Body shop’s artwork made with recycled plastic

As mentioned in one of my previous posts, Bodyshop has launched its first Community Trade recycled plastic from Bengaluru, India a few months back. To mark this launch, Bodyshop unveiled a giant artwork of a female Indian waste picker in London’s Borough Market on World Fair Trade day. This artwork was made by an American Artist and sculptor Michael Murphy, using recycled plastic from waste pickers in Bengaluru. Michael uses the Perceptual Art movement, where he gives an extraordinary viewing experience to viewers by using multi-dimensional techniques in order to create 3D renderings of flat images. Due to multiple layers placed one behind the other, the art form looks different from different angles and in one particular position, all these renderings come together to give a complete visual.

Here’s the artwork along with the inspiration behind it. Dolly Raheema is a wastepicker with Hasiru Dala who started picking waste at the age of 9. Today she’s a mother herself and wants a brighter future for her daughter. Now she’s a part of Bodyshop’s Community Trade program.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I must say the artist has done a great job!

The Body Shop has started using Community Trade recycled plastic in its 250ml haircare bottles. In 2019, it will purchase 250 tonnes of Community Trade recycled plastic. In India, The Body Shop has launched its in-store recycling programme – BBOB (Bring Back Our Bottles), encouraging customers to return empty plastic packaging in stores for recycling. It’s currently operational across 40 stores. Planned as a pan-India initiative, it is a significant step for the brand towards valuing plastic & protecting the environment. All stores will feature a recycling bin where customers can return any five empty products from The Body Shop and receive an incentive. Seen in the image is my bottle of ginger shampoo! It’s accompanied with a tag promoting Bodyshop’s recycling initiative.

The Body Shop is also partnering with global recycling pioneers TerraCycle, which helps customers return their empty bottles, jars, tubs, tubes and pots, in store. If recycling is not possible, TerraCycle® will repurpose the packaging into new consumer products such as benches or watering cans.

The Body Shop will increase the amount of Community Trade Recycled plastic over time. In three years, the aim is to purchase over 900 tonnes of Community Trade recycled plastic and help empower up to 2,500 waste pickers in Bengaluru.  They will receive a fair price for their work, a predictable income and access to better working conditions.  They will also get help in accessing services such as education, financial loans and healthcare.

The Body Shop and Plastics for Change are working alongside local partners such as Hasiru Dala, a non-governmental organisation that fights for waste picker rights, and Hasiru Dala Innovations, a social enterprise dedicated to creating essential employment opportunities for waste pickers. Plastic recycling is a major source of income for 1% of the world’s most marginalised urban population.



My business class experience with Spicejet’s #spicebiz

Recently Spicejet – one of India’s leading airlines rolled out its all-new business class offering – SpiceBiz – and invited me to try it out. Needless to say It took me absolutely no time to get on board. Literally 😉

The airline is offering a dedicated business class cabin with 43-inch seat pitch and 7-inch recline, complimentary lounge access, higher baggage allowance, gourmet meals/beverages, priority services and much more. There’s also a dedicated cabin crew for business class passengers. This was going to be my first experience of business class, even if on a domestic airline. So I was very eager to try it out. I had a choice of a few sectors that this seating is currently available on from Delhi, so I chose a Delhi to Calcutta and back trip (Boeing 737). Last I had been to Cal was in the 90’s. And I had been aching to visit ever since.

Depending on the aircraft configuration, SpiceJet offers 8, 12 and 28 business-class seats on its B737-700/800/900 aircrafts respectively. The front row and the over-wing exit rows of the economy cabin are offered as the premium economy seats – SpiceMax.

Now I’ll share my experience of various Spicebiz offerings.

dedicated Checkin experience with spicebiz:

On 27th May, I reached the T1 terminal, Delhi to board my Spicejet flight to Kolkata. I already had a window seat – in fact the first passenger seat. So all I had to do was drop my baggage & collect boarding passes. Spicejet has dedicated check-in counters for all SpiceBiz customers at Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Pune, Srinagar, Jammu, Goa, Port Blair, Guwahati, Varanasi, Jaipur, Coimbatore, Kochi and Patna. At all other stations, passengers have access to a shared check-in counter with SpiceMax passengers. So I had a dedicated counter for me which was empty. The staff was smartly dressed, friendly and swift in their job. There’s a dedicated loader also for Spicebiz customers who helps load the luggage. Normally one has to load the luggage oneself on to the conveyor belt. I was handed over my boarding pass as well as lounge coupon by the Lady in Red. And I was assigned a special attendant from Spicejet, to escort me through to the boarding point. Please note, the attendant is NOT part of the Spicebiz offering but it was an additional VIP service I was provided with, to ensure my comfort. Basically I was a VIP customer And I highly appreciated it.  🙂 I proceeded from here to the lounge partner of Spicejet airlines – which was Plaza Premium lounge at the Delhi T1 airport.

