(Im)perfectly Zero Waste with Shubhashree and Srini

(Im)perfectly Zero Waste with Shubhashree and Srini

learn about easy steps one can take towards zero waste living
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We meet Srini and Shubhashree, the authors of (Im)perfectly Zero Waste. They have also co-authored the book - The Everyday Eco-Warrior.

Learn all about #zerowaste #zerowasteliving #sustainableliving in this episode. Specifically, learn about the following: 

  • The sustainability triggers of the authors 
  • How to start living a sustainable life 
  • The concept of zero-waste and its societal importance 
  • How individual action can lead to a circular economy and large-scale impact.  

Shubhashree is also the illustrator behind The Hungry Palette and the founder of Slowing Down Circle. She is also one-third of The Yada Yada Collective, which is a platform that was started to demystify pricing for freelancing artists and designers in India.

Srini is a long-distance runner, plogger,  and children’s books translator. He is an alumnus of Teach for India and continues to work on nonprofit projects in India and other countries.

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Conversation with Srini and Shubhashree continues here




Kinshuk  0:00 

Hello and welcome to another episode of green shoots the sustainability podcast. We demystify sustainability one topic at a time. Zero Waste living is a much needed concept today because the Earth cannot survive us otherwise. There are many around us who doubt or question Zero Waste living, whether it is even possible. Is this the only way will it impact the economic growth? We read imperfectly, zero waste by Srini and Shubhashree, from the day that we read the book, we knew that we had to get them on the podcast. I recommend the book wholeheartedly. It is very simple, easy to read, easy to execute covers many topics and the best part, it never judges you. It covers everything that you needed to know, to start Zero Waste living topics on food, sustainable clothing, gifts, pandemic emergencies, government policies, name it. We have today Srini and Shubhashree and we are very excited about it, because many listeners wanted you on the show. Thank you so much for making it. It's a pleasure to have you here. And just to add for our listeners, this is the largest gathering of hosts and guests that we have ever had in this podcast series. Today. I'm joined by my partners in crime, Tanya and atul. so it's five of us in the studio.


Srini  1:23 

Thank you, Kinshuk for inviting us to this podcast. We are very excited to be here as well. Yeah, likewise,


Shubhashree  1:31 

thank you so much


Kinshuk  1:34 

Srini and Shubhashree once again. Srini Swaminathan is the first person I have met who has cycled the length and breadth of our country from Kashmir to Kanyakumari and from couch to Guwahati will understand that more on how he manages to stay so fit. While we all love the book, "(im)perfectly zero waste" and "everyday eco warrior" that he has co authored. He's also a long distance runner, children's book translator. He is an alumnus of Teach for India, and continues to work on nonprofit projects in India and other countries. Shubhashree is a versatile box of talent and creativity. In addition to being the co author of '(im)perfectly zero waste' and 'everyday eco warrior', she's the illustrator behind the hungry palette and the founder of slowing down circle. The primary idea behind starting it is to get more people to start making art as a tool for mindfulness, even if they think they can't draw. She's also 1/3 of the yada yada collective, which is a platform that was started to demystify pricing for freelance artists and designers in India. If you're a freelancer, she recommends that you check out the book Hitchhiker's Guide to creative freelancing that they published last year. Thanks a lot for being here. And while the discussion is about zero waste living, the title of the book is really mesmerizing. It's very different. Why imperfectly zero waste?


Shubhashree  2:59  

So there are two things to this. I think one is the other like you mentioned earlier, the question is, can we ever be completely zero waste, right? There is no perfect zero waste zero is never exactly zero. And the second thing is even for us, right? We can try our level best beyond a point there are challenges there are like who you live with, there are so many other stakeholders, right? So to make it a little bit more approachable, and like a little word play, so yeah, that was really the reason behind calling it imperfectly zero waste


Srini  3:33 

when we started working on the two books we just called it sustainability book one and sustainability Book Two, we said we'll keep the title and other things later you know, let's get the content ready let's get the manuscripts ready and that was a big challenge for us. So once everything was done, you know editing was going on is when we came across this point of okay, we need to choose the title for the book. So we thought about a few few things. We were wondering What should we name it that will also be Indian and so on. So we came up with something like 'this is raddiculous' Or book. Zero Wasteology or even something like waste hero? Yeah, waste zero be a hero. So we came across, we came up with so many titles that will be catchy will make people laugh, and also have a high recall value, but most importantly, will be searchable, easily searchable for SEO results and all that. So after a lot of back and forth, we decided on imperfectly Zero Waste. While it says imperfectly. It's also slight wordplay on I am perfectly zero waste. Yeah, we were sure that we wanted zero waste on the title, and exactly as Shubhashree said so I think it draws from the idea that it's better that a million people do zero waste imperfectly. There And a few of us striving to do it perfectly, you know, and it kind of summarizes that thought process. Yeah,


Kinshuk  5:07 

got it. Now, that was my take when I when I read the book right I mean, if one 130 Crore Indians can start being 30 percent zero waste is even that is like a brilliant start.


