silicone. So there isn’t anything to worry!

 

As far as disposal is concerned, this is such a charmer! I just need to empty the contents and wash it with clean water. Worst case, once, while on a long distance journey I simply cleaned it neat with a tissue and reinserted.  I no longer have to hunt secret places to hide my used pads or look for safer ways to dispose one.

Disposable sanitary products are unhygienic!
Ask any restaurant cleaner and they’ll tell you, that they hate throwing used sanitary napkins and tampons for the decaying stench they have. Ask a corporation worker, he’d tell you that most public (especially govt. schools) bathroom outlets are clogged with stinky used napkins and poor them; they have to remove them all! So I feel at least in a country like ours, we’ve all the more responsibility to contribute to lesser/NO waste of these kind, to help maintain better hygiene.
I know a lot of women including you, Preethi have some inhibitions to trying out a cup. So here’s why you should:

  • Neat!
  •  Just Rs.799 to manage your periods for 5-7 long years! (Save money)
  • No washing and drying
  • Works well for all activities- swimming (can’t wear a cloth pad too), dancing, jumping, exercising, sky diving…
  • No chemicals / pesticides (Cottons are highly sprayed crops accounting for almost 10% of pesticide sprayed. So unless it’s organically made cloth pads, why take the risk of using it?)
  • Can proudly say’ I have nothing for the landfills!’

Preethi’s note to Preethi: I am still not sure if I want to try one Preethi, but May I say your point is extremely well made? Thank you!

Krya’s note: Preethi’s point about pesticide sprayed cotton is a valid one. All of our garments, unless stated otherwise, are sprayed with a super high dose of pesticides and fertilisers. Cotton is one of the most heavily sprayed cash crops around the world, along with coffee and there is concern about the dermal absorption of these chemicals when using this fabric – especially around your intimate areas.

That said, cloth is still a great option compared to disposables. Of course Preethi’s case for menstrual cups is still valid.

Both Eco Femme and Jaioni have plans to launch an organic cotton range of pads. We advise women using the cloth pads until then to pre-wash the pads atleast 4 – 5 times to remove superficial chemical traces like dyes , bleaches and starches – this will also help improve the absorbency of the fabric. Our washing guide will follow in a few days on how you should do this and your main washing. And whenever available, we would strongly advice replacing your stash with organic cloth napkins.
Thank you Preethi Raghav for that candid, straight from the heart set of answers to our questions.

 

3. no harm charmPlease do support Preethi’s work in cruelty free, earth friendly jewellery by exploring her work here and liking her Facebook page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some additional links to get you started:

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

 

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. 

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It doesn’t go away – conversations with Swach Co-op

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Reading Time: 10 minutes

Julia Butterfly Hill is a U.S environmental activist. She is best known for having lived for 738 days in a 55 meter, 1500 year old California Redwood tree to prevent the loggers from the Pacific Lumber company from cutting it down.

 

5. Julia Butterfly hill

In the context of this piece, Julia Butterfly hill is also known for her rousing and inspiring beliefs and powerful words on what she terms our disposability consciousness. She calls our penchant to use and throw resources that come from fossil fuel reserves and ancient forests, in other words, paper, plastic and disposable napkins, as a weapon of mass destruction.

Julia Butterfly Hill on the disposable economy

Julia also asks us a provocative question: What is away? When we throw things “away” where is away?

In the question of disposable sanitary products and diapers, it is important to ask, who is away? And when we imagine away, who do we imagine is clearing our trash for us?

Last year, after repeated pleas and emails to companies manufacturing sanitary napkins were ignored, SWACH Pune and Stree Mukti Sanghatana from Mumbai took a drastic step. They collected and sent bags of soiled sanitary napkins to the corporate offices of Johnson & Johnson, Hindustan Unilever, Kimberly Clark and Proctor & Gamble – they wanted these companies to understand what it is like for waste pickers to hand pick and collect this waste by hand.

And this is a reality that happens every day across Indian cities.

Waste pickers handle our soiled disposable napkins, which are rarely marked separately and are often mixed with food and recyclable waste. They separate out soiled napkins from useful items by hand, exposing themselves to micro-organisms like E.Coli, salmonella, staphylococcus, HIV and pathogens that cause hepatitis and tetanus.

Because of the hazardous nature of their job, waste pickers can cut themselves when handling broken glass and sharp pieces of metal in the waste. Open, cut skin when exposed to blood soiled napkins or urine soaked diapers can present a very grave health hazard.

The Plastic Waste Management rules formulated by the MOEF in 2011, has included basic provisions asking for extended Producer responsibility when it comes to disposal of products. Producers of goods are responsible for the entire cycle of their products from cradle to grave, and need to provide solutions to help organise waste generated from the use of their products.

We have a conversation with Pratibha of Swach today to understand more.

How SWACH began:

SWACH is India’s first co-operative formed by waste collectors from low income backgrounds. In 1993, waste pickers and waste buyers in Pune and Pimpri Chinchwad came together to form KKPKP (Kaghad Kach Patra Kashtakari Panchayat) a membership based trade union.

