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

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.



Empowerment with Srinivasan Services Trust

We all know the proverb “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”.  But how many of us do this in our lives? Recently I was invited by SST , Srinivasan Services Trust, to visit Padavedu in Tamilnadu to observe their efforts which align perfectly with this proverb. SST was founded in 1996 and has a sound foundation encompassing sustainable initiatives touching key focus areas – infrastructure, women empowerment, social and cultural development, education, health and environment, resulting in equitable
distribution of wealth creation, reduced income gaps and human capacity building.

Padavedu is a beautiful scenic place that consists of 17 villages surrounded by Jawadu hills, forests, river, other water bodies and paddy, coconut & banana fields. So off I went, happy for the short break from Delhi’s winter and smog. The latter is what excites Delhites easily these days. The chance to breathe somewhere ELSE. Such are times. It was the kind of trip where one wonders if a village life is the kind of life we all should be living.  What exactly are we doing in urban fast paced concrete plethora we call cities?

Padavedu

We flew down to Chennai from where we drove down to Vellore, the city nearest to Padavedu cluster of villages. Our trip was very well planned and we had buffer for delays, ample time to rest overnight and the chance to begin our village visit on a fresh day. Once there, we visited various areas where SST is making its mark. SST works with the national, state governments and various communities across 5015 villages in 5 states of India, affecting the lives of 3.2 million people. Padavedu is one of the locations.

first stop – Pottery in kesavapuram

We visited a family that sustains its livelihood completely through pottery . The business is good throughout the year and especially good around festivals like Diwali. As we reach the house, we spot a lady kneading the clay as if dough for a bread except of course it’s a whole lot. Then she sprinkled some dry dust on it, which almost reminded me of oregano being sprinkled on a loaf just before baking. Well, at the end of the day, both the things do fill our stomach one way or the other :). The potter wheel was being manned by Sekhar who expertly and seemingly effortlessly gave it a good whirl and generated 4-5 earthern vessels in that single spin itself. Sekhar and his family create a large variety of things like diyas (various shapes, sizes), cooking utensils, pots, pans, show pieces and even gas stoves! One can light a fire under the earthern stove and cook meals . It has 2 “burners” too! If you have ever watched a potter work, you know how mesmerising it is (not talking about the movie Ghost here) to watch. Of course the reality of the effort dawns on oneself when one comes in contact with the clay oneself. We were given a chance to try our hands at pottery. Needless to say the virgin potters made some strange artwork only they could appreciate. They were bottomless, shapeless and purposeless. But something one creates always looks lovely to that person, be it a child or well, useless pottery. 😉

 

 

 

 

 

next stop – aanganvadi for pre-school kids at kesavapuram

Next up we visited a pre-school near by. It was bright, colourful and cheery. Caricatures of Mickey and Donald on the exterior walls and a few swings, greeted us in to the mini Disneyland. The kids seemed excited and probably amused by the new faces. They all recited a few poems for us. The primary focus being fun studies rather than stuff drilled into their brains. SST provides infrastructure for the schools and the reading material too. This is then handed over to the govt to run. The schools have a kitchen along with the classroom where meals are prepared on the spot and provided to the children. They arrive in the morning, play, learn, have their meal and then they all nap for a while just before their parents come to fetch them back. If only all schools followed this routine!

 

 

 

 

 

 

next stop – handicrafts with rope made with banana bark in chinna puttur!

Now comes the most exciting part of my trip – seeing the transformation of the humble banana leaf/bark into eco-friendly handicraft! We visited chinna puttur which was dotted with temples of headless goddesses! Legend has it that the Sage Jamadagni , due to some marital discord, ordered his son Parasurama to behead his own mother. The son followed the instructions, mother was decapitated as sacrifice and father, now pleased granted his son a boon. Needless to say, the son asked for his mother back and Sage Jamadagni reattached her head back. Now these idols signify the same. Annually the head is put on the goddess for a few days, prayed to and then packed back for next year! What was the point of doing it all one thinks, but How fascinating is all this! I digressed. But I couldn’t resist it.

