Sonika and the art of sustainable parenting

Sonika and the art of sustainable parenting

In this podcast, we learn from Sonika and Abir on sustainable parenting, eco-anxiety and bio-enzymes
DIY Natural cleaners for a healthy planet! Reading Sonika and the art of sustainable parenting 32 minutes Next changemakers: Priyamvada and 9Grams



Tania and Kinshuk from the Green Shoots team meet Sonika Bhasin and her 3-year-old, Abir.

Sonika's sustainability journey started with the birth of her son, and her related questions about how can we hand over this planet better than we found it, to our next generation. 

She breaks many myths about sustainable living, and words of practical wisdom are sprinkled across this episode, interrupted by heavy doses of laughter. 
Find out the following in this episode: 

How can parents make their kids more mindful of their environment? 
How difficult sustainable living really is? 
Can you really live without a dustbin? 
Is eco-anxiety real? 
... and so much more. 

For any feedback or follow up questions, reach out to us at

Please listen to us, share your thoughts and don't forget to follow us on spotifyapple or google podcast



Kinshuk  0:00  

How're you guys doing today? Welcome to another episode of green shoots - the sustainability podcast. We demystify one topic of sustainability at a time. I know that some of you have already started some sustainability habits for yourself, while some of you haven't. For those who haven't, it's always a good time to start. Many people have told me that urban living cannot be zero-waste, or with a "real job or kids", It's difficult to find the time. To be honest. I also have some mental blocks. Our guest for the day will convincingly break all the mental blocks around sustainable living that you may have. 


Tania  0:44  

Sonika Bhasin champions mindful living and sustainable parenting. She proves every day that an eco-friendly lifestyle isn't difficult or time-consuming or even expensive, even when you're living in a city like Mumbai. She has a stellar corporate career currently as a vice president at Sony Pictures, and she is the mother to three-year-old Abir, who has already taken much more than baby steps into the world of sustainability. Welcome, Sonika. Starting off, what triggered your sustainability journey?


Sonika  1:15  

Well, for me, it was having my son and I think when you have a child, you suddenly realize that you're responsible for another life. And that realization kind of dawned on me and then I started reading up a lot about generally the crises of waste, of climate change, just because I'm concerned about his future. And I think as parents, you know, you want to do the best for your child. And I feel that if you can't give them a safe place to live, which is this planet, what good is really anything else? It all started after he was born. And then as we realized, you know, what are the things that were happening around us and even our own lifestyle, we just basically realized that our own lifestyle was so wasteful, and everything that we did was not good for the environment that kind of led us on this whole journey. of reducing our waste and leaving a low waste lifestyle.


Kinshuk  2:09  

That's a very deep answer and making it safe for your child in the future that I think, anyone would connect to that right. So I'm actually awestruck by the response. Thanks for the response. So Sonika, sustainability has many facets. You know, some people think that using renewable electricity is the right way to live or going Zero Waste is the right way to live. There is the vegan side and there is a plastic-free side. While in the long run, they all converse with each other. What is closest to your heart and what is your brand of sustainability?


Sonika  2:43  

So I think for me, it is about being mindful. That's the front and center of it. If you're mindful about what you're doing, you will end up doing all of these things. Right. So just by knowing what is the impact of your actions, on yourself, on your family, on the environment, on animals on you know, on the ocean, and it's like a line, I always tell people this it's like a line you cross after you have you know, realized all of this and then you can't go back. So everything that you do it kind of you do it from that same lens so I don't know if there is a brand or, or sustainability or if there is a particular path. But for me it is about being mindful about everything. And I'm learning every day. You know, it's a learning process. So if I find something that I've been doing wrong or something that I can improve, I will do that. Whether it is by any of the things that you said.


Kinshuk  3:39  

Got it. No, I completely understand what you're saying because I started composting only a month ago right, but now that I started it, if I leave anything uncomposted and it starts you know it's going to waste then I feel really bad that I could have done that. So you know, I understand what you're saying when you say crossing the line and


Sonika  4:00  

now to throw even one egg shell, you're going to feel bad about it.


