Mumbai: In a world where plastic is omnipresent and ingrained of every individual’s lifestyle, making a switch to other alternatives seems challenging despite it being one of the most toxic elements. However, with citizens now making pro-environment choices, the demand for eco-friendly products is on a slow but steady rise. Banking on people’s needs while taking up a challenge on plastic, two childhood friends from North Goa have started a zero-waste store or a store in which only plastic-free products will be sold. Jonah Fernandes and Eldrige Lobo from Parra opened ‘Ecoposro’ (‘posro’ means shop in Konkani) to protect the village from plastic waste.
Having grown up in households that led a sustainable lifestyle, it pained Jonah (29) and Eldrige (28) to see the burgeoning piles of waste across India. All their lives they have opted for eco-friendly options but with consumerism on rise the presence of plastic became inevitable. To add to that, Eldridge, who runs a Goan restaurant, witnessed huge quantity of food getting wasted every day. It was on a sunny day in March this year, when the two friends decided to do something about it and thus emerged Goa’s first waste-free store.
Talking to NDTV about their journey, Jonah says,
We always had an inclination towards eco-friendly lifestyle as we have been aware of India’s garbage crisis. As children we would visit our favourite beaches and conduct small cleanup drives. The trigger point for us was in the beginning of 2018 when Eldrige wanted to include eco-friendly items in his restaurant. We realised how difficult it is to even find an alternative to plastic straw. We visited several shops in and around the village to collect plastic alternatives and that’s when it hit us to bring all kinds of plastic-free items under one roof. Ecoposro is indeed a one-stop shop for all kinds of general needs.
What Is A Zero Waste Store And How It Works?
Besides being completely against plastic packaging, a zero-waste store encourages customers to bring own reusable cloth or glass containers to carry the food or buy reusable containers at the store. When they’re done, they take their food home in paper bags. Meanwhile, the owner of the shop has to ensure that the products they purchase involve no harmful elements like plastic at the manufacturing stage. The supplier has to have the same priority as the owner.
Coming to Ecoposro, the shop has all kinds of household essentials like grains, spices, stationery, organic vegetables, toiletries, oil, dairy products, organic cosmetics, cloth sanitary napkins and so on. Knowing that it is difficult to change the way big companies manufacture their products, the duo tries to get items that are as local as possible.
Big or branded companies may not modify or alter their manufacturing process but striking a deal with a local vendor is relatively easy. In majority of the cases, we directly go to the factory where a product is manufactured and before it is packaged in plastic, we take them in our containers. We also buy the items in bulk to save on fuel and time, says Jonah.
Giving an example of a transaction with a local supplier, Jonah says that they had first approached a fish tank maker asking him to make a tank with multiple compartments. Once it was ready, they took huge steel containers to a wholesale dealer and instead of buying grains in plastic bags, they deposited the grains in the containers. To ensure the grains do not get mixed up when displayed at the counter, they deposited the different grains in the fish tank with multiple compartments.
Similarly, the owners have tied up with several dealers and companies for sustainable products. While all the spices are stored in glass bottles and jars, the stationery and toiletries are made from non-plastic material like bamboos, wood, etc. To add a Goan touch to the store, discarded coconuts are upcycled into tiny containers to store the products.
When asked how did they manage to find plastic alternatives for all the items sold in the shop, Eldridge says,
It was pretty simple actually. We just had to think like our ancestors who had no plastic in their lives. We spoke to senior citizens and family members who gave us several options to choose from. For instance, pulses are usually stored in plastic bags to avoid any kind of moisture. In our initial days, the pulses would get spoilt when stored in our ceramic pots. Some of the senior citizens from the village suggested that we put a pinch of hing (asafoetida) to keep the pulses fresh round the year.
Helping Customers Make The Big Switch
Ending a habit and making switch to an alternative has never been easy, exclaims the duo. Keeping the convenience of customers and quality of products in mind the Ecoposro offers a wide range of takeaway options. Besides, having paper to pack light items the store also offers a buyback policy.
We have kept glass bottles and jars in bulk in the store for customers to directly store the items purchased from our shop. They can either purchase the glass bottles/jars to carry their items home or take it with them and return it on their next visit. This way we are only encouraging them to carry bags while shopping without imposing any kind of a new rule. Since ours is a general store people will come on a regular basis and eventually, they will also start practising a sustainable shopping style, says Eldrige.
The response from customers has been encouraging with more and more people now trying to do their bit for the environment through Ecoposro.
Zero Waste Store Done, What Next?
Orgnic food is an integral part of living a sustainable life, believes the duo. They are currently in talks with local farmers to produce organic vegetables. At the moment, the organic vegetables sold at their store is imported from other cities like Pune.
Organic farming is an alien concept in our village. The farmers are used to growing vegetables and fruits the conventional way by spraying chemicals and artificial elements. Helping the farmers to grow vegetables in a natural way will not only mean more organic produce for the village but will also reduce carbon footprint by cutting down on imports, adds Eldrige.
Summing up the seven-month old journey of zero-waste store, the duo says,
‘The roadblocks are many, but none that can halt our green mission. The results may not be overwhelming, but they are inspiring enough for us to strive hard each day. Every small step taken towards environment is a big contribution to the future world’
NDTV – Dettol Banega Swachh India campaign lends support to the Government of India’s Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM). Helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan, the campaign aims to spread awareness about hygiene and sanitation, the importance of building toilets and making India open defecation free (ODF) by October 2019, a target set by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, when he launched Swachh Bharat Abhiyan in 2014. Over the years, the campaign has widened its scope to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and menstrual hygiene. The campaign has also focused extensively on marine pollution, clean Ganga Project and rejuvenation of Yamuna, two of India’s major river bodies.