The Union was started to improve and establish the important role played by waste pickers in solid waste management and to assert through dialogue, their contribution to the environment. Today KKPKP has 9000 members of which many are from social and marginalised castes.

Each member pays an annual fee to the organisation and an equal amount towards their life insurance cover. Members are given ID cards endorsed by the Pune Municipal Corporation, and have access to benefits like interest free loans and educational support for their children.

4. swach in the pinkathon

KKPKP has done stellar work in helping establish the role of its members in Solid Waste Management. Their study helped quantify the waste picker’s contribution to solid waste management and demonstrated how the recyclable recovery operations carried by their members helped save Pune and Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation several crores of rupees in waste handling costs.

In 2005, KKPKP launched a pilot programme in conjunction with PMC, which integrated its waste picker members in door to door waste collection work. This pilot programme paved the way for the genesis of Swach – a wholly owned worker’s co-operative which followed a pro-poor Public Private partnership.

Swach began work in 2006 and became fully operational in 2008. The work under Swach includes door to door waste collection services. Swach Plus is another arm of the venture which includes value added components that help boost income like e-waste collection, composting services, and products like ST dispo bags which we will talk about.

2. Swach plus initiative

 

“We hate reaching into a trash bag and encountering a used diaper or a soiled sanitary napkin”…

When people throw napkins into their domestic waste they don’t stop to think that another human being is sorting through all this waste to remove their recyclables. So they wrap the napkins in any old polythene bag, or don’t wrap it all. Some people wrap the napkins in newspaper, but often this opens up and the dirty napkin is exposed. Yes, we are waste pickers, but there are some things we would not like to touch.’

Another waste picker and Swach member, Shobha Bansode says that she puts plastic bags on her hands when she has to handle sanitary napkins. “That’s the only way I can handle this waste.” She says.

Rajendra Kamble, a Swach member says, “There never has been a uniform method of disposal of these pads. Some people wrap it in paper, some put it in a plastic bag and some just throw it, without putting it in anything. But even if one did wrap it, we had to take it out of the wrapping – the paper or plastic, as the municipal wet garbage truck does not even let one small piece of paper and plastic into it. So at the end of the day, we still have to handle your used napkins no matter how you wrap it.”

In order to prevent waste pickers from direct handling of sanitary pads, Swach members started manufacturing Sanitary Towel Dispo Bags. These bags are made out of old newspapers by the waste pickers of Swach. The bags are minimally priced at Rs. 1 and are made available to citizens, bulk buyers include IT companies, Women’s hostels and our members also provide it as per the request on helpline or as part of their door to door collection. By using these environment friendly bags, citizens not only help in preserving the health and dignity of several waste workers but also contribute to their livelihood.

When our waste pickers see this bag, they know not to open it and keep it aside while sorting through the trash they collect.

We were proud to have been featured on Satyameva Jayate in their episode on solid waste management.

3. swach on satyameva jayate

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We have been working for 6 years on the problem of appropriate disposal of disposable menstrual pads and diapers.

What began as an effort to avoid direct handling of this waste by waste pickers has over time evolved into a complete campaign to ensure manufacturing companies fulfil their duties under EPR (Extended Producer’s Responsibility) guidelines as included in the Plastic Waste Management Rules.

Swach has taken the first steps in beginning a dialogue with manufacturers and the local government about appropriate disposal of STs, keeping in mind the occupational health issues of waste pickers, and in the light of the EPR. Efforts are also being made at an individual level through the Swach members to convince citizens to use the ST Dispo bags.

We have also been organizing awareness sessions at societies where waste pickers are given a forum to convey to other urban women, how they feel about having to handle soiled napkins, often with their bare hands. Such face-to-face conversations have helped in bringing home the issue and have resulted in genuine change in few societies.

While there is a section of women who have shown a certain resistance in spending that extra bit towards disposal of sanitary pads, many women have shown interest in the issue and have taken up the cause by promoting these bags in societies and encouraging their friends. Also, there are various aspects of ST Dispo Bags, which attracts citizens- besides addressing the health and handling issue of waste workers, some women feel it is quite handy and easy to carry in handbags for safer disposal; some are attracted by the fact that is made from recycled paper.

 

Our engagement efforts with manufacturers of disposable sanitary products have met with less success.

We estimate that more than 4 Lakh Sanitary napkins are used in a city like Pune per menstrual cycle (i.e. every month). This we think is a conservative estimate. The figure could go upto 15 lakh disposable menstrual products every month.

The Ministry of Environment and Forests has notified the Plastic Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011 on 4th February, 2011. As per these Rules, in line with the principle of Extended Producer’s Responsibility (EPR), the municipal authority may ask the manufacturers, either collectively or individually to provide the required finance to establish the plastic waste collection centres. The producers are required to finance, and organize a system for environmentally sound management of waste generated from their products. The concept of EPR has been adopted as being practised in various countries, requiring the producers to take responsibility for the end of life of their products and to ensure that the waste from such products is channelized for safe handling.

