When was the last time you paused and thought about where the plastic bottle of hair oil goes when you are done using it? You may sigh and say, “Too busy to think about such things!” and attach labels such as “tree huggers” and “environmentalists” to those who have nothing much to do but worry about environmental sustainability.
As busy city dwellers, we are used to seeing pollution as an everyday part of life. We worry about the traffic we have to face, if we will reach our destinations on time, and of course accomplish the things we want.
We celebrate our achievements by shopping, throwing out waste and shopping for more. Although there is no harm in rushing forward to achieve things in life, there is a major drawback for not being responsible for the impact of our actions on the world.
Whether we like it or not, as human beings, from birth until death, we are interdependent on each other. Similarly, this earth, is also dependant on us - how we treat it and what we leave behind.
With a view to reducing waste and embracing conscious living, Anusheh Anadil, activist and founder of fairtrade eco craft store, Jatra, collaborated with Saba Homaira Ahmed, an ecoliving enthusiast, and organised a three day long sustainability fair called Matir Mela.
The fair was held on the rooftop of Jatra in Banani from February 12-14, 2015, amidst curious minds and soulful music.
The fair was organised to inspire city dwellers to literally pause, and ask what matters the most, and how to have a life that involved less damage and waste. The fair promoted responsible living by demonstrating recipes which can be used to make simple yet essential home products, such as solid lotion, face wash, shampoo, hair oil, neem miswak (organic toothbrush), mosquito repellent, recycled mason jars, scrubbers, beeswax candles and much more. A booklet filled with fun and functional ideas and recipes for a variety of household products, collected and compiled by the event curator, Saba, was on sale.
Jatra produced a line of products after using these recipes and sold many of the items. The raw ingredients for making the products at home by using the recipes in the booklet were also available for sale.
Saba spoke about her passion for sustainable living, “Our ancestors used products that were always environmentally friendly, from neem miswak for cleaning teeth, to portable bazaar bag for grocery shopping, to dhoop for repelling mosquitoes, and mustard and coconut oils for nourishing the skin and hair.
“As our lives became modern, we became more drawn towards consumer culture where we use products based on where they were imported from and what brands they belonged to. Our ability to inquire and question our actions has been replaced with passive living and mindless shopping” she said.
“I am fascinated with the usages of organic local ingredients. For instance, lets consider unrefined coconut oil that we sourced from Jhikargacha through the help of Shahid Hossain Shamim, director of fashion boutique, Probortona. The unrefined oil is known for its antibacterial properties and is a staple in our organic cosmetic products. Beeswax, which forms the structure of a honeycomb, has high antibacterial and antiseptic properties, and contains natural moisturisers. We use it to make both solid and liquid lotions. These honey-scented and toxin free moisturisers come in disposable packaging, and are great alternatives to mass produced ones. The recipe book that I compiled consists of all these recipes that you can try out at home, and if you embody at least one recipe in your everyday life, you will be making a positive impact for reducing waste” she further added.
Anusheh reflected upon the recent oil spill in Sundarbans, “It worries me that authorities in power seem to care about the port and the oil that was wasted rather than the harm that was done to the natural environment of this UNESCO heritage site. What can each of us do to address such an issue? We can adopt a lifestyle that makes us responsible. You can start by using locally made organic soaps rather than opting for an imported one. You see these imported products come from the Chittagong and Mongla port. The ships go through the many channels and rivers that run through the Sundarbans. If we can reduce our dependence on imported products, a lower number of ships will travel through the site, and reduce the risk of spills. We also need to advocate for the prevention of such incidents. I use homemade toothpastes and shampoos, and it works just as well as manufactured ones. These products which we made at Jatra are very close to our hearts. We source ingredients from small scale farmers who are immensely harmed by large manufacturing companies, and help their businesses grow by using their fresh, natural ingredients with no preservatives and toxins. At the Sustainability Fair, one will get to learn about the simple things that matter, and how to adopt easy and healthy habits.”
The three day long fair began with a puppet show about the environment by “Jolputul.” “Obhoyaronno,” an animal welfare organisation, and the “Bangladesh Python Project” a reptile conservation project, attended the fair on the second day and made a presentation on the importance of cultivating relationships between humans and animals.
A much sought after workshop on DIY organic cosmetics was also held on the second day. Children as young as eight year olds from “The Tech School” presented their lessons on how robotics, computer science and engineering could be used for sustainable energy use.
Finally, “Trashmaniac,” a team of activists who cycled through North America to create awareness about reducing trash, provided a presentation on its activities. The event was enriched with musical performances by Arnob, Shayan, Shawjeeb, Dharok, Baul Shafi Mondol and Joler Gaan.
We all produce trash and because it gets hidden in recycling and landfill systems, it becomes easy for us to forget about it. But the alarming reality is that the amount of trash is increasing everyday and all we can do at a micro level is to live by the principles of “waste aware living”: Refuse the unnecessary, reduce and reevaluate what's necessary, repair the well worn, and share when possible.