Kinshuk  4:04  

I felt bad about it. Two egg shells, and I was like, why wait when... I get that


Sonika  4:11  

and that's why I think that you know, some people say that, Oh, you know, if you just do one thing, it's not enough. I think one step is all it takes and if I can just go back to how it started with us after he was born. I was like any other new parent buying lots of things for the newborn child and very excited about it. And I bought this cloth diaper from Amazon and I had no idea how to use it. Okay, so from some of these parenting groups, I reached a group on Facebook, which is called cloth diapering India. And because it's a bit technical, you have to understand how to use it and things like that. So I started asking a lot of questions on that. And then I asked a lot of people I put up a status I remember saying, Why do you all do this? Like what is the advantage of this and every single answer said it's good for the environment. And that really kind of, I was like, Okay, so why is a disposable diaper bad for the environment? You know, so that is where I started my research on what is wrong with a disposable diapers. And then I kind of reached this whole thing of the waste crisis, about landfills till then I thought landfill is like this big pit that is dug up in the ground and you put stuff and then you know it all disappears. Really, It was that night and then I realized that waste is a very big issue. So I thought okay, if there is a reusable diaper I'm sure there is a reusable pad, sanitary pads. So that is what led me to that. And so it's just that one step you take and then it just goes on to the other to the other to the other to you you know, you are able to do a lot of changes in your life. So never be shy about taking one small step.


Kinshuk  5:55  

Understood. That itself leads me to the next question. This is one myth that people have right, which is that how do you preach sustainably and you know, while you're saying that one step is all that it takes? What are the other sustainability myths that you think many people live with, which can be broken down?


Sonika  6:15  

So I think one of the myths is that it's time consuming. It is not. It really is not. I think the time consuming bit is a shift in our mindset. That is what takes time. Okay, committing to it. That is what takes time. It's like you know, you start a new exercise regime. It takes you time to get used to it and say okay, I have to do this but once you decide that you have to do this, it's not going to change anything else. So it is not time-consuming. I don't spend any extra time in my day in living a sustainable lifestyle. I just live with less, I buy less. None of these things are time-consuming. Composting is an activity that we have added in our life. It takes less than two minutes a day. So it is not a time-consuming activity. And everything else is just, we buy differently, we buy less, you know, these kinds of things are not time-consuming. The other thing that people think it is that it's very expensive to live a sustainable lifestyle. I think it's the opposite because the very crux of it is to consume less. And when you consume less, you're gonna save so much money that you'd rather spend a little more on good, organic, clean, toxic-free products than you know, use something which is cheaper and harmful. So I think these are two big myths out there that it is expensive and time-consuming. I don't think it is either.


Kinshuk  7:34  

So we started this discussion on the podcast and we have had so many guests and it's amazing that while their take on sustainability could be different, but they all agree on this common point and this is a really big myth. Because when I did, let's say a survey amongst my friends on what is the barrier, they would like yeh bahut mehnga hai, ek item itne kaa ataa hai or stuff like that, right?


Sonika  7:59  

And then I always tell people that you know, don't compare the price of a plastic toothbrush with a bamboo toothbrush. Just compare your overall expenditure. You know, so okay, I want to buy a composter but it's going to cost me 4000 rupees, but it's once in a lifetime you're going to buy that. you know that compost is going to last you your entire life. So it's in that way if you break it down, it is actually not expensive


Tania  8:24  

these very myths and these assumptions really prevent a person who understands the reality of climate changes into taking the first steps into a mindful living. What would be your advice for such a person into taking the first steps into starting a sustainable journey?


Sonika  8:42  

I think for anybody who wants to start one thing is that don't try to do everything at once because it can be very overwhelming. You have to do one thing at a time. So start with something which is the easiest for you and which is not going to change anything in your life. So I give an example of starting when your shower gel is over. Just get yourself a soap bar after that, you know it's not going to change anything in your life, probably cost you the same. It's not taking any extra time but you have taken one step of eliminating that plastic bottle out of your bathroom. Then get a shampoo bar. Then next step and something else gets over as things start getting over in your house, one at a time, just replace it with something which is sustainable. The next time you're going to buy something instead of buying it immediately, put it in your cart, and leave it there for a week or 10 days. And then if you still come back to it buy it, otherwise you probably forget about it. You know, so do whatever works for you. I'm not here to give you, you know this is what you should do. But just pick up one small little thing that you know is not going to affect your day to day life. And it's not going to be like oh my god, what is this new thing that I'm doing? Yeah, so basically just do whatever is comfortable to you. And also another thing is that don't try and change everyone around you or in your household because that is a very, very difficult thing to do. So if you just decide from today, I'm using a soap bar and so should everyone else. You will just find resistance from other people. So don't do that. Just start with yourself. And just do it very slowly. And most probably, the people around you who are living with you will adopt these as well but don't try to force them into doing something. It actually


Tania  10:28  

pretty much mirrors what I have personally than you know from leaving that pair of jeans in my myntra cart for a couple of weeks and then forgetting about it or it going out of stock. I first made the transition to a soap bar and now I've moved to a shampoo bar and my next step is going to be toothpowder instead of toothpaste so even I believe in taking you know one baby step at a time and not going the whole hog.