 

For the last three years, as per the Extended Producer Responsibility, and/or CSR, we have been politely asking manufacturers to take more responsibility towards its post consumer waste. We know that disposable sanitary napkins are being promoted as a healthy option to young women (who might otherwise drop out of school after onset of menstruation). We are also sensitive towards our women members. Both KKPKP and Swach cooperative are both women centric organizations with an 80%+ female membership. The coop is particularly concerned about the health and dignity of women who handle and have to deal with this particularly degrading post consumer waste.

 

We also approached the Pune Municipal Corporation to help with this problem. They took a keen interest in the health of our members. They called for a consultation of elected representatives, active citizens groups and various manufacturing companies but they failed to attend this important meeting.

 

Since the responses from companies were so unsatisfactory, we had to take an aggressive step and on the occasion of international women’s day – March 8th, 2013, we launched our campaign “Send it Back”. A small package of used napkins was sent to the head offices of leading Sanitary Napkin manufacturing companies in India, to make them experience how insulting and revolting it is for waste pickers to handle this waste on a daily basis. The idea was to gauge the urgency of this issue and the need of implementing a mechanism for safer handling of sanitary napkins.

6. send it back campaign

The campaign caught attention and responding to the packages sent to them, a meeting was called in April 2013, by Feminine and Infant Health Association (FIHA) at Pune Municipal Corporation Office to discuss the matter with Joint Commissioner and Swach/KKPKP representatives. They said they require at least 90 days to come up with an action plan. We have still not heard back from them.

But also, more importantly, once we sort through the trash piles, we need to know how to further dispose used and soiled sanitary napkins and disposable diapers. Manufacturers till date have given us no answer to the question “does a sanitary napkin or diaper go into organic waste or recyclable waste or do we put into another category of waste? How should we deal with this waste? “

We also started building public awareness on this issue. Some people’s representatives and Mohalla committees – the citizen’s group have also extended their support and had sent letters to the companies demanding accountability.

Krya’s point of view on this:

While Swach’s initiative to make the disposal of used napkins and diapers more sanitary for their members is certainly laudable, we at Krya feel that this is a stop gap solution. A sanitary napkin wrapped in an ST dispo bag will still reach your landfill, although this time other people would not have had to handle it with their bare hands, in the landfill it will degrade slowly leaching blood, pathogens, and the chemical additives that make up its construction.

And of course appropriate disposal methods still do not address the several grave health concerns that disposable products present. Read more about these here and here.

 

It is also a telling comment that manufacturers have been unable to answer Swach’s very pertinent query on what category of waste soiled disposable sanitary napkins and disposable diapers. We are all aware that they are neither organic waste nor recyclable waste, although the blood, pee and poop that goes into them is organic, and the materials they are made up of (plastic and wood pulp) are in theory recyclable.

 

But the lethal combination of mixing organic material into highly processed and specialised material made from fossil fuel renders a used disposable product like a diaper and sanitary napkin completely un-recoverable. The highly specialised SAAP in diapers and napkins cannot be safely retrieved, cleaned well of organic matter and then reused for another purpose at an efficient cost. This is why corporations are investing in incinerators which are the only way to dispose this material – burn it. Incinerating this material comes with added complications of health and air pollution.

 

Citizens living near landfills like Kodangaiyur and Perungudi, routinely lead demonstrations and protests every time the landfills run the incinerators. They complain of lethal smoke and soot that leave them filling ill. This makes sense given the many weird additives, dioxins and fragrances that go into disposable products.

We believe the true solution will emerge when menstrual waste does not leave your home and is handled by me and you, ourselves.  This becomes possible only if we all give adopting reusable menstrual products a serious thought.

We would like to thank Malti, Aparna and Pratibha of the Swach team who kindly consented to or interview and helped us with their important perspective of disposable products from a solid waste management and human dignity.

The Swach team does amazing work in Pune. Please support their work by “liking” their Facebook page, and reading more about their work and services here. There are opportunities for volunteering with Swach and contributing both your time and money to their work. If you are interested in exploring this please contact Aparna or Pratibha at Swach co-op via email.

The photos on this page of Swach’s work is courtesy Swach Co-op, Pune.

But perhaps the best way to contribute to their work and be the solution, would be to consider adopting reusables. If you would like to know more about the problems of disposables, 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 a Man’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 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 chronicling how she shifted to reusable cloth pads.

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.

 

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A Convenient Diaper

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Reading Time: 9 minutes

Last fortnight we looked at the horrors of disposable diapers for the baby and mother earth.

A quick summary of the inconvenient facts are:

Krya Infographic 3 - disposable diapers and pulp and crude oil

 

and

Krya Infographic 4 - dangers from disposable diapers

 

For the longer version, please read the original blog post here.

For those struck with a mixture of guilt and hopelessness, hope still waits, in the form of cloth diapers, both ancient and modern.