Srini  5:17 

Yeah, actually like millions or like crores of Inudians in rural India or other places are following many Zero Waste principles, even without reading our books, or even without following anything on Instagram, or, you know, they're not even online, but it's just been their way of life. And that is some a big takeaway from my cycling journeys, I would say Kinshuk is like where I was observing, and I was blown away that how they are just, by default, following so many Zero Waste principles in India,


atul  5:51 

as you mentioned in the book, also, zero waste is intimidating, because we think of it as something which we need to do from day zero, right? It's a journey, I think, you start on something, then you do that, take the next step, you will become better every day. So what was what were your triggers to start on the journey, because everyone has different triggers. And some people I know, go on treks and see plastic lying around, and they're like, Okay, what is happening? What can I do in my life to get it better? What were your triggers individual triggers to start on this journey.


Srini  6:22 

So for me, there is no one Aha, or Swades moment, as they call it, right? I didn't have one big awakening one day when I came back crying and then decided, okay, from tomorrow, I will be zero waste, like, I don't have any such moment. For me, it's, it's a series of interconnected dots that I observed and reflected over a period of time, you know, so, when those things started making me think I even thought about my childhood and the things I have observed, you know, like, when my in my childhood in rural Coimbatore, while coming out to observe people clear night soil, it's a nice way to say, you know, these are people from the marginalized, oppressed caste, who actually clean human excreta, because there are no septic tank, no, you know, underground, this thing. So, people go and defecate at the end of the house, and mostly women, they come and clear the night excreta and put it in a tank, and then they carry it far away from the settlement. And then they go and dump it somewhere. And I remember children making fun of these people, and they don't even get money for what they do. It's just some roti or rice or some tea. Right. And that has always been in my mind, you know, how people would make fun of such people. Another thing I recall is during the Chennai floods, volunteering that I did, you know, dalit people going completely submerged into sewage water and clearing it. So like this, I have many thoughts. You know, in Ahmedabad, I stayed with a family who works with the sanitation Institute. And as part of my Teach for India, immersion, I spent the entire day washing toilets with them, right. And this is a family, they do it enter your washing toilets and bathrooms, and so on. And it's a similarly when I was with the ugly Indian initiative in Chennai, I would go and clean public places, and so on. And the stench would be unbearable, you will see dead rats, cats and dogs and all kinds of garbage mixed, right medical, garbage, sharp objects, and so on. And I've traveled to many countries, for work, and also for leisure. And I've observed how they, they there is so much human dignity, and they they clean all the garbage using machines, no one touches it. And then everything is processed with machines, and so on. Right? It's another matter that they pack and send it all to our countries. But at least there there is dignity and respect for humans. And ultimately, for me, zero waste boils down to one thing, which is social justice. It's equality and respect for fellow human beings, more than even environment. To me this comes first, all these dots made me think, great, but what am I doing about this? I'm also part of the problem, right? So is there anything I can do? I will start today with with reducing my, you know, garbage generation and then doing something about it. So that so for me, it all started, you know, really thinking hard about what am I doing about all this?


Kinshuk  9:41 

Thank you so much Srini. I mean, that's a I mean, the point is small and then it just flows into a very different way of looking at life. And, and that all makes sense because the effort that you've put into this, it just shows through the fact that zero waste is linked more to social justice than to the environment And from your point of view, it's a very beautiful point. And I think I'm most struck by the response. It's a very deep response.


Srini  10:06 

It's interesting because I started doing blogging, right, I started picking up waste. When I go run marathons, when I do my cycling trips, I pledge publicly saying that I will not generate any waste and so on. And it's funny because when I share these posts, people are like, You are such a hero, you are an inspiration. While we have millions of people doing that every single day, our safai karmacharis, our you know, people who are sanitation workers, a lot of people don't even give them Chai or some tip and so on. So, for me, it started with that, right? Okay, I should do something that I would share a lot online. Because my point is, social media is a weapon I have, and I want to share it so much so that people think, Oh, this is cool. This is normal. And look, everyone is doing it. Right. If people can, have you seen those pictures of Starbucks or other plastic mugs, people post with a frappuccino with background, blurred bouquet effect and beautiful, beautifully crafted pictures of a single use cup. And and then I would think if people are doing that, why can't I do this, you know, a reusable cup, or a mug. And so yeah, people are using social media in different ways. And if I'm doing something that prevents waste from being generated, I should also use social media to post it. So I started posting a lot and talking about it. And that's how I reconnected with Shubhashree. Also, a few years ago, when she released her book, let's talk trash.


