Colourful palm leaf baskets, jars of iluppai poo urundais, composting pots and handmade cloth footwear were displayed under the trees, as young skaters and aged walkers went by, right in the heart of the city.
This may sound like a scene out of a sustainable city documentary. However, it unfolded on Sunday at Anna Nagar Tower Park when Kuppai Thiruvizha showcased a host of zero waste living concepts.
Residents thronged the park all day, intrigued by the fest organised by Kuppai Matters, an environmental conservation organisation based in Chennai.
The stalls offered everything from reusable cloth diapers and menstrual products to earthen bottles and organically farmed grains.
But Kuppai Thiruvizha wasn’t restricted to chemical-free products. A number of concepts were also introduced at the event: one that was new to the residents was a ‘clothes swap’. People brought in unused clothes and dropped them off, in exchange for a piece they liked from the same pile.
“This event has given me the opportunity to connect with other zero-wasters and take my products to many new customers,” said Surya Dinkar, whose enterprise Earthworks Innovative produces chemical-free bath products, upcycled glass planters and cloth bags. A novel product from her store was the soap mitt: a perforated pouch made with organic cotton that reduces the amount of water used by half and makes soap last longer, according to Surya.
Across all the stalls, the most popular items among shoppers were bamboo toothbrushes, handmade soaps and natural laundry detergent.
The event also featured talks and discussions, along with some entertainment put together by the students of New College. Veena Balakrishnan of Everwards India spoke of her zero-waste wedding, that took place last year. She had worked with organisations like Restore and other local groups to ensure that the celebration had minimal ecological impact. Everwards was born out of a need to help people live a minimal impact life everyday. “We have tried to innovate zero waste products for all daily needs, from the moment you wake up until you go to bed,” said Veena.
“Through this fest, I have learnt that there is a lot of enthusiasm about sustainable living in the community. And I’m excited that most of the products here are available close to home,” said Ashmitha Srinivasan, a student and resident of Anna Nagar.
She added, “I got to know about this event on Instagram. With the noise about zero-waste living rising on social media platforms, consciousness among the young adult population is growing.”
This was evident: the teeming crowd was composed primarily of young adults. At the Sustainable Living and Learning stall (run by an online collective of individuals across Chennai), some of them gathered to exchange ideas on living consciously. Sitting in a circle on a bedsheet, the group discussed ways to reduce consumption of plastic packaged goods and use water efficiently. The collective is looking to expand these talks, via their Facebook page.
The event was also a platform for home entrepreneurs to take their business to the public. Harika Balam, for instance, makes bio enzyme-based natural cleaning solutions. She also makes coir products and provides stainless steel cutlery on rent for parties, and said that the response at the fest was overwhelming. All her products sold out, and she went home with a long list of orders. GC Sulekha of Lekha’s Bags was another home entrepreneur, whose handmade kalamkari bags were a hit.
The Kuppai Thiruvizha proved that there is a definite interest in moving towards a zero waste city, with citizens willing to put in the necessary work. Sustaining this dialogue, however, is key to raising the momentum.