Sonika  10:51  

Yeah, that just get up one day get all the sustainable products and try to change everything. I mean if you can do it fine, but it's it gets too much sometimes for you to say okay, now this is also new and this is also new and everything is new. So it becomes a little daunting.


Kinshuk  11:08  

So Tanya is the first zero-waster that I met. And you know, the whole thing about not getting overwhelmed. I think that's a very big piece of advice. And the second advice that you gave is really relevant. In fact, I have gone the other way I am so afraid of buying anything that you know that they're still in my cart. So and then I get taunts from people that I need to buy that so but postponing purchase, it's really good advice. I have realized that half the things are potentially not needed.


Sonika  11:46  

And my next step actually was I just deleted all all the shopping apps from my phone because the thing is that if you have them and I also unsubscribe to all the newsletters because you just keep getting bombarded by all these very attractive sales and discounts. So I deleted all the myntras and all of these from my phone, I unsubscribe to all the newsletters. And if I get any ad on Instagram now or because that's the only social media platform I use. I just say it's irrelevant. So what has started happening is I'm only getting ads of either sustainable products or you know, some educational courses or it's just changed so I'm not getting those ads, so I'm not getting tempted in any case.


Kinshuk  12:28  

So now that Abir is here as well. We wanted to understand how hard is it to expose your child to planet-friendly living? We have seen Abir crush leaves, compost and do many other things like golden earthworm, is it special about him or it is the education that you have put into him which is leading to this? Is it replicable by everybody?


Sonika  12:51  

I'm sure it is because I think kids are very inquisitive, they want to touch feel everything. So with us what we have done is that from the beginning he used to once so he was like one year and three months old when the lockdown happened so for three months, we were all inside the house and we were all together. So it was it was good because we got to spend so much time with him. The moment the lockdown lifted, we started taking him down in our building, and thankfully we have like a huge area in the compound. So we will take him down every day. And then slowly what happened was that he would go down during the day as well and he started interacting with the building gardeners. And so one thing that we had taught him was that you know, the moment you go down yourself you should say Namaste to everyone. So he does that he will go and say Namaste to every single person, you know the guards or the other gardeners or any any people who are walking or whatever. So they became very friendly with him and he started, you know, they started involving him. We didn't do anything. They were so excited because they would say - do this or do that, and he started doing that, he would water the plants. Then if they would be planting something he would go and help them then he found an earthworm and he was so excited. So they have actually been very encouraging of him as well. So actually, we didn't do much so I don't want to take any credit on that part. And we have an amazing, amazing nanny. She is very adventurous and she has been encouraging him a lot to do these things. When he goes down to play in the mud and you know. She knows that we don't mind and she would ask in the beginning that is it. Okay, if he does that, and we were like, yeah, just let him roll in the mud if he wants to, you know, that is what kids like to do. So I think any kid who you let you know if you let them do all of that I'm sure anyone will do it. The other thing is that I always believe that you should just involve the kid in whatever you are doing at home and let them learn every day. Whether it is folding clothes, whether it is you know, changing a bedsheet or anything that is happening in the house, kids should come and help you and kids love to help If you tell a child that you want to help me to do to this, the kid will come running, trust me. So we started doing that with him and this was not a planned thing that Oh, I will make him compost or whatever he would just be around while I was doing it. I would make him sit he would see what's being done and very soon he wanted to do it himself. You know, kids also want to do that they feel like they've achieved something they've accomplished something. So then I would be like fine, you put the browns, so you put now he can do it himself because it's been a year since he has seen me doing it. He's doing half of it. Then once I was making bio enzymes, I was like come, you want to see how I'm doing it and he was very excited about it. So I was like, Okay, if he's excited then I should you know, involve him into in that. And so one is teaching him these skills to it's a fun activity, rather than you know you always have to think of activities to do with kids. Why don't you let them do this. So it's not like we have really thought about we should be doing this we have just involve them in whatever we do so that whatever we do in the house is normal. This is all very normal for him. Doesn't think there's anything different or special about composting, it is something that we do every day. So it's not difficult to involve your kids. I think you should just let them explore and if they don't like something, don't force them. But if they're interested in something, encourage them to do it.


Kinshuk  16:28  

well. So if you had to give one advice to mothers and fathers who would want to expose their child to sustainable living, what would that one advice be?