Exclusive counter for Spicebiz customers

Well dressed staff with exclusive loader for spicebiz

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lounge access with spicebiz:

SpiceBiz passengers currently have access to airport lounges at Delhi, Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Varanasi, Jaipur, Guwahati, and Kochi airports. This service will soon be available at other airports.

Since their partner at T1 terminal, Delhi was Plaza premium lounge, I was escorted by the attendant to this lounge. I had around an hour during which I had a light breakfast. The meals are complimentary for all the guests who have access to the lounge. The buffet was pretty standard. The usual quick bite option of fruits, bread/butter/jam was  there. The meals are basically 5 dishes which are a mix of Indian and Continental cuisines. Beverages were tea & coffee (no juices/lassi etc).

Special assistance given to VIP customers i.e. Moi 🙂

Buffet at plaza premium lounge at T1

Seating area at plaza premium lounge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the way back for my Kolkata to Delhi flight, at the Netaji Subhash Chandra airport, I relaxed at the Travel Club lounge. I found their catering much better than the Delhi one. And they had specific terminals where one could use one’s laptop. For travellers it is a very helpful addition. Once again, I had been escorted by a person from Spicejet providing assistance, something that’s available only for VIP’s and that Spicejet was kind enough to extend to me :). He even escorted me right up till my seat in the aircraft.

Travel club lounge at Kolkata

Special terminals in the lounge where one can use their devices comfortably

VIP assistance right up till my seat!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enhanced baggage allowance with spicebiz:

Passengers travelling in business class are entitled to additional baggage allowance. All domestic passengers have a check-in allowance of 30 kg (up from the regular 15 kg). Hand baggage allowance for passengers travelling on domestic routes has also been extended to 10 kg (excluding laptops), from the current 7 kg. I was travelling light so I wasn’t carrying a lot with me. But it was nice to know that I could shop a LOT from Calcutta and still be within my luggage limit ;). In fact I bought a hand bag from there and also carried back some of my extra shopping as hand baggage on my return flight.

Priority services with spicebiz:

All SpiceBiz customers get the priority services offered by the airline, such as priority check-in, priority boarding and priority baggage. This basically means that YOUR luggage gets checked in first. Spicebiz customers get to board the plane or the coach leading to the plane – first. And once you arrive at the destination, the priority baggage ensures that the entire crowd from the plane would be standing next to the conveyor belt at arrivals, and the first and only piece of luggage that comes up is yours 🙂 . It was fascinating.

The In flight experience

The flight was extremely comfortable. The business class leg room was a lot! It didn’t feel claustrophobic and my knees didn’t knock on any front seat. I didn’t get edema in my ankles (that I typically get during airline travel). The seat was pretty comfortable without having to recline it. And once reclined, it was almost like lying down! I had 3 whole windows with me that was a big bonus since I love taking aerial pictures. It was a nice feeling not having to hunch into a convex shape while getting into my seat because there was so much space. Here are a few images that describe the experience. I took them once the Aircraft got empty.

Upright and reclined seat, as well as the leg space

A cushion is provided to all passengers. Blanket – on request.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Twilight from the ample window space.

Window space with reclined seat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gourmet meals aboard spicebiz: 

Once on board, business class customers were offered a refreshing cool towel. It was much needed given the heat! Then we were presented with beverages like Coconut water, watermelon juice, tea & coffee. I had a chilled coconut water (and Lemonade on my flight back) and what better on a hot summer morning! I was impressed with SpiceJet’s three-course culinary journey, aimed at balancing health and indulgence. The selections were very contemporary and suiting modern palates. People can also order their meal beforehand and in case of prior booking, I Was told by the flight attendant, the variety in the menu is a lot more. Soon enough, one of the smartly dressed flight attendants spread linen on my tray table and then based on my choice, proceeded to serve me my meal on fine bone china, with sleek cutlery that had the Spicejet insignia on it.