Shubhashree  11:39 

So for me, the journey has been sort of coming back full circle, like a lot of us, I grew up in a middle class, South Indian family. And the idea, of course, waste was frowned upon. And I remember my mother trying to squeeze out every last bit from a milk packet, putting some water into it, and then putting it back into the vessel. And then watching these packets, and then trying them and all of that. Yeah, definitely. So that's how I grew up. And I'm also guilty of sort of losing track of that when I started earning. And, you know, at some point, I realized I chose convenience above everything else. When my daughter was born, I started looking into cloth diapering alternatives to regular disposable diapers. Because for me more than anything, at that point of time, I just felt like I don't want to put something that is, you know, loaded with some gel and crystals and whatnot, you know, on her. So as I started reading up more, I realized, okay, these diapers are going to be there long after we are gone is going to be in landfills. So that was sort of the coming back point for me. And then I started reading about sanitary napkins and how Yeah, they also suffer the same fate, they are going to be around for much longer than we are. So then I learned about menstrual cups. And I think around the same time, or maybe a year or two later, is when the zero waste movement was really becoming popular in the West. And so that sort of rang a bell for me. And I thought, This is how we grew up in the 80s and 90s. So you know, like, it sort of made me really introspect. And think of how we used to go take oil cans or old bournvita jars, go to the store and fill oil in that and come back and see how did we just, you know, sort of come so far away from that. And that was where I started reading up more and really taking a look at the amount of waste that I generate. And yeah, like Srini mentioned, I worked on us this small illustrated book called Let's talk trash. This was purely a personal project, I was remembering what it was like growing up. So I just wanted to you know, just do this as a personal project. And in the process, I ended up again, learning so much more and really wanting to walk the talk as well, it just because I've published the book and you know, I can't just sit back and say okay, that is done and dusted. Let me move on to the next thing. So that is how my journey has been. It really started with I think coincided with my daughter being born plus zero waste being something that everybody sort of began to talk about and but that's the thing with a lot of us like she said, in our childhoods middle class growing up, or if you go to a rural area, this is just a way of life, it's nothing new, it but over the years with so much progress, we have been regressing in some ways.


Kinshuk  14:39 

In fact, yesterday itself, we were talking with with a friend of mine and he was saying that, you know, in his village, food waste, first it goes to everyone in the neighborhood and then which goes to the cows or veg goes to the goats and non veg goes to the cat. You know so it's like a It's Like a full hierarchy of how things are going to be distributed.


atul  15:03 

Yeah. And it was true. I think all over India, I remember when I was a kid to get milk used to to take our containers, and suddenly it became uncool. We were actually amazed by the weight of the topics covered in the book, I read it in one go. It was amazing, whatever questions I had, and whatever things I wanted to understand, they were all covered in the book, how much time you spent researching about all the different things.


Shubhashree  15:32 

I think both the books together, because I think a good part of two years or a little bit more than that, right. And in terms of core research and the writing part, probably about a year at least. So it's not just that one year, it's also the previous few years where we have tried, you know, incorporating these things in our lives. It's also things that we have grown up with some of it is just pure common sense. And stuff that we've just forgotten, a little bit of life experience and some solid research.


Srini  16:03 

Yeah, yeah. I mean, we tapped into all our bookmarks that we have stored all these years, all the articles and posts we have saved on Instagram and Twitter all these years about about sustainable living zero waste. But a couple of things I want to add on to what she actually said this one we wanted, we were very clear right from the beginning, it has to be very practical. And in a very accessible inclusive language. Right. So we paid particular focus on pronouns, we paid particular focus on not propagating gender stereotypes. We weren't we were very clear that the language has to be very simple. In fact, our books were reviewed in a newspaper, very popular newspaper, and the person had said, Oh, this is high school English. Yeah, that's what we wanted. You know, what's the point of making the language very flowery? Where you have to reach out for a thesaurus, or a dictionary and figure it out? Oh, yeah, the idea was make it simple. And also, because that's how the Social Media Language is also right, Instagram captions and all why Instagram stories and reels are, are able to have much bigger reach and impact, because there is very little text. And the little text that is it's very simple to understand. So we were very clear about that. We wanted to be practical. So we were thinking, Where do we start our chapters, then we thought, a typical day, you wake up, you brush your teeth, you go, you know, shower, then you make breakfast, then you travel somewhere, okay, pretty COVID. So we had to recalibrate when the lockdown happened, and we were we were like, Oh, God, what is this? Will the books ever be even released? So that was a good three, four months when Shubhashree and I thought, then this book is going to probably remain a PDF. It's, it's because COVID, right, we wrote it at the peak of the first lockdown. We started, like fully working on gearing up for the first lockdown. And we for good part of four or five months, we thought, probably the book will never see the light of the day. So we had to recalibrate the whole approach to include the COVID related pandemic related things like some listeners have asked questions, right. And we included a chapter on emergency, I included the pandemic on it, and so on. But we wanted to be like practical, like a day in the life of someone who, who is conscious about zero waste living. And we were very clear, we don't want to touch very high level topics like climate change, and policy and law enforcement and big, big numbers like, oh, there are 20,000 metric tons of plastic waste generated in a single day. If you stack it up, it's the size of an Empire State Building. You know, that kind of things are all over the web and every article on sustainable living environment starts with those comparisons. And it's all overwhelming, right? Ultimately, we you just walk in a road on India, you see that? You don't have to make all these comparisons to make people understand okay, the garbage crisis is big, not really. Unless someone from Greenland or Iceland suddenly drops into India and then okay, that person may need all this comparisons and visual graphics, but as people who who are born and brought up and grew up here, we know the problem, right? So we approach the whole the first book, The Zero waste book from the angle of all that is okay. Tell me what can I do? Right, you know, in a way that is very rooted in reality. True. Yeah. So that's why we we were conscious about like, Okay, someone living alone in a city someone living with flatmates in a city, someone living with a big giant like a family or parents or raising children and So on, how can these people do composting at home? So these discussions Shhubha. and I were a bit of a, you know, like, like in a court, you know, lawyers arguing, okay, no, there's that. So we often would go back and forth about and I think we both are on the same page when it comes to this, actually, it's all about self-compassion, empathy, and mental health first, right, start there. So so that's why we were very clear how the chapter should be, and kind of a running theme in all the chapters should be on self-compassion and mental health.


