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These 6 People Talk About Making The Shift From Plastic And It’s Inspirational!

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By Shraddha Uchil

What started as a small movement by the Plastic Free Foundation in Australia in 2011 has now turned into an influential global environmental campaign. Less than a decade later, millions of people around the world participate each year in the Plastic Free July campaign, with many participants committing to reduce their plastic usage even beyond just this one month.

Suppose you have been considering going plastic-free but haven’t yet figured out how this is a great month to start your journey. To help you along, we spoke to six individuals who have reduced plastic waste in different areas in their lives. The hope is to inspire you to either start small or challenge yourself.

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“I Made A Note Of Brands’ Eco-Friendly Practices”

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In 2019, Mumbai-based independent journalist Joanna Lobo embarked on a mission: to reduce her usage of plastic. She joined Facebook groups dedicated to living a zero-waste life and started actively following relevant bloggers and influencers. She started small, she shares, replacing plastic toothbrushes with bamboo ones, and carrying tiffins to pick up food from nearby restaurants.

But there was one area where she wanted to make a change, which was proving difficult. “As a journalist who writes on food and gets invited to restaurants and events, I used to get an assortment of food, gift baskets sent home for tastings, etc. I began making a note of these brands’ eco-friendly practices, and I started telling them to ensure that there was no plastic in my packaging,” she says.

If she happened to receive a package that made use of plastics, she would politely decline it. Slowly, brands started paying attention. “Most then started sending me packages in cloth, bamboo baskets, glass bottles I could reuse, and more.” These days, though the pandemic has increased the amount of plastic entering her home, Joanna still tries to ensure her shopping is eco-conscious by supporting brands that make an extra effort to be friendly to the environment.

“I Am A Conscious Pet Parent”

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Saritha Sudhakaran is an urban designer and the founder of Waste Less Project, which aims to guide beginners on their waste management journey. She is also a pet parent to a five-year-old cat, whom she and her husband ended up inadvertently adopting a couple of years ago. “She was an outdoor cat, but she would keep entering our house through a window. So we started feeding her. When we moved homes around a year later, she had become a part of our lives, so she came along. Now, she’s a completely indoor cat,” says Saritha.

She shares that when it comes to cats, food, and litter are the two main aspects where plastic waste is generated. A lot of pet parents opt to feed their cats readymade wet and/or dry food, which is most often packaged in plastic.

“If you can, offer your cats fresh meat and fish cooked at home. I also like giving my cat dried prawns. If providing freshly cooked food is proving difficult, my advice is to at least swap out plastic food packets for canned cat food. The metal can then be recycled,” she says.

If you plan on making a switch, Saritha cautions to make the transition slowly, as cats don’t take too well to sudden changes.

Litter can be a slightly more complicated issue to tackle. “We did try biodegradable litter for a while, but it is very expensive and wasn’t fully biodegradable in my experience. So, I started researching alternatives. I tried newspaper pellets, which also didn’t work well for me. Now, I use sawdust, which I source from a neighbourhood carpenter. I use a sieve with slightly bigger holes to get all the splinters out before putting the sawdust in her litter box.

She adds that while it doesn’t clump like regular litter if you clean it daily, you won’t face any issues.

“I Carry A Glass Bottle With Me Wherever I Go”

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Over two years ago, Sunny Amlani decided to pay attention to the amount of plastic he was using in his daily life. “It started with me ditching plastic straws and replacing it with a steel one. Next came bamboo toothbrushes. Now, I was trying to figure out where else in my life, I could make a change. My work, both as a digital marketing consultant and as a tour guide, requires me to spend a lot of time outdoors, in meetings, or on foot. There was a perfect opportunity here. I decided to stop buying bottled mineral water and started carrying a glass bottle filled with water everywhere I went,” he says.

Sunny shares that when he is leading tours, he even encourages guests to carry their bottles of water if possible. It might not always work, but something else does. “If you carry an attractive glass bottle, it catches people’s attention. They ask about it, and then you can talk about why you have made the switch from plastics. It gets the conversation around eco-consciousness going,” he says.

According to Sunny, everyone knows plastic is problematic, but the problem is people don’t see how it affects them. “It tends to remain a social cause. So you have to make sustainability a point of conversation without sounding preachy.”

“I Completely Ditched Disposable Diapers For My Baby”

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“I was introduced to the concept of cloth diapering when I was pregnant,” says Goa-based fashion designer Falon D’Cruz.

“When I visited a family friend, I saw that she was using cloth diapers on her son. Based on what I had heard from others about the convenience of disposables, I had assumed using cloth would be unmanageable. Still, I found it inspirational to watch my friend manage so beautifully.”

Falon is a mom to 9-month-old Zoe, whom she has been exclusively cloth diapering for six months now. She shares that apart from her concern for the environment, there was another reason why she chose cloth diapering over disposables. “Even with disposable sanitary napkins, a lot of women suffer from rashes, so it’s the same concept with babies, right? I wanted better for my baby’s skin.”

Falon mentions that she did face a few challenges when she started, like getting the fit of the diaper right, and figuring out how to manage laundry, but once she had figured out a way to go about it, it became easy and routine.

She says, “I know it’s challenging to do a lot in terms of being responsible for your plastic use. A lot of stuff we buy from the store is already packaged in plastic, and we don’t always have control over those things. So, for me, ditching disposable diapers was something I could control, and I am happy I went through with it.”

“I Have Been Using A Menstrual Cup For Nearly Six Years”

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“Until recently, there was little to no awareness about menstrual cups. The options available to us here in India for the longest time were pads and tampons. But a friend who was visiting from Australia told me about cups, and on my first trip to the US, I ended up picking one for myself,” says photographer and filmmaker Tina Nandi. That was nearly six years ago. Today, she uses a combination of cloth pads and her trusty cup but is quick to share that she prefers the latter for its ease of use.

She admits that there is a learning curve involved when you switch to a menstrual cup, but that once you get used to it, you are unlikely ever to turn back.

After all, there are many advantages to using a cup — they don’t dry the vagina as tampons do – they are not associated with toxic shock syndrome, they don’t pile up in landfills, and they’re very economical in the long run as they can be reused for several years.

Tina says, “There is yet another advantage, as I am now learning. With supplies being difficult to come by in this pandemic, I realized that thanks to my cup, my menstrual cycle is the last thing I need to worry about. I don’t need to go hunting for tampons. I have my cup, and I am sorted.”

“I Said No To Plastics At Work”

Artist and designer Nishita Surin puts as much love and effort into going plastic-free as she does when it comes to her art. Her work is a marriage of these two passions. “I don’t want to create art that harms the environment,” she says, adding, “For instance, I’ve seen some beautiful work come out of resin pouring techniques, but I would personally never attempt art involving the use of epoxy resin, which is a type of plastic.”

Nishita sells handmade paper journals through her brand page on Instagram and shares that she has found an innovative way to package and ship the products she sells.

“There is a lot of paper wastage involved when I’m making my books. So, I make use of the scrap paper cuttings as packing material while wrapping the books. Even during the monsoon, at the most, I use a layer of butter paper to make the packaging waterproof, but I’d never resort to plastic,” she says.

She also uses scrap paper to make miniature books, which she sells as keychains or pendants.

This article was originally published on Ethico India.

About the Author: Shraddha Uchil is the consulting features editor at Ethico. After nearly a decade of writing about food and culture for major publications, she has currently settled into her role as a new mum. Now, it’s time to consider how she can help preserve the world for generations to come.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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