The Spicebiz menu. Love the star anise

Spicebiz breakfast menu

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Muesli with yogurt, fresh fruits & croissant

Rawa masala dosa & Quinoa Upma

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These were breakfast meals and no I didn’t have two of them 🙂 . The lunch/dinner meals are more elaborate and also include an extra course of various kinds of breads! Lunch/dinner meals also include a sumptuous dessert .

Selection of breads before lunch

Veg Manchurian with Veg noodles with braised Pakchoi, Dahi bhalla chaat & Chocolate dome

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Exquisite cutlery with Spicejet Insignia

Dinner menu of Spicebiz

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the meal,  we were handed hot towels to wipe our hands with. We were offered beverages throughout the duration of the flight as well. I must say Taj SATS did a fine catering job here.

I had a great experience traveling in luxury with plush seats, gourmet meals and lounge access. Go ahead and try it! SpiceJet will soon be offering SpiceBiz on select international routes too. Wonder if they will invite me for that too 😉



Headless Goddesses of Tamilnadu

About a year back, I visited Padavedu in Tamilnadu and absolutely loved it. The fact that it was technically a forest really enticed me. It was full of paddy crops and coconut & banana trees among other things. Life seemed to be relatively stress free and people, content. My 4g Internet connection worked fine. What else does one need? I could actually see myself living in such a place with no pollution and organic food by default!

Paddy fields in Padavedu

Padavedu is nestled near mountains

The name Padavedu came into being Since Princess Renuka (who later became goddess Renuka) camped there with her army and the sacred place was named “Padai Veedu” (army encampment). This beautiful pastoral village was once the capital of Sambuvarayar Dynasty. Tamilnadu is full of myriad colourful temples. It was very interesting to see how there was one at literally every 10 metres! At one such prominent temple, I noticed that the statue of a goddess was outside the temple and that it was headless!

Headless goddess statue outside the temple

I asked people around me why that was so, and I was told that according to legend, Princess Renuka married Sage Jamadagni and had 5 sons (one of whom was Parshuram – Ram who wields the axe). She was a devoted wife who held such devotion that she used to carry a pot made purely out of unbaked clay every day to a river, to fill with water. The pot held its shape solely due to her devotion. One fine day, she saw beautiful Gandharvas at the river, frolicking around and having fun. Her attention diverted for a split second, and the pot held together by devotion, broke. When Sage Jamadagni learnt of this, he ordered his sons to decapitate their mother’s head. 4 of them refused under some pretext or the other and were consequently turned to stone by the sage. But when Parshuram (reincarnation of Lord Vishnu) arrived at the scene, he complied with his father’s wishes and indulged in matricide.

Since he had followed the instructions, he was awarded 2 boons by the sage. Needless to say after this matricide, all he asked his father was to reattach the head of his mother & to restore his brothers. The sage complied and now there are several temples all over south India that depict this legend with a headless goddess. There is a head kept separately that is annually prayed to, attached to the goddess and then again packed back. What a fascinating legend!

There are in fact several different oral versions of this legend. One has it that when Renuka’s head was restored, she multiplied into zillions of goddesses who went to separate regions in South India and all of these are now temples which are 1000’s of years old. Another version says that Renuka had fled to a low caste village, where Parshuram decapitated her and a low caste woman who was trying to help his mother. But when Sage Jamadagni reattached the heads, he mixed the bodies. So the woman with Renuka’s body and a different head became Goddess Renuka and the low caste woman with Renuka’s head became Mother goddess Yelamma. In fact Renuka Lake in the Renuka Sanctuary in Himachal Pradesh, is named after the same goddess!

Apart from these temples there are just so many fascinating temples in Tamilnadu which are over 1000’s of years old. All I could do on my Chennai to Delhi flight was wonder about the secrets & fascinating legends that these ancient temples held!

 



An insider’s view into Body Shop’s community trade recycled plastic initiative

I have always liked Body Shop products and have been buying them ever since I started earning. Be it their shower gels that can transport me elsewhere or the shea butters that ensconce moisture where it should be without giving the feeling of being sheathed in oil. So it was a NO BRAINER when The Bodyshop India invited me over to get a dekko at their first community trade recycled plastic initiative in Bengaluru.

We all know Our planet is drowning in plastic. The devastating effect of plastic waste on our oceans is well known. Here are just a few of the startling facts around it.

