You open your wardrobe looking for an outfit and are met with a pile of clothes that haven’t been touched in years. Your shopping baskets at the mall overflow with products that have plastic and materials that take a million years at the least to degrade. You and I are products of consumerism. We buy and do so unknowingly causing irreparable damage to an Earth that’s not ready for the cascade of thrash. Meanwhile, in the Indian markets as well as on an international scale various brands are emerging. These have decided to take matters into their own hands and make a change. Their aim is one - to help the planet recover and minimize damage caused. If you wish to be a part of this green revolution, have a look at these and many more brands in India that are making conscious efforts for zero-waste products.
What are zero-waste products?
You may have heard the term and wondered what it encompasses. To break it down, a zero-waste product entails that not just the production or emissions, but the entire product design is sustainable. Right from conceptualizing it to the launch to physical product to the waste once it turns into the trash - the entire process has minimal environmental impacts and does not in any way cause a burden to resources.
In the case of the brand Paaduks, the product is footwear. Committed to sustainable and conscious living, the brand is involved in the production of vegan eco-friendly footwear using up-cycled materials.
Spearheading the vision for a better Earth, Amit Jain leads the team at Paaduks and is also the core founder of the eco-fashion premium lifestyle brand - Funky Kalakar. In his opinion, it is relatively economical to make products using recycled materials. This when compared to producing from fresh or first-hand raw materials. “Though the concept of sustainability is yet to get accepted in its full strength, globally and in India, I firmly believe the Indian market is a huge one and has gradually started welcoming sustainability and circular fashion with open arms.”
Speaking about the footwear produced by the brand, Amit says the primary way by which this is done is by taking a fashionable eco-friendly step towards a better future by upcycling. “We use loads of discarded rubber from old waste tyres and upcycle them to create soles for our footwear without any chemical processes.”
“We came up with this initiative with a simple and clear vision - We strongly believe in striving to achieve equality for our environment. The fashion industry has been messy in all these years. It leads to pollution, overconsumption, and exploitation of not only resources but also its own manpower. Slow fashion is the solution.”
Are zero-waste products tougher to produce?
EcoKaari upcycles single-use waste plastic using the age-old craft of charkha (spindle) and handloom! The entire weaving is manual as no electricity is used. This creates livelihoods for people from humble backgrounds. The upcycled-handwoven fabrics are designed, stitched, and manually quality checked into trendy daily utility items such as Handbags, Totes, Electronic Covers, Purses, Pouches, Home Decor etc.
Nandan Bhat, Founder of this venture says they work on a self-sustain model, meaning the more they sell their products, the more livelihoods they can create. “We do not use industrial machines for our process, which makes it even harder to make products. Our fabrics are made using charkha and handloom; no electricity, heat, or chemicals are used in the process. The fabrics have limitations as they are very different from that of cotton or leather. After a tedious process, there are two missions accomplished. One is an array of trendy products and the other being zero-damage to the planet.”
EcoKaari was started to resolve waste management, especially that of the non-biodegradable and difficult-to-recycle waste plastic. 9.4 million tonnes of plastic are generated annually in India, and 100 million marine animals die each year globally.
Being an avid trekker, Nandan frequently went on treks with his friends, but he always noticed the plastic wrappers spoiling the scenic beauty. He wanted to do something about this, and that is how EcoKaari was started. “Brands should start thinking consciously about plastic pollution and how they can incorporate eco-friendly steps in their brands. If everyone starts making small changes, the impact will be huge, and that is what we aim to achieve as a social enterprise,” he says.
The brand believes in
- Conserving the environment, by upcycling non-biodegradable and difficult-to-recycle plastic bags, grocery bags, multilayered wrappers cookies, chips, and glittery gifts wraps, and old audio/video cassette tapes.
- Working with women and youth from humble backgrounds to enable craft-based job opportunities.
- Engaging with customers and citizens of this planet to help them understand the concept. of REfuse, REduce, REuse and REcycle or UPCYCLE by conducting workshops and giving awareness sessions.