Back to handicraft – we spot several ladies sitting next to a temple (now that’s a very very common sight there) making handicraft with ropes. The rope for said handicraft can be single or double threaded. We were shown how the thread is woven from banana fibre. First the leaves/bark are dried and then when it is pulled apart, it comes out in long strands. These strands are then spooled on to a bicycle rim, upcycled (no pun intended) to form an innovative apparatus, that helps spin this fibre into rope! This rope is dried in the sun and it truly has a good tensile strength. This rope is then further used to make handicrafts like lamp shades, jewellery boxes, baskets, showpieces etc. The women who do this, do it part time. In alignment with the proverb mentioned above, SST’s role here is not limited to only teaching the women how to fish, they also teach them how to find more fish, how to descale it, sell it for profit, and maintain records. In other words SST not just teaches these women the skill , they also provide them bulk orders, help them sell these items, they teach them basic accountancy, book keeping and even maintaining of the minutes of various meetings! The village functions as a well oiled machine with records kept for everything. They take loans to start the project, soon repay them back and then start saving up the money they generate from the handicraft business. The women who learn all this, teach others around them and pay it forward. It’s a wonderful initiative in more ways than one.

 

 

 

 

 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Next stop – traditional lunch

Much excited with the days activities, we now needed food for more than just our thoughts and we now headed to the SST office in Padavedu. We were given a traditional home made south indian meal comprising of many many items.

 

next stop – vermicompost that recycles garbage & produces organic fertiliser in chinna puttur

We proceeded to the vermicompost facility where women were segregating garbage into recyclable and non recyclable. We should all be ideally doing this at source, that is our own house.

Vermicompost is the product of the composting process using various species of worms. Vermicast is the end-product of the breakdown of organic matter by earthworms. It is basically shit that looks like chocolate sprinkles.  Vermicast is known to contain reduced levels of contaminants and a higher saturation of nutrients and is an excellent, nutrient-rich organic fertilizer. The vermicast thus formed is sold to farmers in the vicinity.

We came face to face with the earth worms that eat this garbage and generate the shit sprinkles. It wasn’t pretty. But the end result is good for all of us and it would truly help us avoid manmade disasters like the Gazipur landfill etc which are permanently on fire and literally “breath-taking”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Final stop – temple care

And as we came to a close, we visited a few 12th century Ram temples , excavated by and looked after by SST. Every temple is similar to the ones around it and yet unique in some way. In fact Padavedu is a land of temples. At every 10 metres you will find one! Due to some natural disaster most of these temples were buried. TVS/SST have unearthed and takes care of many of these. The construction activites in Padavedu are hence supervised because there’s a very high chance that excavation will yield yet another ancient temple!

I was quite impressed with how SST transforms these villages and partners with local and central government agencies and other institutions/ companies to find solutions to the problems faced by the communities it works with. We were constantly told that SST works as change agents, not donors. Backed by this philosophy, SST has been working towards Sustainable Development Goals since last 20 years and their initiatives are in line with the ongoing government macro initiatives- ‘Make in India’, ‘Digital India’,  ‘Start-up India ’ and ‘Swachh Bharat
Abhiyan’.

My take aways from this trip –

Hope after seeing at least SOME organisations that believe in paying it forward.

Fascinating eco-friendly activities.

The legends and myths and mysteries of Padavedu. I really want to explore this more.

The calm & serene forests & fields really make me feel like spending a longer period of time there. Oh and the 4G signal works well in these villages. If internet is sorted, everything seems doable.

Padavedu has so much to explore, yet hardly anyone has even heard of it. I surely want to visit it again.

 

Disclaimer: My trip was sponsored by SST but the views expressed here are personal.

 



Delhi’s queer pride parade 2009 2

Last year I had posted about the First ever Delhi queer pride parade event. This year they are back again! As always, the event is open to straight people as well.