Kinshuk  20:36 

Yeah. And, you know, that's, like you said, it's a running thread in the book. And that is what brings me to the next question, you have been very forgiving. Throughout the book, you know, when I read the book, it's like, someone, like, my elder brother is telling me or elder sister is telling me, you know, do this, but you can also do this, or you can also do this, at the same time, it's a very what it looks, you know, like high school English example that you give, it's very simple, but it's a very deeply written book because there are many options in terms of, you know, if you're interested, and if you're really interested, it takes you into things that, you know, you didn't know that you could do, but they are at the same time feeling very accessible, like, for example, bio enzymes for me, right? I mean, I always thought it was a very big deal. But then I read your book, and I was like, Okay, let's start. And we and I do have bio enzymes being made somewhere in the house right now. So the point is, it is a nudging and forgiving book. At the same time, you talk about a very big shift, which is needed today, which is from a linear economy, where everything is used, and then dumped to a circular economy where things are reused. So do you believe that a simple nudging forgiving approach or you know, no problem, have your space? And do this can lead to that kind of a big shift in us. Are both possible?


Shubhashree  22:00 

My online answer to that is I can only hope that yeah, that is the way. So the idea is that we ease into that lifestyle ourselves, while making it easy for everyone around us and for ourselves. But once we are, you know, we are sold on the idea. And once we have the buy in from the others, then I think we are at a place where we can, you know, bring bigger changes to make that possible, I think, yeah.


Srini  22:28 

I mean, I like the term circular economy, because I think the life universe, the world is a circle. Justice, you know, when it comes to zero waste, and environment, you know, I think, in the late 90s, thanks to the liberalization, globalization and everything, when India opened up to the world is when we enjoyed all this, and I think you can, we can already see it, right? I mean, five years ago, I would have not imagined I'd be doing like the fourth podcast on sustainable living, and that I would have written, you know, co-authored two books, with Shubhashree on zero waste, and not putting our own money that a very well known international publishers would approach us to write books on zero waste, I would have never imagined this. Even more than that. The shock is that people would be buying and writing to us and posting on social media, right? What does it all tell you? Why would the publisher approach us? Who are newbie authors? I mean, at least Shubhashree has books to her credit, like I just post Insta Stories, that's all. And I mean, jokes apart, Shubhashree and I also discussed will people even read? Because if you notice, everyone wants everything in reels and tiktok videos and this, that there's


everything from finance to rocket science to astrophysics, everything is condensed to five finger points one minute videos by text up here and the finger point. So everything is video content. masterclass, and everything is like broken down into visual stuff. And then we have people like Vani Murthy, who make composting look so easy, so much free content out there, right. And we were wondering, will people even read a book and how will you put something there in the book that is very relevant and up to date when things are changing all the time like for example, zero waste stores are coming up in cities that are new concepts like new initiatives like refill India, in Bombay, Thane area where they will come to your doorstep, you can go and fill up whatever you want cleaners and stuff. So how do you talk about all that? Then we said okay, in our appendix, we will cover whatever we have at this point. And then we will have a live spreadsheet Google sheet will give a link to that and then we will keep updating there so people can go and read and all that. So The summary of what I wanted to say is that definitely individual action matters. If Greta Thunberg had not thought that way, imagine the impact she has created around the world, right? So I believe, or we believe that individual action is where it all starts, you know, and like in the chapter we talked about, right how to be a green agent, this is like chapter 11, becoming a green agent of change. Not all of us can, can carry a flag and be an activist on the streets. But we all can do something within our domains have a locus of control, right. And that is where I think it's very important. If all of us did not think that way. Many governments in India, state governments would not have passed strict solid waste management law true, even though the enforcement leaves much to be desired. But compared to a few years ago, at least in Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu, I see so many big businesses, restaurants, and all using non plastic packaging, non plastic cutlery and so on. I do agree that during the pandemic that took a big hit, but I already see signs of, you know, going back to pre COVID times when food was served in a steel container or reusable container, and so on. So individual action does matter. And we need to keep doing what we believe. And that's where we focused that point about, are you convinced, even if you are the last human standing on this ideology, go ahead, because you're not doing it for others, you're not doing it to show off or anything, you're doing it because you are convinced that this is your way of saying thank you to the environment, you know, so yeah, I think collective action matters. We have so many examples that we have quoted in the book like  Sunderlal Bahuguna, we have talked about Medha Patkar, we have talked about Afroz Khan in Mumbai, Peter Van Geit in Chennai. And so so many examples, like one person, that inspiration, it sometimes even pictures of me plogging, people, you know, write about how they saw that, and they started doing something, and so on. Shubhashree and I get a lot of DMS on Instagram, from people who say, Oh, we saw you doing this and then we started doing this in our community. Now our entire residential complex has started composting