What are some alternatives for plastic in zero-waste products?
It is wonderful to imagine products that cause negligible damage to the Earth and are devoid of materials that do not decompose. However, face it. Much of our daily lives are dependent on plastic due to its viability and texture that does not give way easily or show any absorbance.
Thus a question on your mind would be what exactly would the zero-waste alternative to plastic be? The answer as Earth Rhythm tells us is ‘PCR’. India's 1st homegrown brand that invests in independent clinical trials and research, the company believes in smart and safe skincare. “The products you use should work and be good for your skin and earth, no exceptions,” they say.
Harini Sivakumar, Founder of the brand speaks of PCR used instead of plastic. “Post Consumer Resins are used for most of the plastic parts. However, PCR remains to be more expensive due to the limited availability than any other material. This results in a higher product price.” Explaining the challenge here, she says almost every product has a cap or pump that is made of plastic and it is a task how to make those tiny parts of the packaging recyclable.
“That is when we started working with global companies that manufacture 100% PCR based packaging parts and the journey was rather not easy. Most times, it is hard to find supporting documents for these claims. Finding a vendor that has certification for the plastic material in itself was more of a challenge than the product packaging.”
Harini says the aim should be to send nothing to a landfill.
Take the case of a simple essential such as a toothbrush. 99% of all the toothbrushes in the world are made from plastic. About 1 billion plastic toothbrushes are used and trashed each year. Zero Waste initiatives are small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world.
“We reduce what we need, reuse as much as we can, send little to be recycled, and compost what we cannot.”
Is a zero-waste design possible?
Absolutely, say Bare Necessities - a company that addresses serious flaws in manufacturing, distribution, and consumption by innovating and providing sustainable solutions to waste, and identifying problems that more companies need to address if they want to be innovative and socially conscious.
We seek to change the narrative on waste in India and demonstrate that any individual can positively impact their community, through inspiring others to reduce waste and think consciously about their impact on the world.
Founder Sahar Mansoor says she felt overwhelmed with India’s trash problem. “I was confronted by it every day- seeing piles of garbage on the streets. After having spent time with local waste pickers and watching them sort through waste with their bare hands, I started to think of the environmental, health and social justice issues associated with our garbage problem. I wanted to stop being part of the problem. My solution was to live a lifestyle that best reflects the values I cared about.”
The company has sold over a thousand reusable straws and bamboo toothbrushes, which means far fewer plastic straws and brushes in the landfill. “At Bare Necessities, we attempt to celebrate the beauty and richness of India! It is exciting to incorporate indigenous, ancient ingredients whose benefits we have probably heard of but never really experienced for ourselves such as, turmeric!”
The company’s raw materials are ethically sourced. All the packaging is recyclable or biodegradable, which means nothing ends up in a landfill. All products are handcrafted by women in Karnataka. “Everyone on this planet needs to become involved. Every little effort helps in moving humanity toward a circular economy the methodology that lives more sustainably with nature.”
Have you heard of bamboo toothbrushes?
For Earth’s Sake is India’s first zero-waste lifestyle store cum cafe, based in Gurgaon. Founder Vidur Mayor says the mission is to reduce waste in terms of single-use plastic and to find sustainable alternatives for all daily needs.
“Sustainability and eating local go hand in hand. Our menu consists of delicious bakes to go perfectly with our coffee offerings as well as burgers, sandwiches, wraps and much more designed to be planet-friendly. Eating local and seasonal is a golden rule for our cafe.”
Vidur says with the right quantities, making sustainable products costs almost the same as the non-sustainable alternatives. “With growing demand, it is easier for brands like For Earth's Sake to manufacture and offer sustainable alternatives at great prices. Our bamboo toothbrushes come with a 100% biodegradable guarantee and also with a special fungal coating that ensures that the product stays hygienic.”
Write to us and tell us some of the zero-waste options you adopt during your daily lifestyle or ways you are making the Earth a better place.