Our world does not hold infinite resources, not if we don’t take care of it and be mindful of what our actions impact. It’s a fact that becomes more and more apparent and urgent as time passes, a fact none of us can ignore anymore with global issues such as water and food scarcity growing, more natural ecosystems diminishing in health, and our climate creating extreme weather phenomena more frequently just to name a few. And with this in mind, many of us have come to the realisation that our own mindset and actions - individual and collective - need to shift for the hope of a better future.
One solution is that of a zero-waste ethos.
Today, ourselves and the green team from Bare Necessities will take you through the world of zero-waste, from what it is, to how we practice a zero-waste mentality through our actions, how you can also do so in your daily lives, and more.
Let’s start with some basics.
Many of you on your own green journeys no doubt have come across the phrase ‘zero-waste lifestyle’, and with growing interest in sustainability, the phrase has travelled far and wide. Bare Necessities, who are a zero-waste lifestyle brand based in India with a wealth of knowledge on the topic share their own definition of it:
“A zero waste lifestyle is essentially one where us consumers seek to reduce the amount we consume and consequently throw away. This lifestyle is simple, cost-effective, timely, fun, & entirely possible for everyone and anyone. It’s not just for granola hippie people – your grandmother was probably a zero waster! Leading a zero waste lifestyle can help add meaning to your daily routine while tackling the garbage crisis our planet is currently facing.”
Waste is no small issue. If there’s one thing we know humans create an abundance of, it’s waste in many forms from chemical waste, plastics/non-biodegradables, clothing, the list is vast - especially with industrial and technological advances in the past century increasing how fast we can manufacture exponentially. And in our fast-paced world that favours momentary trends and cheaply produced single-use items, it’s up to us to acknowledge the problem and seek out a change.
To put it in perspective:
- The World Counts estimates that humans create 2.12 billion tons of waste annually.
- In 2020, an estimated 18.6 million tons of clothing went to landfills.
- In 2015, we produced a total of approx. 448 million tons of plastic - annually, around 8 million tons escapes into our oceans and due to the additives used to make our plastic stronger, more flexible, etc., the life of these products can go up to 400 years i.e. 400 years of polluting natural ecosystems and poisoning various wildlife and ourselves.
- Roughly one-third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year - approximately 1.3 billion tonnes - gets lost or wasted. Even if just one-fourth of the food currently lost or wasted globally could be saved, it would be enough to feed 870 million hungry people in the world.
- In India alone, 80% of total plastic consumption is discarded as waste.
And this is just a small fraction of what the state of our waste problem looks like.
The linear model of take, make, and dispose not only pollutes our planet but also affects our bodies over time. We need to move away from this kind of lifestyle to a more mindful one where we actively examine our habits and understand how we can slowly make these changes. It’s safe to say, there’s much to consider but there are things we can do in our daily lives that can help make a positive difference and, hopefully, lower those numbers as we come together to make zero-waste changes.
Our zero-waste promise
“I felt overwhelmed every day seeing piles of garbage on the streets. I spent time with local waste pickers and watched them sort through waste with their bare hands. I wanted to stop being part of the problem. My solution was to live a lifestyle that best reflects the values I cared about!” - Sahar Mansoor, Founder of Bare Necessities
Anyone’s story can begin just like Sahar’s. It’s a moment of clarity and a realisation that we need to be better. Sahar found herself in this moment and proceeded to make some changes and influence some good, and so, Bare Necessities was born in 2016. Their people-centred, earth-centred approach means that they strive to address serious flaws in manufacturing, distribution and consumption by providing sustainable solutions to waste. And this meant examining their process at each step, something we can all learn from as consumers and as creators.
Here are a few key things they do that we can learn from:
- Rely on ethical sourcing from local farmers and vendors.
- Opted to fully examine the problem of waste critically, rather than ignore it, so that they could then shape their actions accordingly.
- Provide ethical and innovative solutions that benefit consumers and communities.
- Take a process as simple as packaging and ensure they acted consciously in its use and how it's made - reusable glass jars, cloth scraps from their local tailor, paper scraps from their printer, labels are printed on recycled paper, paper tape, everything is considered.