Sonika  16:39  

So my one advice would be that look, don't be scared of things like child getting dirty or child handling an insect. I know a lot of people get scared and when I talk about this, they're like, How can you let your child you know touch an insect or hold an insect. See as long as the insect is not harmful and you will not have the kind of insects around you that are going to be harmful. So it's fine. I think you should just let your child explore and it is okay for them to get dirty, they will not fall sick. In fact, it is very good for their health to be exposed to a lot of dirt and to be exposed to microbes and things like that. So don't be afraid of a child falling sick or anything like that. Just let them be and just let them explore all of these things and involve them.


Tania  17:26  

So you manage a lot of different roles - that of a mother, you have a corporate career, and you are involved in all these planet-friendly activities inside and outside your home. Right. Did you have to cut down on any aspect of your life or compromise on anything to manage all these together?


Sonika  17:45  

Honestly, no, not that I can think of. I thankfully work in a lovely company and we have a good work life balance. So of course there are days when there is no work since you know some sometimes it's not so, I do find time but I do most of these things on the weekend. Thankfully, I don't have to work on the weekend. So most of the things that I do like I'm doing this podcast or if I have to do an Insta Live or you know things like that which are related to this. I try to do them on the weekend. And honestly before, I would just be sitting at home and watching TV so there's maybe that's what happened but I love doing it so it for me it's like I'm looking forward to doing these things and not complaining that I don't have time to do them and I just kind of made time in my regular schedule. Plus my son sleeps at eight o'clock. So then after that I have a lot of time to just do whatever I feel like


Tania  18:36  

and how does your lifestyle affect your spouse? Did he have to make any changes in his lifestyle to accommodate yours?


Sonika  18:46  

Yes, of course. Everything changed right like one day I just declared we are not having any dustbins in the house like remove this dustbin. so everyone has to agree to it right everyone who is living in the house and I was a bit like that. I will just declare that we are going to start composting from tomorrow. We are going to do this but he's been amazing and I have not forced him to change his things like his products. Or anything but he's just done it on his own. And you know, he's actually kind of a minimalist. He only wears  black T shirts and he does not own anything else. I think he has about 10 T shirts and he has shorts of different colors and maybe two pairs of jeans. That's all he owns. So he started I realized that slowly he started looking for organic cotton T shirts and you just things like that ordering lesser and of course because we have a waste management system at home since we don't have a dustbin, so there is a place that we put our dry watse, everybody knows what happens to the wet waste. So these are things that of course he also does because he's living in the house. But yeah, of course we had to make a lot of changes in his life but he's he's absolutely he's loving it as well. Yeah, I mean, it's that at the end of the day if you're doing it for of course for for everything else but more than anything for our child and we both love him.


Tania  20:06  

But once you start doing it, I think it's very rewarding. Mentally, right, you feel good at the end of the day, even if you've done you know a tiny bit.


Sonika  20:19  

Yeah, you feel that at least you know I'm not contributing to this huge landfill. I'm doing something.


Kinshuk  20:26  

you have taken a lot of sustainability steps in the last few years. What part of the transition to sustainable living has been the most inconvenient,


Sonika  20:38  

the transition has not been difficult, but managing anxiety has been very difficult. And it is something that happens to most people, because you suddenly become aware of things like climate change and what's going to happen. You know, when you suddenly realize that okay, climate change is happening. How long do we have to live? How long is my child going to live? Is he going to even reach that age? things like that. It's very difficult. I have tried so many times that oh my god, we're going to destroy this planet and ourselves. Forget the planet. I think one thing is a lot of people say save the planet. I think no, you're not saving, nothing is going to happen to the planet. Planet is okay. Yes. Do you have to save yourself? You know? So, we are living literally destroying ourselves. I sometimes I cannot understand that. You know, like there are so many issues in this world which impact a different section of society. Every issue impacts a particular section of society. This issue impacts every living thing on this planet. The people who are making the policies, it's going to affect them as well. And their children. So I often wonder, don't these people have kids? Or don't they have grandkids? Why are they taking this lightly? And if I know this, they know it even better, right? They have access to more reports than we have, I mean they have all this information and you're still just doing like half-hearted measures. Governments around the world, fossil fuel companies, big corporates, everybody knows this. And you know, why are they not bothered? So I think this whole anxiety, it's been very tough to manage it. And also what happens is that you know, suddenly you expect that everyone around you should become aware and should start making changes, which obviously does not happen. So I have gone through a phase that I was scared of stepping out of my house. Because I thought the moment I step out, I will see something and it will make me anxious. I will go on the road and I will see a plastic bag and it'll make me anxious, or I'll step into a shop and you know, so that was very tough. And I went through this whole phase and then I'm now I'm still battling with it a little bit and I don't think it'll ever go away but you learn to accept and say, Oh, everyone is not going to do, all your friends even if they know because you're posting so much about it. I used to think that the moment I made a post about something and my friends have seen it, now they will follow it and then you talk to someone and then you realize they're still doing what they wish. So I think that kind of acceptance has now come in that it's okay. You just do what you can do. Focus on people who you can change. Don't focus your energy on people who are going to argue for no reason. So yeah, that has been a challenge. Not really, making the changes has not been a challenge