Tania  27:37 

Both of you wrote about the need to, you know, consider the concerns and worries of your co inhabitants. When we were experimenting with our, you know, week without plastic, we realized that we didn't want to cause any inconvenience to people we were living with, you know, our sisters, husbands or our cook maid, right. So another struggle in this area has been the festival gifting, gifting becomes a very big source of wastage. But refusing waste obviously doesn't go down well with family and friends. So what are your suggestions for handling people and for handling emotions and handling these special occasions?


Shubhashree  28:17 

To be honest, I have found this easier with people I am really close to I can you know, sort of straight up straight away, tell them, I don't want any gifts, or here is what I need. Right? Something like that. With people I'm not as close to it is definitely still a struggle. And I think part of it is also being really comfortable. In our own identity, as you know, somebody who is conscious about the planet and about the amount of waste we generate. And once that happens, I think talk about it more constantly, more openly without you know, fear of judgment. And that is still a real thing. Right? Even though you want to do good. You're still worried that what Yeah, Log kya  kahenge. Okay, sounds great. So yeah, once you are comfortable with that, and you start talking about it a little bit more often, it's sort of settled slowly into people's minds. But yeah, I mean, it's not easy. I agree. And I am curious to see what Srini has to say.


Srini  29:22 

It's a very good question, you know, and something that we have covered in our book as well. That Okay, let's take a different example, right, getting a pet, especially during COVID time, okay, people rushed into by getting a puppy home, right? day one, day two, everyone is excited. Everyone's focused on the puppy. People are playing with it, taking pictures and videos and all that, but it's a living, breathing thing and who will feed it who will take care of it who will clear its poop who will you know, take care of when it's sick or howling or vomiting? Right? That responsibility was not discussed earlier. Forget about zero waste. Okay, from tomorrow I'm going keto, quite often the responsibility falls on the shoulders of people who are already burdened. And mostly it's, it's the women in the family. Also house help. The whole idea is, does it even make sense, you know, in an everyday way to annoy everyone else you are coinhabiting with while saying no, I go zero waste, it would actually have opposite effect. People will be like are yeh Zero Waste Nazi hai. You are categorzed into a box and you're like, you actually have a backfiring effect. You're no longer inclusive. People are excluded you that's not what you want. And I will start with my own womb. My parents live with me. I've been segregating waste for the last several years. I do a lot of green stuff, zero waste. There is only one thing I've managed to convince my parents of doing, which is segregating compostable and non compostable waste. And that too, I need to have a hawk's eye. I need to keep going and see. The only way I can miss them to segregate garbage and put the stuff in the compost bin is because one day they bought compost at 50 rupees per kilo. And then they showed it to me and I said, but I've been making this free backyard for several for last six months. This was few years ago. And I said one kilo 50 rupees, I'll give you 15 kilos for free. And I showed them look at this, and they couldn't find a difference. And they were like, Oh yeah, why did we pay 50 rupees for this. So money was a was a good trigger for them. Second was I will show a lot of pictures of cows, you know, eating. So I volunteer Blue Cross sometimes and I show them pictures of how they remove plastic garbage from the tummy of a cow. It is called rumenotomy. So they make the cow stand they put within barriers and then they cut the tummy from the side. And they put the hand and pull plastic waste out. It's a very powerful image. You have seen cows with bloated tummies and people will say It is pregnant. And then they realize it's not a cow. It's a bull. And I'm like, how did the bull get pregnant? Oh, it's plastic pregnancy. So a cow or bull with a big tummy does not necessarily mean it's pregnant. It's most likely plastic, especially in urban India, I show them these pictures. And it really hits them right and I say see, your every day they buy flowers for puja, and it comes in the polythene right. And I tell them plastic bag ends up in the tummy of a cow because it it needs it. And so I had to approach and present it in an angle or from a story that appeals to my parents. I leave the question with one thing, right? What I have found effective over these years is the power of your conviction and how you lead your life often inspires people a lot more than you going and talking to them and telling what to do and what not to do. Absolutely simple thing like walking up and down an escalator. Right. A lot of places have do's and don'ts. Have you ever seen anyone stand and read them? No, not really. But when you're walking up an escalator, you see someone holding the handrail, I've seen children or young people or people who come from a place where there are no escalators, they look and then they do right there is a lot of visual knowledge there. So I am a big believer in that right? Your conviction how you lead your life what you say and do consistently over a period of time, right? One of the reasons why what when I say something people take it seriously on social media and they say okay, I like this because they have seen me do this over the years. Right? And whether or not I get appreciation whether or not I get compliments or whatever likes reshares I keep doing what I do. There is power in showing demonstration of your power and showing up there is power and doing things imperfectly but consistently, just because you know it's for the greater common good. I mean coming back to your question, I would say yes, there are a lot of emotions involved people love gifting and so on. It is not something you can solve overnight. Right? Compared to five years ago. Now I hardly get any gift wrapped in plastic. I hardly get anything that is single use. And by now people in my circles know that oh Srini , um, give it to him in a steel cup. He likes it. Even even people online who who have never met me they're like, Oh, I know. You like natural stuff. So I went and got something. Oh, I wrapped it in newspaper by the way for you.