  • 91% of the plastic on our planet is not recycled
  • Plastic takes 1000+ years to decompose. Now obviously no one has actually checked if that even happens!
  • All the plastic created on our planet, STILL exists.
  • 1 truckload of plastic is dumped into the oceans every minute
  • By 2050 we’ll have more plastic than fish
  • In India 15000 tonnes of plastic is dumped every day
  • 40% of the plastic dumped in India remains uncollected – clogging our waterways, contaminating our soils.

Now that I may have got your attention with the gory details, there is a human element to the plastic crisis as well, which is rarely discussed. Over 3 billion people live without formal waste management – that’s almost half the planet’s population. This has given rise to an informal waste picking economy. Some of the world’s most marginalised people pick untreated waste to try to make a living.  These waste pickers, often live below the poverty line and work in appalling conditions. Yet they form a critical line of defence in stopping plastic from entering our rivers and oceans.

That’s why The Body Shop has launched its first Community Trade recycled plastic, in partnership with Plastics For ChangeHasiru Dala and Hasiru Dala Innovations. Community Trade is The Body Shop’s bespoke and independently-verified fair trade programme. This initiative was launched on World Fair Trade Day, and it is a commitment to tackle the plastic crisis differently. The Body Shop wants to fight more than plastic pollution – it wants to drive social change and help empower people at the same time.

Plastics For Change is a for-profit business that partners with local NGOs to bring price stability and access to global markets to waste pickers. It has a mission to change the social and environmental impact of plastic. The Body Shop will buy recycled plastic collected by the waste pickers in Bengaluru and introduce it into its packaging following a thorough cleaning process. This community trade of The Body Shop will support 2,500 waste pickers, providing the organisation with a fair price for the waste material, and a reliable income and improved livelihood opportunities for waste pickers.

Hasiru Dala or “green force” is a membership-based non-profit organization consisting of over 8,000 waste pickers and other informal waste workers. It strives to integrate marginalised informal waste pickers into the solid waste management framework by utilizing their expertise.

Hasiru Dala Innovations is a social enterprise committed to creating livelihoods and entrepreneurship amongst waste pickers, providing total waste management, urban gardening services and products for sustainable living.

So off I went in the last week of March (before the launch, oh yeah, very exclusive 😉 ) to witness this initiative first hand at Bangalore. We got comfortable at the Taj Westend, which is a fabulous property and it felt like one was staying within a forest with modern amenities. More on THAT separately. A bunch of us from the media/social media space landed there and were greeted with a sumptuous Asian meal at Blue Ginger to begin with. Then we met the Bodyshop team (UK & India), Andrew Almack, CEO, Plastics For Change, Nalini Shekar, Co-founder, Hasiru Dala, Shekar Prabhakar, Co-founder, Hasiru Dala Innovations and many others. We attended presentations by the Bodyshop team, Plastics for change and Hasiru Dala . I must say everyone came back very impressed with the work that’s being done. Plastics for change has streamlined the waste picking process a lot and has even made an app that helps waste pickers find the right person in the next step of the cycle – scrapdealers! Those who cant use smartphones, can use the IVR version of this process to do the same & find a scrapdealer who would give them a fair price. It was nice to see the ever smiling young CEO do all this with his smile intact. The Bodyshop – a brand that’s well known and respected, already has many firsts to its credit. “Trade not aid’ (1987), Cruelty free – no animal testing (1997), Global shea alliance (2011), and now the first community trade recycled plastic initiative, which I am sure will inspire many other brands to do the same!

On a personal level I have been segregating my waste since many years now. In fact all my organic waste goes back into my garden & the other waste goes to MCG waste pickers. At this point, I must acknowledge that the waste management practices being followed by the govt in Bangalore, Karnataka are way way better than the ones being followed in Gurgaon, Haryana or even Delhi the capital! Out here, hardly anyone’s concerned with segregation – neither the govt, nor most people. And even if some people segregate waste, MCG/NDMC/SDMC workers tend to actually mix it back together. We all requested Ms Nalini to impart her much needed knowledge to relevant people in our cities.

The next day we visited Shaktiman’s van & segregation unit, which is a facility on private land, properly funded, equipped with machinery & conveyor belt that help in segregation and workers that live/work on site. The waste they get is mostly already segregated by residents, making their job a bit less complicated.

