15+ initiatives in India making and selling eco-friendly, socially-conscious products
The world witnessed the Industrial Revolution during the first few decades of the 20th century and that led us to take a turn towards mass production. The good thing was that this made for efficient systems and improved access but it also led humanity to certain compromises that haven’t turned out to be very good in the long run. Over reliance on plastic, chemical fertilizers, dyes etc., has brought us to a point where the environment is on the brink of irreversible damage. Globally, steps are being taken to do more mindful manufacturing to produce eco-friendly goods, and there are some great initiatives popping up in India as well. Eco-friendly products tend to cost more, so these products need to hit a large enough scale for the prices to come down, and consumers who are more aware can do this by making informed choices. Here, we list down some of the initiatives that we have come across on our journeys and found to be genuine:
Last Forest, Kotagiri: Based in the hills of The Nilgiris in Tamil Nadu, Last Forest is a wonderful initiative that was set up by Keystone Foundation in 2004 to stand for the efforts of small indigenous farmers, organic produce, fair trade principles, biodiversity and the like. The company has products like honey, spices, soaps, essential oils etc, which can be bought online or via multiple retail stores.
The Ants Store, Bengaluru: Based in a cosy little corner of busy Indiranagar in Bengaluru, The Ants Store and Cafe is a little haven for a bunch of beautiful things including handicrafts, clothing, apparel, eatables etc. An offshoot from the Ants Craft Trust, this place is best savoured in leisure to get a feel of the products it houses.
Cowpathy, Haridwar: A young initiative being built from Haridwar in Uttarakhand, Cowpathy is trying to make sense of the scriptures in the modern context by using cow dung and urine of indigenous cows to make useful products. Cowpathy has a range of interesting and reasonably priced products like soaps, shampoos and incense which are worth trying out.
Bakeys, Hyderabad: Eatable cutlery, anyone? An ingenious solution for the millions of plastic spoons and chopsticks being thrown in the landfills today, Bakeys is a brainchild of a senior engineer from Hyderabad who makes eatable cutlery. Made from wheat and a few other natural additives, these spoons can be eaten after your meal (or thrown away to compost).
Avani, Uttarakhand: An exemplary initiative in the mountains of Uttarakhand, Avani is a beautiful model of how to make things work in a rural setting. Hinged on crafts (pure wool, natural vegetable dye products), Avani has wide-ranged work from producing electricity and pine needles to organic farming. Their products can be bought online and via some retail stores.
Charaka, Bengaluru: Charaka is a women's multipurpose industrial co-operative society situated at Bhimanakone village on the Western Ghats of Southern India. It produces naturally dyed cotton handloom garments in a composite handloom unit in Bhimanakone. It is a small but significant success story and their products can be bought online or via various stores in Karnataka.
Ecoware, Delhi: Packaging is one of biggest bane in the modern world. Layers and layers of plastic fill our landfills and only a handful are working on solutions to alleviate the situation. Ecoware is one such firm in Delhi, which manufactures 100-percent biodegradable and compostable tableware.
My Earth Store, Dharamshala: A store with an eclectic collection of products from across India, My Earth Store houses books, eatables (brown rice, organic daal etc.), handicrafts, and gift items. Started by three individuals who moved to Dharamshala after a corporate career, the initiative has been around for seven years and also provides a volunteering platform for seekers who want to make Dharamshala their base.
Ecofemme, Tamil Nadu: Non-biodegradable sanitary pads are a big strain on the environment. Eco Femme washable cloth pads are made of cotton and promote well-being through the whole menstrual cycle. They are affordable and beautiful as well.
Wild Ideas, Auroville: A place that has given rise to the maximum number of eco-friendly maker initiatives in India, Auroville is a special place. Wild Ideas is one of the many initiatives there and they work on making eco-friendly washing powder (clothes and dishes). They don’t seem to have a strong online presence but any reetha based washing powder should be soft on the environment.
Holy Cow Foundation, Delhi: The dairy industry has good parts but equally ugly parts. The Holy Cow Foundation is passionate about making cows economically sustainable to provide them with a full life. They make a bunch of products for healthcare, body care and home care, which are sold online and via some retail store.
Happy Roots, Pune: Started in the rural regions of Maharashtra by Reema Sathe, Happy Roots is a socially-conscious company that makes on-the-go snack products from healthy ingredients. The company works with farmer groups and finds a market for the products in cities of India by bridging the gap of the need for healthy snack options. (full story on Slow Tech)
Khadi Natural, Delhi: The science of life ‘Ayurveda’ merged with the philosophy of self- reliance ‘Khadi’ brings to market a range of personal care products based on the ethics and principles of both. A reasonably large brand now, Khadi products are available across the country.
Krya, Chennai: Started by a couple in Chennai in 2009, Krya is an initiative that came out from a break the couple took from their corporate lives to re-examine their lives. After a few months of research, they came up with few nifty ideas for everyday products like detergent, dish-wash, mosquito repellents, hair and body powders; all made from plants. And this gave birth to Krya.
Fruit Bageecha, Shimla: Started by two media professionals who moved to Thanedar, Himachal Pradesh in pursuit of their dream project- Fruit Bageecha. From the abundance of fruits in the region, the company works with the local self-help groups to produce high quality chutneys and preserves from apple, kiwi and apricot.
Earth Loaf, Mysuru: Aiming to put the craft back into chocolate, Earth Loaf dedicated to making chocolate that reflects the cycles of the cosmos, unifying man with nature and health with pleasure through a combination of old-world craft and new-found nutritional wisdom. Based out of Mysuru and sourcing from local small farms, Earth Loaf chocolate is available online and via organic retail stores.
Korra Jeans, Delhi: For users who connect to the source, the who and the how, Korra makes custom-fit jeans with a strong focus on environment and sustainability. Started by an ex-Levi Strauss & Co. professional, Korra chooses natural or recycled raw materials with an emphasis on sourcing each element locally. Their products can be bought online.
This is a list that’ll be updated with time and is also representative of the kind of initiatives YourStory’s ‘Slow Tech’ focusses on. A quarterly physical magazine, Slow Tech’s concept edition can be downloaded here. You can also write to us at email@example.com if you’re interested in subscribing for the physical edition.