how did this thing happen? Because I've been screaming from the rooftops. So I show up, I share, I share regularly. Right? This is what I love. And I say I'm happiest with a handwritten note. I love pebbles. I love natural stuff. So it takes time for people. And even once in a while people give you something which is say wrapped in plastic, or it's a single use thing. I think it's okay. Because it's the love that matters. And the idea behind the gift is love. And they gave you something because they thought about you, it's okay to accept it. And then I would say not ruin the moment of gifting you know, so it's okay. But for a big event or something, I said that we can do backward planning. So suppose a big event where you're being felicitated? You know, okay, that day, you know how things are going to be. So maybe well in advance, you can write to people saying that, hey, I would prefer this, because I don't like to generate waste. So can we think about this, please? You know, so giving people enough time to backward plan. In many cases, they will be happy you said that because it reduces expenditure for them backward planning from say, Diwali, Christmas and telling people, why don't we avoid getting a plastic Christmas tree and make something natural?


Kinshuk  36:13 

Thanks. And surely you have given a lot of hints for what gifts you require. So we will give that


Srini  36:22 

yeah, actually, I need nothing. That's that's one thing I tell people I have, I feel like I have everything for a lifetime now. And in fact, I'm reducing my posessions. And I've been giving away a lot to raise funds of course and also local initiatives in Chennai, clothes, footwear, I cleaned them up and I've been giving away from my house is like, I almost emptied my house in the last six months. But the only thing I keep are books, which are a lot, and some vessels and stuff, but mostly I just give away to people. So that is what also inspired the chapter on green gifting ideas, right? Because we often hear this that people say, Oh God, what the gift and people aren't putting enough thought in the gifting. So we wrote that chapter on what are the things gift need not be just something physical, it could be experience, it could be something that you're gifting your time and thought and so on. So, we covered that also in the book


Kinshuk  37:20 

Atul will relate because he has been on a clearing-house spree I am the beneficiary


atul  37:26 

We have 300 books emptied out and around 50 of them given to friends and rest to someone was like, Okay, so our only criteria was okay, we are giving you a book, but make sure that they are read somewhere. So decluttering is we are moving towards right now.


Tania  37:41 

Actually, I wanted to ask Srini about what do you actually do with the T-shirts that you get from all the marathons and everything that you participate in? And that's one problem in my house, my husband kind of signs up for everything possible. And I'm fed up with a number of polyester T-shirts that end up


Srini  38:00 

I don't take them.


Tania  38:03 

How do you how do you tell them that? I don't want them?


Srini  38:06 

What's the most important thing that you need to run at a registered race even just the BIB, right? They won'. You can wear whatever you want, as long as the bid was visible. In fact, like Shubha has done a beautiful illustration of this also like goodie bags, right? What all crap they keep in the goodie bag, and then a polyester t-shirt again in a plastic bag. A lot of race events now have an option that they say no t-shirt when you choose. And then they even give you a slight discount. Two things I've done. Over the years. I've gotten the T-shirts, and I rarely wear them because a lot of the these T-shirts are not great for long-distance running. I gather them and I donate them right to Goonj or to local initiatives where they distribute during national disasters right. So I donate these t shirts. If there is an option to say no t-shirt, I choose that. But if no, I have to go to the expo and pick up my things, I just tell them, I only want the bib, I even have the pins with me. So just take the bib. It is another  matter that there's a lot of these bibs are non-biodegradable, they are made of tensile or some material. In in Europe, when I travel I've seen in flea markets, they make a wallet out of these. So they make passport vouchers, wallets, and so on. So one of the organizations, I'm involved with called  Bazaar in Rajasthan. I've been trying to take all my race bibs, I'm trying an option where we can stitch and make it into wallets. If you already have them donate it. And if you have an option, just don't take it.