In a cradle to grave study sponsored by the National Association of Diaper Services (U.S), it was found that disposable diapers produce seven times more solid waste when discarded and three times more solid waste during the manufacturing process, when compared modern cloth diapers (MCD).

When MCDs are used for the baby, solid waste (poop) is flushed down the toilet and not dumped in a landfill, waste is being sent down the right channel preventing water and earth contamination.

The health benefits for a baby put on cloth diapers are numerous.

Cloth diapering depends only on the absorbency of the material used to contain the baby’s waste output and not on uninvestigated, potentially hazardous substances like Sodium Polyacrylate ( the super absorbent polymer , SAP) used in disposable diapers.

Cloth diapers are said to facilitate early toilet training as compared to disposables by achieving the right balance between keeping the baby dry and letting him / her know when it is time to change the diaper. Unlike a disposable, a cloth diaper is never completely dry when full. The feeling of dampness alerts the baby, who becomes sensitized to the idea of a diaper change,

By avoiding all the hazardous substances that go into a disposable diaper which can trigger contact dermatitis and rashes and by alerting the baby’s caregiver to a nappy change, cloth diapered babies are in general less rash prone.

Continue reading “A Convenient Diaper”

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An Inconvenient Diaper

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Reading Time: 7 minutes

We are parents to a wonderful 13 month old. And not ashamed to admit that we were queasy about the prospect of diaper changes before the arrival of our daughter. As adults we live in a sanitised world with zero tolerance for weird smells of any stripe. We are always reaching for fragrant products (in our case a pure natural essential oil, of course) to banish the smells in our life.

Therefore as new parents, we did not even consider an alternative to disposable diapers. We are conditioned to treat anything poop related as gross and disgusting and disposable diapers presented the least messy solution. (for the parents that is!)

In the first month we went through an alarming number of disposable diapers. And we simply had to do some research to see if we were doing the right thing; to see if there was anything out there beyond disposable diapers.

With the wisdom of hindsight, I could have told my early parent self that of course we were not doing the right thing. Any product that is used so ephemerally and has to be thrown out simply cannot be good for the environment. And anything that works so eerily well to contain a natural bodily function cannot be great for the baby.

So here are the facts:

Calculating our diaper usage, our daughter, assuming toilet training by 2 (which is no longer the norm), would go through 5000 disposable diapers at a conservative estimate by the time she turns two.

We dispose these diapers without flushing solid waste down the toilet as it is supposed to be done. As a result, the diaper sits in a landfill slowly leaching human excreta and bacteria apart from heavy metals, dioxins, and solvents (from the diaper), into the ground contaminating the earth and the water.

What goes into a disposable diaper?

Disposable diapers sandwich an absorbent layer made of wood pulp and a super absorbent polymer (SAP) like Sodium Poly acrylate between two water proof layers of Poly ethylene and Poly propylene. Many brands also have fragrances embedded into the diapers and dyes for the printing.

Crude oil is the basic start for creating the outer water proof layers in disposable diapers.

It takes one cup of crude oil (approx 236 ml) to produce enough plastic for one disposable diaper. 

So according to my estimate, despite using public transport, walking and not owning a car, as parents we would have been responsible for burning up 1180 litres of crude oil just to manage poop and pee!

The middle layer of the diaper, which really what us parents depend upon is the absorbent layer which uses wood pulp and SAP. The wood pulp used in disposable diapers is a kind of chemical pulp which is produced by combining wood chips and chemicals in large vessels called digesters. In this process the heat and chemicals break down the lignin in the wood without damaging the cellulose fibre. The chemical pulp process is followed for applications like disposable diapers and sanitary napkins where a high absorbency and strength is required.

Continue reading “An Inconvenient Diaper”

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What lies beneath – digging in the world’s trash cans: Part 1

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Reading Time: 8 minutes

A graphic photo in The Hindu recently inspired this two part blog post.

As we walk around Chennai, we often have to navigate mounds of garbage. Garbage has a mysterious way of reappearing in double its size after it has been hauled away just a night before, and I cannot help being intrigued by the contents of trash.

Even protected areas like the bio-diverse IIT Madras campus suffer from the garbage problem. A week back on one of our now frequent walks in the IIT campus, Srini and I came across a couple of beautiful spotted deer busily nosing around old discarded containers of junk food. As we gently chased away the deer (who looked most grieved) and safely disposed the junk food container; we began talking about Chennai’s trash cans, and what ails them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some digging (this time on the internet) threw up very interesting facts and figures.

There are many ways to look at the trash data. The simplest – how much trash (or solid waste) does each country generate on an average?

It comes as no surprise that the average US citizen is nearly at the head of the pack; trashing nearly 2 Kg of solid waste every day compared to urban Indians who generate 600 grams of waste every day.

Before we begin to pat ourselves on the back, consider this: In just the last 10 years Indians have doubled their trash generation from 34 million tonnes per year to 68 million tons per year.

 Which lead me to the question; just what are we, the urban Indians, throwing out of our homes?