For us as Delhi’s bloggers here’s what we can do:
1. Support Delhi’s LGBT people. From the moral police stopping the screening of films like “Fire” we come down to supporting LGBT’s in the open.
2. Blog about it and spread awareness about it.
3. This would be a very interesting photo-op in every sense, from the documentation of this event to photographing it artistically, what with rainbow coloured masks.

A similar march will take place in Kolkata Sunday and in Sri Lanka too.

The agenda as mentioned on their blog is here:

We assemble at Barakhamaba Road at 5 pm and the march will start at 5.30 pm. We should reach Jantar Mantar at around 7.30 pm – where we have organised some space for people to come up and say a few words or sing or shout slogans! Everyone is welcome!

Why Queer pride parade?

Today in India, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people face violence and discrimination from different quarters. Here are some examples of our daily oppression:

· Lesbians are subject to violence, forced into marriage and even driven to commit suicide by their families.

· Gay men are blackmailed by organized scandals that often involve the police.

· Hijras are routinely arrested and raped by the police.

· Same sex couples who have lived together for years cannot buy a house together or will their property to each other or even adopt a child as a couple if they wish.

· LGBTI people are constantly mocked, demeaned and denied their basic human rights of self-expression.

All this is happening because Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code treats LGBTI people as criminals. It has been used to arrest, prosecute, terrorize and blackmail sexual minorities. It has strengthened the already existing stereotypes, hatred and abuse in homes, schools, workplaces and streets, forcing millions of LGBTI people to live in fear and silence at tragic cost to themselves and their families. And yet, these lives go on. They go on as a struggle every single day.


It is essential that –

· Section 377 is duly read down in the Delhi High Court and this precedent replicated across the country.

· The government introduce specific legislation protecting queer people from discrimination on the basis of their gender and sexuality.

· Violence against LGBTI people by the police be addressed and severely reprehended.

· Discrimination and violence against LGBTI people in all spheres of life (family, workplace, educational institutions) be acknowledged and addressed.

· Positive efforts, such as the Aravani Welfare Board set up by the Tamil Nadu Government for the hijra community, are replicated in other parts of the country.

· All persons are able to exercise their right to live their lives with dignity and freedom, regardless of their gender and sexuality identities.

For more details, visit http://delhiqueerpride.blogspot.com



Exclusive! Delhi Bloggers Bloc Presents DBM#30: Meetup with Shashi Tharoor 1

Ahoy Bloggerati and Twitterati! Here’s an opportunity you can’t afford to miss.

Meet Shashi Tharoor, one of the most charismatic leaders we have in the new parliament in an exclusive informal Meetup with Delhi Bloggers Bloc.

As you know, Dr. Shashi Tharoor, has been recently elected as the Congress Member of Parliament, from Thiruvanathapuram, and much like us bloggers & social media enthusiasts, is himself an activist and excellent writer (award-winning author of eleven books).  He has put in a lifetime of work in the United Nations and was India’s candidate to succeed United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan in 2006, and finished a close second out of seven contenders. Dr. Tharoor was also  named a “Global Leader of Tomorrow” by the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. You can read more about him at his official website http://shashitharoor.in/

One of his recent tweets (@shashitharoor on Twitter) will give you an idea of how he has also adapted well to the 140 character space of Twitter:

“First day in Parliament. From the sublime (the historic Central Hall for the Cong legislators meeting) to the bureacratic (8 forms to fill)!”
AGENDA
Introduction to the meet
A few words by Dr. Tharoor on his impressions of Twitter and Social Media.
Q&A with Dr. Shashi Tharoor, Congress Member of Parliament, Thiruvanathapuram.
And if time permits, informal discussion on use of social media and twitter by policy makers.
Date: Thursday, 21st April, 2008
Time: 6:00 pm to 7 pm.
Venue: The Attic, 36, Regal Building (first floor), Connaught Place, New Delhi – 110001.
Tel : 2374 6050, 5150 3436
Map: http://bit.ly/DBM30
Directions:
Please note that this meet is contributory with 100/- as the contribution per person, which goes to contribute to venue charges and snacks. We have limited seats (60) at the venue, so participation will be on a first come first served basis ONLY. Please be on time. No gatecrashing. Timings are subject to slight variation on short notice subject to availability of Dr. Shashi Tharoor.

