“Someday, when our children grow up, we will be answerable to them about the crumbling world we brought them into. At least, they will know their mother did her best!” smiles Nidarshana Saikia Das, permaculturist and sustainable lifestyle practitioner who left her corporate career early this year to join the environment revolution. Along with healthy living enthusiast Aruna Nayagam, (who she met at a farm they both frequent) the duo conduct Eco bazaars which are low waste (they call Zero waste events almost utopic!) which connects those who like to lead a sustainable lifestyle to those who can help them do so.
Aruna who took a break to be a full time mom after a decade of experience in insurance says that the idea was to make natural eco-friendly living as normal living, not just a fancy way of life. She explains, “Like every mother, I explored the possibilities of natural, healthy and chemical free living for my child. It was a difficult and expensive task.” The twosome organized their first eco bazaar in September and are looking forward to hold the second edition.
Nidarshana reveals that she found herself buying from Amazon for the lack of places which sell earth friendly alternatives. “Every time I go to organic markets, I come back feeling like the place is choking with plastic.” she confides and adds, “ There was a clear gap between ‘organic’ and ‘eco-friendly’. When I try to speak with sellers about this, they cite reasons like they are only resellers and the things they sell come packaged in that way. I wanted to find it out for myself… maybe set up a store or a marketplace like that with more control of what is sold and how.”
The premise behind the Eco bazaar is multifold – to facilitate knowledge exchange on natural and healthy living through workshops as well as to make eco-friendly and organic products accessible and affordable, thereby increasing demand. It also hopes to give makers of rural crafts and farmers a platform to sell their products directly to consumers.
The duo who calls themselves “The Sustainable Indian team” want the event to be akin to a supermarket for all things eco-friendly so it’s easier for people to make the switch. The focus is also to not promote mindless consumerism, so only bare essentials will be available at the bazaar, things which people buy on a regular basis. The platform only provides them the alternatives.
Aruna says that the event is a social experiment to see if a low waste event structured on the ethics of Reduce, Refuse and Recycle is even possible. To ensure that there are different concepts like onsite wet waste composting of the food waste generated during the cafe and a DIY model that doubles up as a live demo on home composting.
She further adds, “Whatever dry waste is generated from the event, we have offered to take them back. For this we have tied up with waste management company, Waste Ventures. We are still struggling to cut down on the plastic packaging in the event. For this we are consulting the sellers extensively and encouraging them to treat this platform to try out things like carrying snacks in glass jars and offering them in paper bags and so on. Most sellers have the intent but they are struggling themselves and we are enabling them to experiment at our platform.”
Another measure taken to this end is to invite homeprenuers / individuals to sell homemades. One of the sellers wraps her soaps in paper that is printed on one side while another uses Patanjali dabbas to sell homemade tooth powder. The event is planned in a way that it offers like-minded to hangout, share, collaborate (the venue is a cafe), learn (they have workshops for adults as well as kids) and while at it, find themselves earth friendly lifestyle alternatives.
The swap store at the event is another highlight. Aruna explains, “We wanted to experiment with the traditional concept of community barter, no cash transactions. Last time we had children books and toys and the idea was a hit. This time we are taking the concept a few notches ahead and setting up a saree and women accessories swap. Diwali is just around the corner, and there couldn’t be a better time to declutter our homes! While it’s a barter, we’re also encouraging people to take only what they need.”
With stalls featuring everything from organic millets, grains, cold pressed oils, staples, vegan products, jute bags to upcyled decoratives, daily essentials like bamboo toothbrushes, chemical free cleaners, bodycare products, traditional cookware (iron, clay), home gardening essentials, compost bins, terracota products and menstrual hygiene products, there is something for everyone.
The duo hopes to make it a model low-waste experience marketplace and raise awareness around the very concept of “sustainable living” in urban spaces.