Kinshuk  23:37  

That is a very deep point actually, and I'm really impressed by what you said. In fact, we were discussing and Tanya spoke about what is that movie? Don't  look up. So Tanya spoke about don't look up and the fact that at least now people should get it that you know the don't look up is kind of built on


Sonika  23:59  

the only people like who got that movie was people who know about climate change or care about it. Can I tell you one thing after that movie ended? I just had a sense of relief. I don't know why it was so weird. If that is how it's going to happen. It is everything is over. It was just so weird that I would feel relief. Rather than be here alarm that was more


Tania  24:27  

like a quick death situation. Right? Yeah.


Sonika  24:30  

You know, this is where we are headed then. I guess. Yeah. I think watching that. Movie. I was like I can understand exactly what they're feeling and they're shouting about it. They're going in telling everyone that this is going to happen and you have the proof in front of you. And yet, those guys were just after money. 


Kinshuk  24:48  

You spoke about a lot of home solutions that you have been using. Which are your favorite home solutions ?


Sonika  24:55  

So, my favorite is bio-enzyme. I am totally addicted to it. If I'm walking on the road and I see a plastic bottle my first thought is I can make bio-enzyme in it. I have picked up bottles from the road to do that. Because otherwise, we don't have plastic bottles in the house. But it is fantastic. Abir loves it as well. We both do it together. It's very quick. I'm generally a very lazy person and don't like to do too many DIYs so I'm very happy with quick and easy things. But that one thing has replaced every type of cleaner in our house. So we use it to mop the floors. We use it to wash our fruits and vegetables. We use it as a toilet cleaner, we use it as a surface cleaner. So it's kind of you know, we don't have to buy any of these things anymore and knowing that it is so safe because I know what's going into it I'm making it at home. And also bio enzyme is very good for the water bodies. So once it goes down the drain it actually purifies the water where it's going rather than doing the opposite. So knowing that is like it feels really good. And yeah, I think that is my most favorite. And the other thing is composting, it is just so amazing to see that you put something in after the month it's completely turned. It's like a miracle happening in that small pot in you know in your house.


Kinshuk  26:16  

I check it every day. My composter and the water drops on the top, which means that something good is happening to compose so that's like a very good feeling that I have at the end of it. Coming to bio enzymes, are they really effective. I have had this doubt.


Sonika  26:31  

They are very effective because they actually have active enzymes and these enzymes break down the dirt and the grime and they actually consume them so it's actually more effective than most kinds of phenyles. And you don't need anything harsh to do the cleaning that the bio-enzymes can do. 


Tania  26:48  

How long does it take to make a batch? 


Sonika  26:51  

So it takes three months to get done. Because it's a fermentation process. It takes less than five minutes to put it together but it takes about three months for it to ferment. And you can add a little bit of yeast. And if you do that it takes a month. And the next time you do it, you use the pulp that is left over as a startup for your next batch. Then it takes one month with that batch with the startup. So we always have by the way, minimum 30 liters in the making. Since I don't have a dustbin so we have this huge space under the sink. You, if you open that you will find like five six big containers of it in different stages


Tania  27:26  

and other different types of bio enzymes that you use for different activities.


Sonika  27:31  

And we just make whatever fruit peels we have. The thing about bio enzyme is the smell of the bio enzyme will depend on what you use. So if you use a citrus thing it will smell citrusy, if you use the flower it will smell like that. If you mix everything then it will not have a very nice smell but I don't care anymore about the smell. But if we do that then we use at least the citrus one for cloth cleaning, rest it could be anything, that doesn't matter.


Kinshuk  27:58  

So we wanted to know what was Abir's favorite activity out of all the activities that he does, making bio enzymes or composting


Sonika  28:09  

What is your favorite thing making bio enzyme or composting?


Abir  28:12  

Composting and bio-enzyme


Kinshuk  28:16  

Do follow Sonika and Abir. Sonika is available on Instagram and LinkedIn and she keeps posting videos about DIY and how to live sustainbly. Thank you Sonika and Abir. It has been a real pleasure having you guys here. I'm sure that the conversation today will inspire many to imbibe zero waste in their time and to our listeners to make at least one planet-friendly promise for yourself. When 130 Crore Indians make one pledge it's going to go a long way. Thank you so much.


Transcribed by


Author - team awenest

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