Category Archives: Sustainability

TERRACE Farming BY an Ex-air force personnel!

George VJ, an Ex-air force personnel, is being featured in LST for the second time. During the 2018 flood, in Mavelikara, Kerala, he moved the furniture and household goods, on a war footing, before flood entered the house. We published a video on his commendable survival techniques.

He is the Assistant General Manager (Academics). TUV Rheinland NIFE Academy Pvt Ltd, and his wife is a teacher.

How long have you been farming at home?

I have been farming since 2012.

Cabbage farming

Do you do only home terrace farming?

Terrace farming was the beginning, now, in the lockdown,  extended farming to front and back yard also.

Wick irrigation; requires watering only once in two days

In total how much space is used for cultivation ?

In terrace around 350 Sq feet, and the extension on front and back yard is around  1000 Sq feet area.

Cucumber

What are the methods of planting- sacks, soil, pot, or any other method?

In the terrace planting is done in grow bags  and pots. I use empty cement bags in place of grow bags, which is available at free of cost. (One grow bag in market is costing Rs 18 to 25 as per size.)

Root vegetables

What all do you grow?

I grow Tomato, Eggplant, Okra, Beans, Cucumber, Green chilly, Bitter Gourd, Red Amaranth,  Ginger, Turmeric, Banana and Papaya.  In addition there is a small poultry farm only to meet the requirement of egg at home. 

George is able to meet the green vegetable requirement of three families

Do you buy food items from outside ?

Other than green vegetables I buy all other food items.

Front yard farm

What fertilizer do you use?

Cow dung, bone powder, fish amino acid and waste items are used as fertilizers.

Cabbage

Why do you farm?

I started as a hobby to get refreshing mind , now the produce meets a good portion of food (vegetable) requirement for my family. Further it  gives a sort of satisfaction while sharing the surplus items to needy poor people of neighborhood.

Vertical garden

How much time do you spend for farming daily?

I spent average 1.30 to 2 hour/day. When I am out of station, my wife, a busy school teacher and home manager, takes care of the plants.

Tomato

Is farming profitable for you?

More than to say YES, the return in the form of feeling joy and satisfaction cannot be counted in terms on money value.

Ivy gourd

Some say that home terrace farming harms the house? What do you think?

Necessary precautions are taken so that there will be no harm to the terrace.  The grow bags is not directly placed over the terrace, it is placed over brick or an 6 inch high support. So the water oozing from the grow bag  will evaporate soon. Enough gap is maintained between the bag and surface of terrace.

Red amaranth

What are your future plans?

At present my spare time is extended to the maximum . In future, once I am fully available at home,  I will expand the farming to available land. Present poultry will be expanded. An Aqua farm is also in the pipeline to meet requirement at home.

Lawn

How has lockdown helped in farming?

Extending farming to front and back yard was possible due to extra time available due to lockdown.

Wax Apple

The previous feature about George

His residence is on the banks of the Achankovil river. He also took pictures of the preparation post-flood; and the relief and cleaning activities after the flood. With his military training and experience, he could help not only his family but also many others.

He was actively involved in the relief works. well admired by colleagues and friends for his meticulous planning, vision and dedication to execute any work with perfection. Watch the video.

Meet the Bean to bar chocolatier couple in India

Apart from the milk chocolate, dark chocolate, or homemade chocolate, another range of chocolate is slowly gaining a loyal group of customers in India. Know as the bean-to-bar chocolate you might have seen them displayed at events, fairs and malls.

Coincidentally, two weeks ago I came in touch with a chocolatier couple based in Chennai, L Nitin Chordia, and Poonam Chordia. They started Kocoatrait the only zero waste and sustainable bean to bar chocolate brand in the world.

They are the first certified male and female chocolate tasters in India. In addition, they own Cocoatrait, a consultancy firm for chocolates, and Cocoashala, an education, and training institute for chocolates.

Nitin and Poonam are part of the bean to bar revolution that is happening world over and particularly in India. In a bean to bar chocolate making the entire process from procuring the cocoa seed onwards is done by the same manufacturer in small batches.

In a bean to bar chocolate we know exactly where the seeds come from. For Kocoatrait, they procure cocao seeds from Kerala and Karnataka.

Like in wine making, the terroir of the chocolate is important. Climate, soil, terrain, of planting Theobroma Cocao influences the flavour of the chocolates.