All of us, no matter where we live, generate 4 categories of trash

  1. Compostable waste – Organic food peels, trimmings, dried leaves, leftover food, etc that can be composted to give rich , nutritious soil
  2. Re-cyclable waste – Paper, plastic packaging, glass, metals, aluminium foil, etc which, if cleaned and processed properly could be re-used. Certain materials like aluminium foil have a 95% recovery / recycling rate if cleaned properly. Recyclable waste is a category that is only potentially recyclable – by mixing them with other kinds of waste, it makes them difficult to separate, clean and process to re-use.
  3. Partially recyclable / re-coverable waste – Most of the E-waste we generate from chargers, to used batteries and other electronic goods falls into this category. If separated and recycled properly, a small –moderate portion of the raw materials that go into the making of these goods can be recovered like metals and precious metals. However, the portion of material that can be recovered is small, the process is potentially toxic and hazardous, and the balance of the material goes waste.
  4. Re-usable material – Due to rapid urbanisation, every city in India is now in the midst of a construction spree. All the construction debris that is generated (sand, cement, iron and steel girders bricks) if stored separately can be re-used in other construction activity.

Every country today has a problem of excess trash – we have run out of space to store our garbage, and cannot get rid of it in any safe, non-toxic way. Different countries depending on the composition of their solid waste have different strategies to tackle the problem.

A Comparison of Solid waste composition between the US & India:

The U.S. generates the highest volume of solid waste in the world and the highest per capita waste in the world. But because of the nature of waste they generate, they also have a  high level of efficiency in their waste reduction programmes.

The solid waste composition of each household is very high in recyclable waste like paper and plastic packaging. While U.S. per capita waste per year has increased, the recycling rate has also increased.

Handling food waste in the U.S. still remains an issue – a very small percent of it is currently being composted.

Urban India presents a very different picture:

The biggest portion of India’s waste is actually compostable material, followed by re-usable material.

The addition of food waste makes the solid waste we generate messy and problematic. Most food waste contains a lot of moisture, which makes other materials like paper and plastic less recyclable.

Composting does take place in India at the Municipal corporation level, but only 3% of the organic matter generated by us is composted formally.

Of this percentage which is composted, most of the organic matter had not been separated from the debris and recyclable material, bringing down the effectiveness of compost – As a result of lack of source segregation, of the 3% of the organic material that is composted, only 7%of this is converted into compost – which is a shockingly low 0.21% of all waste generated.

Further, this measly 0.21% compost, because of the lack of source segregation, it is often found to be high in heavy metals, making it unusable for agriculture.

So what happens, you may ask, to the waste now that it is not composted, or segregated?

Most of our urban waste goes to landfills such as these where it just sits there for eternity, or gets burned, leading to a high amount of pollution generated and lethal toxins released into the air.

In Chennai, every single person is responsible for nearly 200 Kg of solid waste per year, which in turn ends up in the landfills which use up 550 acres in Chennai. The Chennai Corporation estimates that if we do not change our ways, these 550 acres will get exhausted by 2015. To put this in perspective, this landfill is roughly the size of the IIT madras campus, piled high with waste!

The Solutions

At the end of this rather long discussion, it can be exhausting to contemplate the magnitude of the problem before us, but there is good news.

As mentioned earlier, In the US, the EPA has managed to take back nearly 34% of re-cyclable paper and plastic from their landfills. This requires diligent recycling of paper and plastic by the citizens.

We too can help make a solid difference in India, by examining and changing our behaviour.

A. Reducing organic waste : reduce what gets thrown out

The rather massive quantity of food waste that is getting thrown out in India today suggests two issues:

1) We seem to be buying more food / vegetables / fruits than we can consume and

2) We are throwing away the stuff that rots / what we cannot eat.

So the first step to reducing the landfill mess is to be careful about estimating and buying the food you need.

Having analysed my garbage, I have concluded that one of the big problems in our home is over buying and improper storage. Frequent power outages are causing the food in the fridge to rot faster and I am forced to throw away a portion of my fruits and vegetables without eating them.

Since we only buy organic fruits and vegetables, which are not so readily available, I buy them in bulk once a week. This sometimes leads to excess buying and I am now trying hard to estimate exactly what I need, and avoid wastage.

B. Reducing organic waste: over processing of fresh food

The other often ignored part in food waste over processing. When you eat food whole, no trimmings go to the landfill. For e.g.: the head of the tomato is often sliced out for aesthetic reasons and discarded – you lose out on both nutrition and contribute to a landfill. At my home, I eat the leaves of carrots and beets and most other vegetables too, stalk and all – brilliant nutrition and landfill saved.

Here are some examples of trimmings that you could eat instead of discarding: peels (carrots, potatoes, bottle gourd, cucumber), stalks and greens (carrots, beets), heads (tomatoes, bottle gourd) .

C.  Source Segregation :  Separating waste into compostable /recyclable / re-usable

The default option in Indian homes today is a single kitchen waste bin in which all biodegradable and non biodegradable waste get mixed together and thrown out.

