There is a growing number of people in Bangalore chanting the reuse-recycle mantra, and mind you they are second to none!

We Indians have some strange habits — we’re thrifty, we also hoard things, we recycle the craziest of things, and throw away things that are recyclable. We have a culture of going to the raddiwallah every month-end, but the phrase “second-hand” is really looked down upon. Set this in today’s world of looking to reduce your carbon footprint, consuming locally within your community, utilising resources to the max, and cutting waste to a minimum, and we have a whole world of potential out there.

It’s in this context that we must appreciate the efforts of Bangalore-based Second To None — 220 — that’s how they represent themselves. It’s a group of people “who practice and encourage others to practice a life of reuse, recycle, reduce waste, and replenish resources”. They share recycling and upcycling ideas and encourage used goods instead of new. Three women — Anu Gummaraju, Reena Chengappa and Shilpa Kamath (now relocated to the USA) — who were colleagues when they worked at Infosys, put their shared passion together after they quit their jobs, to start this collective. What started off as a Facebook group two years ago, now has in its fold over 21,000 online members!

“It began with a personal need that me and my friends felt when we saw stuff in our house that was no longer useful, but is not junk either. Instead of hoarding all that stuff, we wanted to create a platform to dispose, sell off or swap goods that would otherwise be dumped in a landfill,” says Anu. When they started off online they also wanted to introduce the concept off the “garage sale”, which isn’t a common phenomenon in India. From its first flea market held a week after their online launch, the group has come a long way to holding its eleventh, almost managing to hold a market every three months except during the monsoons.

Anu says their group can also take some credit for making the concept of “upcycling” popular — creating something of value from waste. “Compared to when we started out, there are so many more individuals who took it up as a hobby and have now made it a small enterprise.” Among the things that are popular at their markets are electronic and home appliances, glasses, plates, trays, books, DVDs and posters. “It’s a great idea for people who are on the move, to pick up something inexpensive.”

But are we as a people open to buying a using things “second hand”? Anu points out how there were always people who were ready to deal at the raddi shops, but then the middle and upper-middle class have hang ups. The younger generation has realised they can get great bargains, especially on books, CDs, and household goods, and they bring their parents along to their events. “Breaking this mindset was one of the things we wanted to do with our group,” says Anu. Reena also points out how when they started off people were unwilling to buy used clothing and footwear. “Now people are beginning to think it is okay for them to buy and use them,” she says. Reena also talks of how once they quit their job, they started looking more seriously at money and resources from the macro and micro perspective. Both Reena and Anu personally follow the philosophy of minimising waste and preserving resources in their homes.