Poonam the creator of Kocoatrait brand incorporated a number of local and indigenous ingredients in the 12 vegan chocolate varieties. Lemongrass, sukku coffee, lavender, coconut, banana, masala chai and red rose are some of the exclusive chocolate flavours. The rose petals are sourced from Rajasthan, Jaggery from UP thus keeping the production of the chocolates local and sustainable.

Kocoatrait chocolates are all vegan and free of vegetable fat or oil. And to keep the chocolates sugar-free natural sweeteners like Jaggery and coconut sugar are used.

The cocao seed processing to the final packaging iof the chocoate is done in small batches with lots of dedication, hardwork and passion. Every process is ensured to be sustainable, local causing the least harm to the environment.

The couple run the wet table top grinder for 24 hours continuously to bring out the natural flavour of the cocoa. And the chocolates are wrapped using packaging materials made from reclaimed cotton and coconut husk.

I had a online interview with Nitin Chordia who talked about their brand of bean to bar chocolates and about the benefits of consuming chocolates. The interview was an eye opener about the benefits of consuming dark chocolates. Nitin also tells how to develop a taste for dark chocolates which is good for health.

About Bean to Bar Chocolates

What is bean to bar chocolate making? How prevalent it is in India?

Bean to bar chocolate making involves making pure chocolate starting from cocoa beans without substituting the fat, which is cocoa butter in this case. This is a new wave globally in chocolate making and India is not left behind.

It involves making specialized and pure chocolate in small batches. We have 5 successful Bean to bar chocolate makers in India and I had earlier predicted 40 such Bean to bar makers by the end of 2020. 

Bean to bar chocolate is seldom imported.

Milk vs Dark Chocolates

What is the difference between milk chocolate and dark chocolate?

As the name suggests if there is milk in a chocolate recipe, then it is referred to as milk chocolate. Milk chocolate usually has a very less percentage (less than 20%) of cocoa and is dominated by sugar and milk.

When chocolate is made without milk and has a higher cocoa percentage it is called dark chocolate. One must be very careful and note that the milk should not be substituted by sugar and hence of 50%, dark chocolate makes no sense. Most of the balance of 50% is sugar! 

Comparing Bean to bar chocolates with dark or milk chocolate categories is like comparing oranges and apples. They are not the same.

What is the rate of consumption of milk and dark chocolates in India?

As of today, predictably so, milk chocolates form most the market. Dark chocolate is a category that is currently very small but promising huge growth opportunities.

Particularly after the pandemic, we have noticed more people understand the benefits of dark chocolates. We are in no way implying that the entire country will start consuming dark chocolates going forward. 

Are dark chocolates healthy?

Not all dark chocolates are equal. Dark chocolates above 65% are considered healthier when they are made without adding any other vegetable oils or milk.

When milk is added to chocolate, our body’s ability to absorb the antioxidants that exist in cocoa is nullified. In my opinion, a freshly made Indian sweet is better to consume than 50% dark chocolate.

In our earlier research, we figured out that any Indian sweet has a maximum of 36% sugar content whereas a 50% dark chocolate would mean 50% sugar content! This is alarming! Hence we cannot say that all dark chocolates are healthy. 

We Indians have a sweet tooth, how do we eat dark chocolate which is bitter?

While Indians have a sweet tooth, we also like beverages like beer wine and coffee. We must also note that in India we do not know to differentiate between a sugar craving and chocolate craving.

Also, it is a myth that all dark chocolates are bitter. The bitterness depends on the quality of cocoa beans used while making chocolate. Lower quality cocoa beans are usually bitter and hence are cheaper.

During my early days as a chocolate taster, I have tasted and enjoyed 100% dark chocolate made without any sugar and was still able to quite easily enjoy it. I enjoy 100% dark chocolate quite regularly these days.

We must also note that much like wine beer and espresso coffee one needs to develop a taste for dark chocolates also. With more education, people will start appreciating the flavour nuances in dark chocolate just like how they do in the case of wine and coffee.

Is there difference between Indian and international dark chocolates?

This is not a straight forward question to answer. However to put it simply most of the international dark chocolates being imported are commercially made and mass-produced chocolates.

Most of the available dark chocolates in India are also mass-produced.

However, if you have to choose between mass-produced Indian and imported dark chocolates, I would have to say that imported dark chocolates are perhaps a better buy (produce wise and not necessarily value-wise) simply because of the strict Ingredient laws that govern chocolate production internationally.