Biodegradable waste like fruit and vegetable trimmings and other food scraps have high moisture content. When this is mixed with re-usable or recyclable waste like paper or plastic, it makes them wet and soggy, therefore unfit for reusing or recycling.

Paper and plastic must be sorted and kept aside either to be recycled along with your Municipal collector or can be given to the raddiwala. Every single piece of plastic that enters your home can be recycled or re-used. If the plastic that comes in contact with food or cosmetics should be rinsed and washed thoroughly and dried to ensure that they will be recycled.

D.  Home Composting

After source segregation, composting your organic waste yourself is a massive game changing step that you can take to make a serious dent on the landfill problem.

There are excellent organisations like daily Dump who have created easy to use, compact personal composters which can be used to create healthy plant food from all the previously discarded organic matter.

Here is a picture from Vani Murthy’s kambha at Bangalore, where she “makes” excellent, nutritious plant food, from organic waste which would have otherwise gone to a landfill.

This concludes Part 1 of this post. E-waste is another critical issue which is the subject of Part 2.

Sources, Resources,  & People who can help:

Thank you to:

  1. Ranjith Kharvel Annepu of Columbia University for the meticulous report on Solid waste management in India created as a result of 2 years of research, data collected through literature, expert consultations and extensive field visits covering 13 cities in India. Ranjith has been very generous in sharing his data and report with me.
  2. ExNoRa for the extensive photographic coverage of the solid waste issues that exist in Indian cities through their initiative www.garbo.in – do visit, it is an eye opener
  3. Archana Srinivas – wielder of the magic camera, discoverer of all things beautiful and aesthetic on her blog rang decor, and a committed composter and recycler for being generous with her pictures and information on composting and recycling. To view her complete set of pictures on home composting, please visit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/archanasr_2000/sets/72157627556458791/
  4. Vani Murthy – the Composting Queen who inspires Malleswaram and everyone outside of it to segregate their waste and create wonderful plant food using the Kambha. It is rare to come across people like Vani who literally take to the street inspiring and educating people on solid waste management. Vani ,again, has been extraordinarily generous with her knowledge and her pictures for this post: To know more about how you can compost at home, please go through Vani’s step by step guide here: https://picasaweb.google.com/110138724722809258966/JourneyOfMyKitchenWaste and

https://picasaweb.google.com/106938949057966909183/LeafCompostingInMyBackYard

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Plastics Waste Management Rules 2011, and How You can Help

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Reading Time: 4 minutes

This is a guest post by Dr. Seetha Coleman-Kammula, Simply Sustain LLC (www.simplysustain.com)

Can we live without plastic packaging? “It is impractical and undesirable to impose a blanket ban on the use of plastic all over the country. The real challenge is to improve municipal solid waste management systems”, said Mr. Jairam Ramesh, Minister of Environment and Forests as he released new rules for the management of plastics waste. Here are my thoughts on why the new rules might be effective and what else is needed to make plastics waste management work well. Both are based on economic arguments.

The new rules require that manufacturers make plastic bags thicker and in white or only in colors set by the Bureau of Standards. You might wonder how this will prevent the blight of plastic bags everywhere. The thinner bags blow around, spread easily, cost very little so vendors give them away for nothing, and most importantly, people do not feel guilty about throwing them away and littering, because they weigh almost nothing. So making the bags thicker could improve their chances of a next life, maybe even a higher next life, instead of dying a very slow death on streets and in gutters. Thicker bags will fetch more per bag for the rag pickers, so there will be an incentive to collect them. Requiring that the plastic bags be white or a single color will increase their chances of being recycled into gizmos (or articles) of higher market value because a mix of multi-colored bags can only be made into lower value black gizmos. Consumers must understand that unlike with cotton, the colors in plastics can not be washed out. Recyclers have to add carbon black to mask all the colors and make a uniformly-colored article. Requiring that the bags be thicker and in one color constitutes what we call “design for next life” a principle that is good for the planet, for people and for the economy. There are plenty other such examples, if you do think of any, would love to hear back from you.

Now for what is missing. The rules hold municipalities responsible for setting up  waste management systems and for performing associated functions, such as collection, storage, segregation, transport, processing and disposal of plastic waste in a way that does not damage the environment. The rules also require the setting up of centers for the collection of plastic waste involving MNCs such as Hindustan Unilever, Coca Cola etc and ensuring channelization of waste to recyclers.

Even if municipalities want to do all these things, which many Indians do not believe, they will have a hard time to make the economics work. Our research shows that in countries where good solid waste management including recycling exists there are very high gate fees for disposal in landfills. This in turn raises the gate fees for other disposals such as cement kilns and incinerators. Waste that has no cost of disposal will never come down nor will it be sorted much for recycling. In the Netherlands where land is scarce, recycling rates – be it through mechanical recycling to other plastic articles or thermal recycling to energy and fuel are high. In Poland, where land is abundant and landfilling costs are low most waste goes to landfills. This pattern also applies to different states in the US. High gate fees force industry and communities to reduce, reuse and recycle and finance the building of infrastructure for collection, sorting, segregation etc.