Tania  39:48 

That's kind of the mandate I've put out. So, you know, we were talking about a change in the consumer patterns, right, reducing consumption, reducing what we are buying, you spoke about not buying composed from outside when you're having it in your own house. This actually, you know, kind of leads back to a question that, you know, came up while we were brainstorming that living sustainably or moving towards a zero waste lifestyle can also impact the GDP or the economic growth of the country.


Shubhashree  40:19 

I don't think it could reduce the economic growth or it might diversify it, especially when we make choices that where we are helping more local small businesses around us even simple things, right. Like I think I've mentioned this somewhere in the book, instead of buying packaged bread from the supermarket, which has God knows how many unreadable ingredients. So go to your local bakery and pick up something that is, you know, probably baked the same day, money is going to reach the people who need it more and who can help further the movement of sustainability. It should yeah, yeah. Anything, not just bread, right? Even if it isthink of your clothing as well. I think before you know big brands before globalization, and before big brands began to flood the market and fast fashion took over. I think it was common, it was the done thing for us to just buy fabric and then take it to the local tailors. So you are affecting more livelihoods there. So I think our choices will definitely have a positive impact.


Kinshuk  41:25 

So wealth gets more distributed is what you're saying. Right?


Srini  41:29 

I do not know much about economics GDP much, I don't know anything about finance economy and GDP and other such complex concepts. But I'll say in a very simple way. I'll give you an example. Right let's take the most loved order in Chennai which is biryani initially okay. You know many years ago when you ordered a biryani, it comes in aluminium foil wrapped in plastic and all that okay, then someone came up with this brilliant idea of a plastic bucket. I think probably inspired by your KFC chicken bucket concept. So they started actually selling biryani in one kilo to 5-10 kilo and the plastic bucket was free. People are like wow, I don't have to return it. No you keep it. So plastic buckets right. And and then the ban came and then there was a lot more pressure on plastic and all that though it's a reusable thing people use it to store stuff at home now there is this thing of everything in terracotta clay like Chai, okay, you have to pay more to drink Chai in a Kulhad. paper cup chai is 20 rupees and kulhad chai,  that's 55 rupees like why? Why


I mean that's urban India for you. So now the same biryani shops are charging a slight premium but sending you biryani in a clay pot. Yeah. So the two kilo five kilo 10 kilo plastic buckets are slowly disappearing either a clay pot or a steel tiffin box which is so cheap in Chennai because there are a lot of manufacturers of stainless steel vessels in Chennai. So these biryani shops are now selling biryani and you can keep the vessel with you. So the reason I'm saying this example is I understand things through examples and case studies and real life stories and will it really impact the GDP and make the economy collapse? In one sense, because look at rural India, look at so many places are semi urban India where sustainable living is a way of life. And it's not that those economies or micro economies are collapsed, right and I have a feeling or I have a belief that the markets will adjust and calibrate the markets or big businesses will figure a way out to when they see that that's also what consumers like or want how the biryani makers went from plastic buckets aluminum foils to now terracotta clay pots. So who's benefiting peopl, the porters who make clay pots, they are getting much bigger orders. But does that mean plastic bucket makers have gone out of business? Probably not. I mean, if not, for biryani, they're sending the buckets for something else. If zero waste and sustainable living and so on gains, more and more acceptance, and so on, the businesses will calibrate according to what the markets and consumers want. So it's not going to majorly affect the GDP and all of a country, it will give birth to new industries, new businesses that are more, you know, focused on catering to this need for sustainable packaging, sustainable living and, and so on. I'll give you another example. Right. A few years ago, I was working on a book on ultra distance cycling for another cyclist I was helping him with with the editing of the book and everything. It's called Pedal Shakti. And as part of the research for the book, we went to show Sivakasi to find a suitable publisher printer for the book, right. And during one of those printing shop, printing factory visits, one person took us to his factory, which is not into book printing, but he actually prints the outer packaging, and exports it to various countries, even South America. So he prints the packaging here in rolls and ships it to say Venezuela or Colombia, they fill whatever material they have to fill inside, seal it and then sell it in the local market. I was blown away that in Sivakasi, and he has invested several several crores in importing the equipment from Germany. And then I saw hundreds of people engaged in his work. So this is why I don't believe in an overnight ban. Because in Sivakasi, in one shop, in one factory, I saw hundreds of workers and the business has invested several crores in the equipment, top notch equipment, right. And if you just ban it, you know, it's very bad for business and for the country's economy, right. So there always has to be a roadmap for how to move slowly away from generating use waste. And I don't know maybe that machinery has a capability to print on non plastic also, or bio plastic or I don't know compostable plastic, and so on. So that's why I believe that there needs to be a roadmap for hundreds and 1000s of small businesses in India who are working with plastic, the government has to come up with, again, a vision and roadmap to make sure that the economy and most importantly, the livelihoods of people are not affected in a bad way. Just because oh, we are going zero waste. No, I don't believe in that either. If you have no money, and food to serve your children, zero waste is useless, especially for people who are in low income and in marginalized oppressed communities. More than zero waste is your dignity and the hunger of your children. And I believe in that.