We must also remember that we are paying a much higher price for imported chocolate (3 times more than the price it is sold in retail in the country of production) simply because a majority of the price constitutes import duties and transportation costs. Hence you are not actually paying the entire price for the product. 

Sustainable Chocolate Making

What is sustainable or zero waste chocolate making? 

Chocolate making where, every aspect of a business including sourcing of raw materials, use and reuse of existing resources and packaging material which is safe and good for the environment Give while taking and not to create landfills is our definition of sustainable and zero waste.

How you have made your brand Indian, traditional and eco friendly?

Almost all the ingredients that we use in our products are made in India and are organic. We use traditional stone grinding to refine our chocolates which help us retain flavour.

We use the most energy-efficient machinery to produce Kocoatrait chocolates. They may not be cost-efficient processes and equipment but the intention is to be eco-friendly and hence we make our choices a specific way. Last but not the least, our packaging is zero waste and that completes our offering.

What is the cocoa husk packaging that you use to wrap the chocolates?

While creating Kocoatrait as the world’s 1st truly zero-waste, sustainable, and eco-friendly chocolate, we were clear that we have to start from the outside. The wrapper needed the most attention because, like potato crisps, the packaging of chocolates have always been seen in a negative light towards the impact of it on the landfills and oceans.

What we decided to do was to work with reclaimed waste cotton from garment factories and Cocoa husks that we generate during a roasting process. We put them together and make a material that is upcycled, completely paper-free, plastic-free, tree-free, compostable, biodegradable, and recyclable.

This is the first and only such wrapping material used by a chocolate brand. Until March 2020 we have helped save 50 kgs of single-use plastic chocolate wrappers from entering landfills and the ocean. 

How lucrative is chocolate making business in India?

The mass-produced chocolate business will continue to behave like an FMCG offering with pressures on sourcing and margins. As far as Bean to bar chocolate industry is concerned, we see very high profitability, the ability to start small and very attractive ROI

Can a rubber or coffee planter make more income from cocoa plantation?

An existing rubber or coffee planter can usually add cocoa as an additional crop within the same farm. However, we must remember that cocoa has a long gestation period.

When the planter starts selling cocoa, it certainly gives him the luxury of a balanced income. Every crop whether it is rubber, coffee, or cocoa behaves like a commodity and has the same uncertainty. 

Ferro Rocher, Toblerone, a box of Quality Street Chocolate, Snickers, Galaxy, and Mars are some of my favourite imported chocolates. Are they milk or dark chocolates? Should I eat or not eat them?

All the above-listed products are milk chocolates. whether you should eat them or not depends on the purpose or intent of the value to be derived.

Broadly speaking, if you are up for some indulgence and a sugar rush, all the above will fit your bill and you could consume them. People usually consume dark chocolates with the aim of lower sugar intake and the health aspects (antioxidants) which they could benefit from. 

Meet women fashion entrepreneurs in India

The Indian fashion industry is one place where you can find a number of women entrepreneurs. Through their creations, they nurture some of the subtle aspects of nature, culture, tradition, and environment. A woman knows best how to bring out the best in her creations. She knows how to protect and give a breath of new life to those things from the bosom of mother nature that are on the verge of extinction.

Sustainability is the watchword these days. Creating products that are sustainable is not just trendy, it is the need of the hour. Climate change and the environment depletion make us all sit up and think about what we can do to save mother earth as we know her. These women fashion entrepreneurs are on the path of sustainability.

Here are interviews with a few women fashion entrepreneurs in India, who have carved a niche for themselves in the field of fashion and sustainability.

Rebecca Reubens

Rebecca Reubens

Dr. Rebecca Reubens core expertise is for bamboo and rattan. She is the founder of Rhizome, a multidisciplinary sustainability design studio. She is a world bamboo ambassador for the World Bamboo Organization. A trained industrial designer from the National Institute of Design, India, she focuses her creations on design, craft, and sustainability. She is associates with multi-governmental institutions, governments, NGOs, SMEs, and communities in Europe, Asia, and Africa. Rebecca is the author of the book, ‘Bamboo: From Green Design to Sustainable Design‘.

Here is an interview with her, where she talks about sustainability, her journey so far and her experience of being a woman entrepreneur:

About her enterprise

Tell us something about Rhizome, India’s first multidisciplinary sustainability studio?

Design impacts sustainability because it orchestrates how materials are harvested, produced, used and disposed. The question is only whether you want to take accountability for these design decisions and their impact on sustainability. Rhizome, since its inception in 2009 does commit to doing this. We go beyond the environmental aspects, and also consider the social, economic and cultural aspects which influence sustainability. 