We ourselves at SUI follow these similar principles, conducting every operation in a way that is as sustainable as we can make it - from how we our fibres our formed to make our fabrics and the slow techniques that help craft our designs to the materials we use to package each order and how we transparently communicate each of these steps with our own customers. Most notably, when it comes to our own goal of being completely zero-waste, we most prominently do this by saving all our waste/throwaway fabrics that accumulate when we craft our collection pieces and using them to create accessories.
By being critical and conscious in each of these steps, ourselves and BN are able to realise just where we can cut out waste and are better equipped to be able to act on these notions.
How you can go zero-waste
Bare Necessities here, share some great tips…
As a business:
AUDIT, SEGREGATE, ENGAGE EMPLOYEES and INNOVATE are golden rules for businesses!
Examine your processes to see how you can help consumers move towards mindful living while doing the same within your operations. At Bare, we challenge ourselves to “break” the unsaid rules set by urbanisation and capitalism that consumption is synonymous with environmental damage and social exploitation somewhere.
At the Bare Necessities HQ, we minimise waste by opting for reusable cutlery, plastic free stationery (when possible), composting our food waste and sending our dry waste to recycling centres - all things you can do too!
As an individual:
Start slow, take one step at a time - one cannot become a zero waster overnight. When I [Sahar] first began my zero waste journey, I would have conversations with my grandma asking her what she did before shampoo started being sold in a plastic bottle? The transition was incremental, for instance when I ran out of soap instead of buying store bought ones, I would experiment and eventually learned how to make my own. Since a lot of our Indian traditions are rooted in ecological practices or what we now can call “zero-waste practices”, adapting to this lifestyle will come quite naturally to most of us!
Also to note, It’s important we try to be especially mindful of all the plastic waste we generate because it is particularly notorious. However, it’s not all doom and gloom. We can always find practical alternatives to the plastic items we use on a daily basis like swapping our plastic toothbrush for a bamboo one. As we take incremental steps, we will find ourselves generating a lot less plastic waste and becoming conscious consumers.
How we go zero-waste
Aside from the points we mentioned earlier, most recently SUI and Bare Necessities came together to debut a couple of upcycled items to further encourage our customers to choose a zero-waste lifestyle.
Sahar from BN mentions, “We were always looking for an opportunity to work together [SUI & BN], but we couldn’t quite pinpoint on what exactly we wanted to create. In the wake of the pandemic and the newfound love for grocery shopping (the highlight of the week for many of us!) we began working on something fun to make it way easier to go zero-waste!
I drew up some rough ideas and sent them over to Mahima. Mahima came up with the idea of combining both our logos to make a combined little logo symbolic of this collaboration! We went back and forth, field tested the samples made from waste white cotton and then decided we needed a pop of colours; I asked the SUI team if we could use coloured waste fabric scraps to make a cute little pocket on the back.”
Our collaboration, as Sahar mentioned, was a long time coming and we’re so happy to be able to present two items:
The Everything Fits upcycled tote - this handy reusable grocery tote bag has many compartments within it so you’re able to separate your fruits and veggies easily as well as an extra exterior pocket that features one of our SUI signature prints that you may recognise from our 2020 summer or winter collections.
Upcycled Foldable Sunshine pouch - this compact bag also features our signature prints (all hand block printed by artisan community and partner of our ours, Bagru Textiles). It also has plenty of space for you to keep any small items, like your purse, keys, phone and more, with you while you’re on the go.
Additionally, exclusively for our India green heart-ers, we also launched our Tote-ally Zero-waste Kitchen Kit that includes the aforementioned kit and the following zero-waste items provided by BN: beeswax wrap (an alternative to clingfilm/aluminum foil), swadeshi tumbler, coconut bowl, cutlery set (spoon, form, spork).
We hope this inspires you to make some zero-waste changes to your daily life and seek out products that are crafted with a zero-waste promise. Truly, making small green steps that lessens the waste that goes into the world can make a great positive difference - even more so if you also encourage others to do the same! After all, we’re all in this together.