 

Curious waste picker

Curious waste picker along with other employees of Hasiru Dala & Body Shop

The first aggregation centre with proper funding, employees, certifications

Segregation of dry waste

One of the workers at the Shaktiman Van unit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After this we visited an aggregation centre which is a facility run by Hasiru Dala, on a rented piece of land. Specific plastic comes here after customer’s orders for final quality control and baling. This centre had a lot of machinery and all of us were also handed over masks as well as gloves to try our hand at segregation. It was quite an experience. After the right quality of bottles are sifted from the entire plastic that comes here, another machine removes the paper wrappers. After this step, a few of the wrappers that aren’t removed in previous process are removed by hand. All the plastic is compacted ultimately.

Lee Mann, Sustainable Sourcing Manager Community Trade, The Body Shop

Tried our hands at segregating plastic

Various kinds of plastic

Removal of remnants of wrappers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Compacted plastic

Compacted plastic

Compacted plastic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After this we had a quick south Indian lunch and visited Krishna’s segregation facility which was an example of a facility provided by the govt (that too on temporary basis). No one lives at this site and it’s an example of how different this facility was, from the first one with funding. Needless to say, the difference was stark. This one had no machines, no conveyor belt, hardly any labour. Sifting through the garbage was a back breaking job, literally and the labour is very sporadic which is not really practical.

Govt facility for segregation of dry waste

Privately funded facility for comparison

Back breaking job

Krishna – Manager of facility

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After Witnessing the plastic waste recovery process, we freshened up and headed to meet inspiring waste pickers to understand their challenges & hear their stories. We were greeted by a bunch of animated happy women who regaled us with their stories in Kannada, duly translated by Ms Nalini. It was very inspiring to meet these women who had smiled their way through thick and thin of life and made something of themselves with the help from Hasiru Dala.

Listening to the inspiring stories of the waste pickers

A group shot of the entire gang with the workers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Body shop has taken a great initiative into this realm with an issue that’s very close to my heart and one that I fully endorse – that of reducing plastic pollution. This makes me like the brand even more. I would say it was a great trip that highlighted the global concern of plastic waste and enlightened us a lot. We all came back wanting to implement these tried and tested methods in our vicinity. Can’t wait for this practice to be implemented by other socially conscious brands as well.



Pet friendly trips

“Happiness is a warm puppy” ~ Charles M Schulz

Every animal lover knows what this means. The unconditional love from our furry friends gives us humans a lot of happiness and for most pet owners their pets are like their children. Is it any surprise then that when families travel, they would want to do so in the company of their beloved pets? Pet boarding is not always an option pet parents can go in for. It’s not very easy finding one that suits their dog and the pet parent would constantly worry about their pet. And even leaving them with a friend or someone else in the family is also heartbreaking. Our pet (like most others) used to stop eating whenever that would happen.

European countries have always been way ahead of us in terms of pet friendly services. When I lived in Finland, It was very strange for me to see that pets were allowed everywhere, on all modes of transport. So one could see them in trams, trains, boats & buses. Watching a pet climb down an escalator is not a rare sight there at all! And pets are also allowed into hotels, cafes, restaurants etc and are an equal part of public space. So why then do we not have more pet friendly options in India? Hopefully things will change soon.

Currently the ease of taking pets on trains/planes in India is almost negligible. It is a tough process and there is not much help around the actual implementation of it, even if one wants to follow all rules and take one’s pet aboard. Right now Indian railways allows pets on board but ONLY in first class or first class AC compartments, so you can’t travel with your pet in any of the other AC classes or even second class. And you need to buy all 4 tickets or 2 tickets for all 4 berths in that area or you need to have people in those berths (basically family) ok with your pet. Because one complaint from anyone in the entire coach and your pet can be shifted to the luggage compartment!

As for airlines, not all airlines operating in India take pets. Only some do, and only on certain sectors on certain days and they have only a certain number of pets that can fly on that particular day. So one has to do a lot of advance planning. Sometimes even airline staff is clueless about the process and documentation involved. Moreover most pets (beyond a certain size which is very small) travel as cargo and it’s pretty traumatic for them. So the safest and most convenient bet would be a roadtrip where the pets are constantly under your own supervision and things like other passengers and air pressure or temperature of cabin are not things you need to worry about. 

 

Now coming to where pets can stay with you during your vacation, we are just *beginning* to get into the realm of pet friendly hotels. When I search for hotels near me that are also pet friendly, most of them are accommodation sharing rentals, like airbnb and oyo rooms, which are ok with lending rooms to pet parents with extra charges. Some big hotel establishments are also getting there, but we definitely need more of them. We also need facilities like walking/playing areas etc for pets at the hotel. Keeping all this in mind, Pet friendly trips anyone?