What can we expect to gain by visiting your studio?

Bright minds hard at work and good design! 

Who can visit?

Anyone and everyone

Journey So far

From your student days at NIFT, how has your journey been so far?

Exciting, and always growing larger and yet quieter. The scope and understanding of what all impacts design and needs to be considered while designing has expanded exponentially, whereas, the ego has become smaller. 

About Sustainability

Why have you chosen bamboo and sustainability?

I chose bamboo because of sustainability. Bamboo is one of the most sustainable materials known to man and needs to be leveraged for sustainability. While I don’t only work with bamboo – I work with other sustainable materials as well. Bamboo is my material of choice because I have been working with it for almost two decades now. I began my bamboo journey as a student at NID, then as a part of the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan, and finally through my own practice.

What are your future ventures, especially at this time when a sustainable lifestyle is become a necessity due to compelling environmental reasons?

We have a new brand of sustainable jewelry called Baka. We are moving also into the fashion space. 

Fashion Tips

How can the college-going youngster and the young office going population adapt bamboos and sustainability in their lifestyle?

Buy less, and what you buy, buy sustainably. Read and keep yourself informed. Check up on tall claims and beware of greenwashing. Pick the real ones – we all know who they are – and buy things that are classic and will last you longer. Buy into experiences rather than ‘stuff’. Look at alternate service models rather than ‘stuff’ – take public transport or an Ola instead of buying a car.

How can the common people, especially the college-going and the office going people make the best use of your creative collection?

Our collections are extremely practical and competitive in terms of price and performance. They are a good design. So its really simple – buy them, use them, don’t throw them away. Get a piece customized from us – we want you to love what you own and keep it forever. 

As a successful woman entrepreneur, how was your journey so far?

It was possible only because of support from my family and friends. Cultivate a strong network – this is what will catch you when you jump into the universe with eyes wide open. 

Women’s Day Message

It would be super if there was no women’s day – because gender equality existed. Unfortunately, it does not. Some of us are more privileged than others – we need to speak up and be the voices of those who cannot speak for themselves. Fight for equality – quietly and loudly – make sure you are heard and seen if you are privileged. Be the change you want to see.

Rebecca Reubens

Medha Khosla

Medha Khosla

Medha is the founder of the designer brand Anomaly, that focuses on workwear wardrobes. The clothes are designed for Indian professionals and designed using natural Indian textiles. She was educated at the prestigious Pratt Institute of Brooklyn, New York. Armed with the skills, expertise, and exposure of working and studying in New York for ten years, she returned to India. Anomaly has become well-known within a span of four years since its inception.

About her enterprise

Tell us something about your brand “Anomaly’?

ANOMALY is a premium clothing brand specializing in high-quality essentials for men and women. We are a brand born out of dislike for excess, desire for subtle detail and clean design. We create classic, everyday staples crafted from natural, Indian textiles. 

Journey So far

Tell us about your journey so far?

It’s been a rewarding and challenging journey at the same time. Being a first-generation entrepreneur and never having worked in India before, I’ve faced many difficulties in setting up our studio and workshop. Finding the right team is an ongoing work in progress. I have had to fight many battles in order to execute my vision and goals for Anomaly. But, I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything else as I continue to grow and meet incredible people along the way!

As a successful woman entrepreneur, how was your journey so far?

Tough, rewarding, full of hurdles and great opportunities at the same time. While it is no doubt difficult to navigate a man’s world in business. It is very inspiring to build a business from the ground up and enrich the lives of our workers and karigars with relevant skills. I have decided to keep going no matter what the challenges because resilience and perseverance are key to continuous success. 

About Sustainability

How are your creations sustainable?

We approach sustainability in a holistic manner from designing smaller collections, using ethical and lean production methods to manufacture based on need/orders. We use only natural textiles like cotton, linens, and silks and ensure each and every textile scrap is upcycled into trimmings, home accessories, and fabrics. Our philosophy is ‘less is more’ and we believe sustainability must be practiced in every aspect of the design, sourcing and manufacturing process. 

What are your future ventures, especially in providing sustainable products?

We are working on building our accessories range into an exclusively sustainable collection of upcycled home goods. Strengthening our business as an ethical production house for other brands and startups is very important to me as I strongly believe our studio has the right skill set for helping other like-minded brands grow. We would like to tie up with bigger companies/corporates to develop a line of sustainable clothing or accessories for them – this would be an incredible step forward for us to execute a shared vision on a larger scale. 

