What Goes into Leading a Low-Waste Lifestyle?
By Aditi Dharmadhikari
“Necessity is the mother of invention,” says Devaki Shinkre, who lives in a small village in Goa where the Village Panchayat does not collect their wet waste. She would be left with a full garbage bin at the end of each day, teeming with leftovers from the day’s cooking. The nearest public bin was located in a city around 3 km away, and it was while she was searching for a more practical solution to this problem that she discovered composting — a discovery she describes as ‘life-changing’.
“Almost 70% of the waste in our homes is organic in nature and I have finally found a way to deal with my wet waste effectively,” Devaki, who runs Di’s planet — a YouTube channel on sustainability — today, says. “This was the point when I really got interested in learning about sustainable solutions to our day-to-day problems.”
There have been plenty of alarm bells going off to do with the effects of climate change recently. The pitter-patter of raindrops is a comforting sound, but when you hear them on your roof on a January morning in Goa, suffice to say there might be an element of concern involved. The past 10 years have also been found to be the hottest on record, and UN scientists warned in March 2019 that we have only 11 years to prevent irreversible damage from climate change.
“We may never reach the zero in ‘zero-waste’ but that’s no reason to take zero action,” Devaki hits the nail on the head.
Di’s Planet: A YouTube Channel on Sustainability
Di’s Planet is one of the many initiatives in Goa which has made sustainability and disseminating information around sustainability a personal responsibility.
“Some of the episodes feature subjects such as home composting for beginners, how to make your own hair shampoo, how to make your own earth kit, all about reusable menstrual cloth pads and how to make your own leaf composter,” she shares. “One that I’d suggest everyone watch is the one on how to make bio-enzymes.”
“Our homes are filled with different kinds of cleaners such as floor cleaners, dishwashing liquids and so on. My biggest problem with these is the harmful chemicals that they contain,” Devaki explains. “They also pollute our water bodies as we flush these cleaners down our drains. So using bio-enzymes is a very simple solution; it is a 100% natural, multi-purpose cleaning liquid that can effectively replace all the harmful cleaners in your home and the best part is that it is made from your kitchen waste — peels of citrus fruits! So you don’t just save money when you start making it, but you also help the environment.”
Devaki’s aim is to make people realise that a sustainable, low-waste lifestyle is completely achievable with just a few changes to their existing lifestyle. Soon after her interest in sustainability was born to solve the waste management problem at home, she joined the Wasteless Project, a 12-week project to adopt a zero-waste lifestyle curated by Saritha Sudhakaran, in its first edition. According to Devaki, the Wasteless Project made her aware of her daily choices and her perspective on how she looked at waste changed completely with this workshop.
How was the Wasteless Project Born?
Urban designer Saritha had been practising sustainability as a way of life since 2010, but there was a project she worked on as a consultant a few years ago that sparked the idea for Wasteless Project. “I was working with the Goa Waste Management Cooperation to design waste management plans for villages,” she recalls. “By the end of that exercise, I realised that there's a lot of conversation about waste management in Goa, but there are very few initiatives on waste minimisation.”
She happened to have a chance conversation with someone at the Serendipity Arts Festival, 2018, which triggered an idea — to start a project where she handheld people and showed them very local, very simple solutions to reduce daily waste; things that didn’t require a lot of time and effort, and started to feel like second nature after a while. That's how Saritha kickstarted the Wasteless Project in January 2019.
“I have structured the entire 12-week course over one-on-one sessions on WhatsApp,” she explains the process of the advocacy initiative project. “I broke down what I wanted to communicate, and I would give participants solutions on how to reduce different types of waste, where to buy products if they cannot be made at home, and where to buy the ingredients to make these products. I’d suggest additional media and resources for those who are curious to find out more, and I have also taken participants from Goa for more practical sessions, such as to help a waste management unit or to a kitchen garden to learn how to set one up, and so on.”
While it started off as a Goa-centric initiative, it snowballed due to its remote nature; soon, Saritha had participants from all across the country, which also meant they were able to exchange their knowledge of local sustainable practices. A lot of people who attended the course, like Devaki Shinkre, went on to do constructive things around sustainability after attending the Wasteless Project; some went and had conversations with their respective village panchayats and tried to do their bit to build awareness, and several intend to start YouTube channels about sustainability and one person even started an eco-store of her own in Mapusa, Medini Ecostore.
Ecoposro: Goa’s First Zero-Waste Store
Ecoposro made waves nationally as Goa’s first zero-waste store in 2018, started by Eldridge Lobo and Jonah Fernandes — who had both grown up in Goa — as an extension of a lifestyle they both already led.
“We have tried our best to live a low-impact lifestyle ever since we can remember,” Jonah tells us. “From never littering, to helping with garbage collection, it was a journey that eventually led us to open Ecoposro. ‘Posro’ means 'small shop' in Konkani; it’s our attempt at bringing amazing eco-friendly products to other eco-conscious people.”
Today, Ecoposro has three branches in Goa — one in Aldona, Parra and Anjuna each. Think groceries, detergents, toiletries, cosmetics and self-care products — the works. The store also has wildly popular weekly markets — with 100% organic and fair-trade fruits and vegetables that taste as inviting as they look. With vendors and suppliers in and around Goa, Ecoposro has a non-negotiable list of criteria that needs to be met: the products need to be biodegradable, ethically sourced and have a low carbon footprint.
The store ensures that its processes and operations too are as eco-friendly as their products with a ‘planet first, business second’ policy. “This comes with passion, and with passion comes ingenuity,” Eldridge says. “If a certain product can bring in a lot of money, but it is not as sustainable as we would like it to be, we scrap the whole idea. Planet first, business second; this is how we ensure our operations remain eco-friendly.”
They believe in sourcing their products locally, and from small-scale artisans. For instance, they would approach a local baker and ask him or her to supply their biscuits without plastic, as opposed to approaching a larger organisation. Not only would the local baker be amiable and more than willing to do so, but in their experience, the products would also have fewer preservatives and likely be healthier.
Like many organisations, much of Ecoposro’s business has shifted online since the pandemic, with the launch of their website last year. When asked about some of their biggest takeaways and learnings from starting up and running the store, the duo says, “No matter how bad the global situation may seem, there are always people wanting to go the extra mile to help make a difference.”
The growing number of people who adopt a low-waste and sustainable lifestyle in Goa, as well as spreading awareness around the subject, is indeed heartening to see; we are inclined to agree with the Ecoposro duo about people who are taking tangible steps towards creating a better world for future generations.