Lastly, if there is one thing that you can do to help matters, that is segregate all plastics waste in dry waste bins separate from wet waste in your homes. This first step is essential for making the economics of the rest of the steps work. Whoever is collecting the waste can pick out the plastic articles that can be mechanically recycled meaning melted and re-shaped into other gizmos and sell these articles. If this stream is clean and dry, they will get a better price and their costs of sorting will be lower. The rest of the plastic packaging such as foil and film packaging used for potato chips, biscuits and sachets and thin plastic shopping bags can be thermally recycled, meaning converted into diesel or gasoline in pyrolysis units or used directly as fuel in cement kilns. Our Life Cycle Analysis work shows that for this particular plastics waste stream thermal recycling is the best option as it recovers its high calorific content and that mechanical recycling  is not environmentally prudent. . However, there is a caveat; to make the economics work, the plastics waste must not be contaminated with paper, food or vegetables as this lowers the average calorific value. Today cement kilns will not pay much for this stream, in fact they will charge for it to be fed into their plants as it adds costs to their processes. Most importantly, segregation makes rag-pickers’ work more hygienic and dignified and keeps the premises free of vermin. Lastly, dry and wet segregation followed by collection of the wet waste could lead  to production of good quality compost, a much-needed and highly-valued product

So embrace Yes In My Back Yard  – YIMBY and increase the value in your waste.

About the author

Dr. Seetha Coleman-Kammula is one of the founding partners of Simply Sustain, a management consulting company dedicated to making organizations profitable by strategic use of natural resources without leaving a legacy of waste. She has more than 25 years of experience first at Royal Dutch Shell, and later at Basell, a Shell BASF Joint Venture. Seetha currently sits on the Sustainability advisory board of Dow Chemical Company and has been actively engaged leading an end to end value chain collaboration geared toward conserving energy and materials.

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Minimising our fresh water footprint

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Reading Time: 4 minutes

Water conservation is very close to my heart.  Growing up in Chennai, I have seen conditions of extreme water scarcity. Some of my early memories include standing in a line in our street with large pots, waiting to fill water from the corporation water lorry. These were hard times – the water lorry would come only once in 2 days, and have a fixed amount of water. Water was rationed for every house, and we would get just 2 – 3 pots of water on a bad day.

2003 was another period of water scarcity in Chennai. The apartment I lived in rationed our fresh, flowing water to 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the evening, which I used to scramble to collect in large drums.

Faced with drought every summer, the government made rain water harvesting mandatory for all buildings in Chennai in the late 90’s. This simple measure certainly has helped ease the water supply nightmares in the last few years.

Fresh Water Footprint

Along with measuring our carbon footprint as a company and as individuals, we are also evolving the concept of fresh water footprint.

At Krya, we seek to minimise our ‘fresh water footprint’ by creating products that use water responsibly, like our detergent. We also track our ‘fresh water footprint’ down the line to reduce the use of fresh water in the creation of our products.

One of our principles at Krya is to make only powder or solid formulations – we do not make any liquid products. This cuts down our fresh water footprint substantially, and as all good eco measures, also helps save fossil fuel, packaging material, and keeps the air around our manufacturing facility cleaner.

We source our fruit that’s a detergent from a responsible polycuture farm. Through careful water conservation methods, and the principles of Fukuoka’s One Straw Revolution, Mr.Anki Reddy, our farmer has extensively recharged the ground water in the farm. What once was an arid wasteland is now a self sufficient farm that generates enough water for 1000 acres of cultivation.

We have also designed our detergent to work better in frugal water conditions. The fruit that’s a detergent is a low foam detergent. This makes it easier to rinse than a regular detergent, and it needs much less water during rinsing.

We also work on minimising our fresh water footprint at home. This helps in two ways:

  1. It reduces our fresh water consumption as a family.
  2. It reduces our load on the city’s drainage system

These are some of the measures we undertake in our home.

  1. Minimising our kitchen’s fresh water footprint

All the water we use in the kitchen (washing vegetables, rice, pressure cooker water), goes to watering our plants. We have measured that every meal we cook, generates around 5 litres of nutrient rich used water, which we reuse to water our plants. As a bonus, this water is especially good for the plants.

reusable kitchen water

2.Minimising our laundry’s fresh water footprint

We recharge the groundwater with all our laundry water for every wash. Our machine uses atleast a 100 litres of water per wash, and all of that goes directly into the ground to help replenish the ground water table. We Of course, use the Krya detergent which is ideally suited for this purpose. But in case you use a regular synthetic detergent, there are specific plants that can filter your laundry water and make it safe to be discharged into the ground.

However we recently moved out of a ground floor house to a new flat and we have not been unable to do this. I console myself by reminding myself that even though I cannot recycle this water, atleast the water I’m putting into the city’s drainage system is non-toxic and will not harm aquatic life.

3. Minimising our garden’s water footprint

We mulch our plants and water them in the evening, both strategies to minimize top soil water evaporation.