Will sustainable fashion become affordable to the common people?

We need to first identify what affordability means to the average Indian buyer and educate them on why it is better to choose a sustainable garment or textile over synthetics and cheap mass fashion. There is a lack of awareness amongst the average consumer and so they choose to opt for a cheap garment over a well-made, ethically produced and beautifully designed garment. Sustainable fashion cannot be cheap because a lot goes into the development and creation of a garment from the design to sourcing to execution. We need to stop comparing everything to mass fashion and instead focus on why sustainability is more valuable and imperative in today’s world. 

Fashion Tips

How relevant and affordable it is to the college-going and the young office going population?

We focus on elevating classic silhouettes into contemporary garments relevant to a wide audience from 25-65 years. Our styles are not trend-based but designed for everyday wear and all seasons. Our price points are very accessible especially since we only use 100% natural, high-quality textiles to create a superior quality product. We don’t compromise on either and keep our prices very competitive at the same time. 

Now slow fashion and repeating garments are becoming a trend, can you give some fashion tips to the young generation about what factors they have to take into account to look trendy and presentable every day?

Taking care of one’s garments is essential. We recommend choosing the right detergents and hand washing whenever possible for longevity in one’s wardrobe. I recommend finding unique ways to style one’s staples to feel and look presentable. The more we care for our garments, the longer they last and stay relevant. 

Women’s Day Message

Keep breaking barriers and follow your passions. Don’t stop trying and be prepared for failure. Women are holding this world together and this is the time for us to push ourselves to the forefront – be seen and heard.

Medha Khosla

Image Courtesy: Rebecca Reubens and Medha Khosla

On this Mothers day a few words about Mother Earth and her precious kid Greta Thunberg


Top post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian Bloggers

Today the most vulnerable mother on earth is Mother Earth herself. She has been exploited beyond repair, and if we do not pay heed to her distress signal, then another mass extinction is not far away. On this mother’s day we need to act on her behalf and that too on a war footing.

Natural calamities are common and weather changes are unpredictable. Wild fires, thunderstorms and flood are occurring on an unprecedented scale and causing mass destruction. We talk and write a lot about curbing climate change and about recycling, reusing and reducing. We talk a lot about reducing carbon footprints. But we take little action.

Mother Earth knows about our indifference to the critical issue, so she sent a kid. A Girl who speaks like no one else does and makes every adult and kid sit up, and not just listens, but take action.

Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old girl, from Sweden, has become a global celebrity among the kids when she decided to school strike for climate change. In November 2018, she decided to bunk school and protest every Friday in front of the Swedish parliament so that action is taken to combat climate change. She wants the Swedish Government to reduce the Carbon Emission as per the Paris Agreement.

Greta is a special child. At the age of 11, she was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and selective mutism. And because of her condition, she speaks only when she needs to and she can see everything black and white. Experts say that since she is on the Autism spectrum she is obsessive and quite blunt on her views.

Greta knows the data of climate change by heart. She analysis and views the future crisis is a way that climate activists have never done so far.

She is from an illustrious family. Her grandfather and father are famous actors and mother a famous opera singer. She began her activism at home first. She made her family become vegan because having meat increases carbon footprints. She told her father that owning two homes increased carbon footprints. She made her family travel on foot or bicycle.

She avoids flights because air travel is the major cause of carbon footprints. Greta declined to receive an award because she had to board a flight to attend the award function. Her mother gave up her illustrious career because she had to travel frequently by flights.

Kids on strike for action to Combat Climate Change

Gretas strikes for climate change inspired children the world over. In December 2018, 20,000 children went on strike in 270 cities. Her action has made politicians say that kids have begun to protest because adults fail to respond to the dramatic changes in the climate. Her logic for evading classes for the cause in simple. She says that what is the use for the kids to study for a future which is not there unless action is taken to reduce carbon footprints drastically.

She says we have already exhausted the carbon footprints by 1987. Our budget on earth is over. We need to act fast. All the talks and studies have been done in plenty. What is now need is action.

Thousands of species are getting extinct each year because of climate change. We need to curb our Carbon footprints and take action to bring our Mother Earth back to life.

On this Mother Day we need to have more Greta’s to protect Mother Earth and all the Flora and Fauna.

Happy Mothers Day