For any information contact:
Twilight Fairy at +919811511719
Sanjay Shrivastava at +919873707071
Follow @delhitweetup on Twitter for updates.
While you are at it, join our Facebook group or mailing list

The entrance to The Attic is on Parliament Street (Sansad Marg), on the left side, after Park Hotel. It is just above the erstwhile pub DV8 (now Sports Bar).

By Metro – get off at Rajiv Chowk ( Connaught Place ) station on Line 2 Central Secretariat to Vishwa Vidyalaya ( Delhi University )

Parking – In Palika Parking, Near Jantar Mantar or Hanuman mandir.



DBM#25- a meet for delhi bloggers and microbloggers – a roundup 9

On 20th, Delhi witnessed its second twitter meet. Unlike the previous twitter meet, which was held in a cafe, this meet was sponsored by Incube Business centre. The meet started at 5pm. I got there by about 5:20pm thanks to the traffic. There were already some twitter enthusiasts who had introduced themselves to each other. Kumar Rahul was fully prepared with a laptop, ready to just start. We had another round of introductions during which we noted down the twitter id’s or mail id’s (of those who were not on twitter). During the intro round, Gautam Ghosh walked in and I quickly put the onus of kickstarting a session, onto him. Gautam talked about what twitter really meant for him. Conversations are what matter – at the end of the day, whichever platform you are on.

This was followed by a talk on kwippy.com by co-founder – Mayank dhingra, who also got caught in the traffic and arrived midway Gautam’s session.

By the time this session ended, we had already overshot a lot of time and quickly rushed to the refreshment part of our agenda.

Some tasty grub later, we came back in, to discuss the TOI case of plagiarism that I had faced. I was also carrying the copy of What’s hot with the corrigendum in it. Everyone seemed amused by the whole sequence of events. This was followed by a talk on “Bill of rights” by Kumar Rahul. This is a collection of points he plans to take up with @scobleizer.

We followed this with another round of some rather tasty sandwiches, samosas, tea & coffee. Just before we all were leaving, someone suggested we click a group picture, so we did with about 1/4th of the participants. All pictures would be uploaded soon and a post shall be here to keep you all updated. Tune into the rss feed of this blog :).

There were about 40 participants, even though the confirmations were more than double. A lot of names may not have been noted down, so if your name is missing, please do drop in a comment. A list of attendees, in no particular order. Those not on twitter have had their mail id’s mentioned.

Twilight Fairy : @twilightfairy

Sanjay: @mojosanjay

Gautam: @gautamghosh

Kumar Rahul: @kumar_rahul

Vishal Singhal: @vishalsinghal

Ashutosh: @xyzashu

Divya: @dichakravarty (all the way from bangalore)

Sameer: @sameergupta

Mayank Gupta: @mayankgupta

Krisnair: @krisnair

Nikhil: freakynikh at gmail dot com

Amrita: kumar dot amrita at gmail dot com

Rajbir: @rajjo19

Nitin: @ndhawan

Niraj: imniraj at gmail dot com

Vidhi: @vidhithakur

Vimoh: @vimoh

Dipankar: @dipankarsarkar

Maitrayee: maitrayee.rcy at gmail dot com

Ketu Desai: swetaketu79 at gmail dot com

Aionava: myspeedpost at gmail dot com

Abhijit: @jeetblog

Abhishek: @abhishek

Arun: @simplyarun

Pankaj: @pjain

Rohit: rohit.sharma3 at wipro dot com

Gurudatt : @prolificd

Mayank Dhingra: @mayankdhingra

Arjun : @arjunghosh

Gayatri : @grath

Sanjay Jha

Manik

Monica : @jasuja

Check some of the tweets from that day. Here are the posts on this event written by Gautam, Mayank. If anyone else has written anything about the event, please leave a comment here and it will be added in the roundup.