The principle of mulching has been wonderfully explained in Fukuoka’s ‘One straw revolution’. Plants lose top soil moisture when the top soil is left exposed to the sun. Natural forests always have leaves and other organic matter strewn on the floor. This helps the top soil retain moisture and protects it from excess water evaporation. We follow this principle by mulching all our potted plants.

We use the residue generated by our detergent to mulch the plants. Our detergent is a fruit which does not dissolve completely after a wash, and leaves behind fruit fibres that are excellent to compost or use as mulch. We cover the soil surface in all our pots with these leftover fruit fibres. This helps retain moisture for our plants and also, reduces the amount of water they would need.

We also water our plants in the evening, because they lose less water due to evaporation – also watering in the evening is better for plants as root systems grow in the night, so you give them a feed just when they need it.

4.Minimising the footprint of the fresh water we consume

We consume as little bottled water as possible and rely on a water filter. We still end up buying water during unscheduled trips, but we have been trying to minimize that by asking for filtered tap water in restaurants. Movie theatres continue to stump us: as a part of another exciting venture we work on, we watch a lot of films. Theatres in Chennai do not allow us to carry our water inside. We have to figure this one as we are going to watch a lot of movies.

Food / Water for thought:

  1. Almost a billion people worldwide lack access to clean safe water.
  2. A fifth of the world’s population live in water scarce areas.
  3. We can survive for a month without food, but only a week without water.
  4. India has 16% of the world’s population – but only 4% of the world’s fresh water sources.
  5. The per capita fresh water availability in India has dropped from 5177 cubic metres in 1951 to 1820 cubic metres in 2001.
  6. Delhi Development Authority has projected a demand of 1100 million gallons per day of water in 2011 – their supply is 880 million gallons per day
  7. The Yamuna in Delhi has no water to meet even the current demand
  8. Because of the fast depletion of water bodies, India is now extremely dependent on groundwater, especially for agriculture. Groundwater exploitation has already reached unsustainable levels in Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan and is fast reaching these levels in Tamilnadu, Gujarat, and U.P.
  9. 90% of India’s rural water supply is from groundwater, which is reaching unsustainable levels of exploitation.
  10. Naina Lal Kidwai has decided to crusade on behalf of water conservation. She will be heading a committee on water to help sensitise corporate India on water conservation, and help them reduce their water footprint.

 

 

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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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The quick guide to recycling symbols

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In the last few posts we have discussed recycling and waste management. While researching the subject, we realized that recycling potential of each material can be easily identified with the industry standard symbols.

So we decided to put together a quick reference guide for these symbols

  1. The classic , “Can be Recycled”

recyclabe logo

This is the original classic symbol created in 1970 by gary anderson,now found commonly on paper,plastics etc. This indicates that the material can be recycled.

2. Already Recycled

recycled logo precise recycled % logo

When the 3 curved arrows are placed inside the circle it means that some part of the material is made from recycled sources. If the precise percentage of recycled sources is known, like say 20%, that can also be indicated inside the logo

3. Plastics Resin Identification Codes

Have you seen the recycling like symbol with a number inside, at the bottom of a shampoo bottle or water bottle? That is the resin identification code, developed to help recyclers identify and sort plastics. This is an internationally accepted code. The resin identification code has 3 parts to it

HDPE code logo

  • The 3 arrow symbol
  • A number inside to identify the type of plastic
  • The short code for the type of plastic (optional)

Along with the code numbers, in the table below, is the symbolic representation of the recycling risk level . The recycling  risk levels are

recycling risk level

resin identification codes

Note : The recycling risk levels are based on our research and are not standard symbols

4. Already recycled plastics

In the case of plastics made from recycled sources, the letter “r” is added in front of the name of the plastic  like R-HDPE. The same number codes as above are used.

So a package made with recycled HDPE would look like

recycled HDPE

Why are these codes important?

Some types of plastic like HDPE (code # 2) have high recyclability while others like PVC (code   # 3) have such a toxic lifecycle that most of the world’s leading companies have eliminated PVC from their packaging. So the responsible consumer can choose a better, safer grade of plastic merely by looking at the resin identification number.

In the case of other materials like paper, the symbols make it easy to identify virgin paper from recycled paper. The aware consumer can choose recycled paper every time the choice is available.

Re-Use or Recycle?

The next time you purchase a mineral water bottle, note that the disposal instructions are “to crush after use”.  This means that it can be recycled but not reused.

The resin code can only identify the type of plastic and not its grade or quality. The thickness of the plastic material is important in determining whether it can be re-used or re-cycled.

When a very thin plastic container is re-used, there is a possibility that it may release trace amounts of harmful chemicals into its contents. Ergo, crush after use.

As the plastic grade gets thinner, it also becomes more expensive to recycle. As a result many Indian state governments have banned plastic bags than are thinner than 20 microns.

Reduce

While reuse and recycle are noble pursuits, the most effective answer always lies at source. i.e. reduce consumption.

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