Shubhashree  47:03 

I just wanted to add one point while we were on the topic of smaller businesses, recently, I have seen that a lot of bubble wrap is now replaced by that paper. I don't know what it's called. But you must be familiar with that. Right? So that is a small industry somewhere, right? Somebody is actually sitting in making them. And even things like wedding planners now that has small groups of people coming together to either rent out cutlery for small parties or events like weddings, and also they take care of end to end event management, including composting of the wet waste that is produced at the event, right. So again, this is something that wasn't there like 10 years back, or 20, maybe 10 years back, but 20-30 years back, this was not something that was there. So and it's also a matter of how creative you get. And one other thing again, I've I recently came across is this company that makes paper from things like banana fibers, corn husk, coconut husk, lemon grass, absolutely no trees are cut down in the making of this paper. So again, that's a fantastic, you know, offshoot, I would say, have us beginning to think in that direction of do we really need to create all this waste?


Kinshuk  48:21 

Absolutely. So what you're saying is that wherever the consumer is putting their money, that is where new industries and opportunities will come up.


Srini  48:29 

Or another thing Kinshuk that the Shubhashree always talks about, and we touched in our book also is zero waste is a privilege. You know, I didn't think about zero waste living sustainable living about 10 years ago when I was like fresh out of college. I was earning money. I was just like total enjoying mode, right? And that time in fact, if someone had come and told me, No, no, no, don't don't drink this. Don't eat that. Oh, look at the waste you're generating. I'll be like, Come on, I'm earning. I deserve it. I'm enjoying my life. Who are you to say this right? So So, it's been a journey for me. It's been, like you said more and more. Yeah. So I think we had to be kind to people who are not there yet who have not even probably started yet and not be very judgy. And very cool. You know, like, speaking from a higher pedestal not really, they are in a journey and your conviction, your actions, speak louder, you know, than us going and telling them do this, don't do this. If they if they are curious and ask you Yes, you share. You know, otherwise. Let me give you and example, during my Kashmir to Kanyakumari thing we are put two cyclists in one room, in hotels or wherever we stay. And you know how this new concept in India where you go to a hotel, check into your room, and you look at the tea coffee station, there are mineral water bottles, half litre bottles, there'll be four of them. Three, four years ago, or even five, six years ago. It'll always be like a flask or a jug of water. And glass tumblers, right? When did the shift happen? And I call them and say give me water? They're like, sir, don't you have water in your room? I'm like, Yeah, but they're plastic water bottles. Don't worry, sir. We'll send you for more. It's free. And I asked them, Okay, no, no, I want normal water jug, oh we don't have it. And then I asked them, What do you guys drink? Oh, we drink the same. I'm like, Nope, I'm coming down. So I go and tell them sometimes I lie also saying that I'm allergic to plastic bottles and I get wheezing asthma, and then I show them my inhaler. And they're like, okay, okay, we'll send you but in the restaurant, they do serve our water or like normal filtered water. So I tell them, just send me the jug. I'm happy and you can actually take back the plastic back. When I stay with people during cycling or in general when I travel with friends and all that. I carry my water kettle and my reusable water bottle. And I you know, boil the water and I drink that. But my friend or roommate, they will be drinking though because it's the easiest thing to do. Right? They don't even think much. I mean, nobody who's doing like say drinking the water bottle from a plastic water bottles thinking today, I will harm the environment. Today I want to generate garbage. No, you know, they just drink because Okay, oh, it's kept there in the room. I'm thirsty. I go and drink. Right, no one's thinking so much about I want to harm the Environment. So that's what we need to tap into. No one is intentionally planning and scheming to destroy the environment, unless you're putting or something. So. So that's not the need to focus on and appreciate. Right? So when I do that, throughout the NPR marathon or cycling, I don't touch the water bottles. And I use my kettle. Yeah, it's a little bit of inconvenience. But I've seen that after a day or two, they start asking me questions. Till then I don't say anything. I don't preach. I don't say do this. No, no, I just do my thing. And then they ask, I noticed while you are not eating, it's free. Only nice. No, I mean, don't fall sick. Then I tell them no, no, I just prefer not to create waste. This works for me. And then I've converted a few people that way, without uttering a word, you know. So that's what I believe in that our actions speak very powerfully.


Kinshuk  52:26 

While our conversation with Shubhashree and Srini continues, we will pause this episode here. Do check out the book. Let's talk trash. We will put it out on our Instagram handle as well. Please buy the book (im)perfectly zero waste, it will give you loads of wisdom. And as you have already heard, we finished it in a day. Do keep an eye out for the next episode because we will be declaring the winners of the book giveaway contest. Just to remind you the prize is a copy of (im)perfectly zero waste. If you have any further questions do write to us at greenshootsearth@gmail.com or you can reach us on LinkedIn or Instagram. Have a great day.


Transcribed by https://otter.ai


Author - team awenest

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