Once a wrapper Now a fashion - With Ecokaari!
May 15th , 2021 | Bharati Bastade Koot
Humanizing Fashion for All
Can you imagine a bunch of waste plastic wrappers flaunting as a purse or cushion cover? Well, Nandan Bhat can make your imagination come true!
Nandan Bhat, the Founder of Pune-based social startup ‘EcoKaari’ has a vision of Humanizing Fashion through sustainable and ethical practices. They upcycle waste plastic into a fabric with traditional Charkha and Handloom. And, their ‘Kaarigari' brings out beautiful and sustainable ‘Eco’ products.
Once a comfortable corporate person, Nandan turned as a CSR Consultant back in 2012. While working on this venture with corporates and NGOs, he got a good exposure to social space and its needs. Soon, he decided to do something on his own at a ground level.
“And my wife supported me bearing key responsibilities on her own, which gave me the liberty to go ahead”, is Nandan’s proud mention.
As a trekking enthusiast, he used to see the beauty of nature getting plastic-wrapped and affecting our planet. With a sheer determination to do something about it, he chose to work on plastic waste upcycling projects. He saw the kind of upcycling happening around, made some customizations, and started the journey of waste plastic rolling and getting woven. At the start, the work was established through the social enterprise ‘Aarohana Ecosocial Development’ that he co-founded. Later, ‘EcoKaari’ was born in 2020 with a new beginning of innovation and sustainability together!
We all know, half of the plastic produced are designed to be used only once and then are thrown away. The high-density plastic, useful ones get recycled to a certain extent but huge amounts of low-density ones still end up in landfills only. "That’s why we work with the cheap and neglected plastic to save them from ocean and landfill reach”, Nandan points out. Also, they accept old audio, video cassettes for upcycling, “ensuring the emotions attached to them are also taken care of and get a meaning”, he adds!
Doing something different is not easy, especially in the social space. He recalls the early day challenges when the work was started in villages with a noble thought of creating livelihoods for the needy people. People in those villages still have a belief that waste is untouchable by some people and that created problems for the people who were working with them. So, he thought of a central point where people can come and work, and such belief won’t be an issue. And then he shifted the unit to Pune city. “Will people accept the products made out of Kachara?”, was always a question at the start. Now, although ‘EcoKaari’ is getting good support especially from corporates, “convincing people is still a struggle, but with more awareness, it will go away soon”, he mentions.
Reviving Charkha and Handlooms
In the era of power looms Nandan is reviving our Charkha and Handlooms even though it’s a bit costly affair especially due to manual efforts. But at its core lies the sustainability that he envisions. As he unfolds the upcycling process at ‘EcoKaari’ we can see that blend of sustainability throughout his business culture. The sourcing of raw material happens either as a donation from conscious citizens or as a sale from waste collection companies. Natural cleaners and less water for cleaning waste plastic ensure the protection and conservation of resources. The production process needs no external energy. And any plastic wastage during production is also taken care of by giving it away to Rudra Solutions who make poly fuel from all types of plastic. Being a responsible manufacturer, they take accountability for the damage and end of the life cycle phase products.
With the sole aim of creating livelihoods, Nandan mainly works with women and youth from humble background. They are given the training for the weaving process and required skills. He humbly says, “we make sure our people become self-reliant, at work, and in their own lives as well”. About work culture, he mentions, “it is quite a flexible and encouraging one as women can bring their children to the workplace and students can work when their studies or classes are over”. Truly, ‘EcoKaari’ is an example of Being Sustainable in all possible ways!
Each Ecokaari Fabric has a Story
They use thin plastics, single-use plastic like snacks-biscuits-chips wrappers, grocery bags, gift wrappers, etc. After going through the initial steps, this plastic comes out as a fabric which is then turned into various fashion, home decor, and office stationery products. “We can do everything that this fabric allows us to do”, says Nandan promptly. This fabric and the products are crafted by a visionary eye and many creative hands. We can see great respect at Nandan’s heart for his artisans when we hear him saying, “we want to give the credits to our artisans, and that’s why we associate our artisans' names to our products”. Their products have great color combinations. The per color sorting and coordination is an important step in this making. That’s how the products become beautiful. And also people can relate to the products by looking at their color as in of which wrappers they are made of. They also work with manufacturers for customized products made out of their own product’s plastic waste. Imagining a biscuit company staff carrying office bags made out of their biscuit wrappers sounds very unique and awesome! Indeed, looking at their products one might fall into a memory lane of stories about the journey of waste plastic getting purposeful life!
The fuel for running ‘EcoKaari’ is our waste plastic! But that is certainly not what keeps them going. Nandan and his team are very environment-sensitive. They want to create meaning out of waste and into people's lives. “We can bring few good changes in people and for the good of our environment, is the thing that keeps all of us continuing doing”, says Nandan. Further, he adds, “the touch and feel of our creation are more satisfying and keeps us happy with why and what we are doing”.
We Rise by Lifting Others
“We rise by lifting others” seems to be the mantra of Nandan and his team. And that’s why we see they are creating livelihoods and rising in these pandemic days too.
In these Plastic Times, Nandan and his Team are repurposing plastic waste and giving a whole new meaning to it.
“The increasing convenience is increasing the amount of waste. People are not aware that they are doing something wrong. And that’s why awareness is essential. Few basic things, like using their water bottle, cloth bag, eco-cutlery, bamboo products, and non-disposable are a few of these things one can straightaway start doing as a default. I can see the change is happening. But as a conscious individual, we need to increase the pace at which the awareness is happening, especially in rural areas”
Today, a new fashion trend need not be something that makes us look better or feel better, it needs to be something that balances our fashion demands and our ecosystem. And we can see that balance in ‘EcoKaari’ products, and they look elegant too!
I am sure after seeing their products, you won’t look at your plastic waste the same way. Do visit EcoKaari to see their beautifully crafted products and stories. Donate your plastic waste or buy your best from them - become a part of their journey in your possible way!
Have you listened our Ep-2 of Waste Unwrap yet?
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