The factory is up and running, albeit very inefficiently laments a native Keralan turned fortune 500 CEO turned self-help writer (who happened to be touring around with us, viewing the facilities). He ran Phillips, the appliance/TV company and quit after working to outsource production of Phillips products – and seeing the negative effects his work was having locally and globally. He explained to me the Indian mindset that he came from: “Indians are not thinking of the future -besides marriage and home construction. The mindset in village is: let’s pay off today, lets enjoy today, then we will worry about tomorrow.” He offered his consultant services to URAVU on his visit home next year, to help increase productivity in the factory.
Uravu sells bamboo crafts within India and demand is high for the quality handmade products. This is only one aspect of the Bamboo Village. The next phase is a large guesthouse (Completion Goal: Dec 2013)- being built with – you guessed it – bamboo. This will house tourists – primarily groups and families, however dorms may be available for backpackers. Currently there is a home stay program that Romarie and I enjoyed. We stayed comfortably in Mary’s families house, experiencing the day to day – even the early morning noises from the chickens (one of which we ate for dinner), and even the family scuffles. Half of the cost went to Mary (money is given to the woman of the household, who runs the homestay), and half is reinvested into the community through › Continue reading
The mission at Bamboo Village is to preserve a way of life (agriculture-based) in the face of a changing world where local village economies are subject to global economic changes. Much more than that – it is to create something for this area to live sustainably and healthily and to prevent brain drain; to keep young people there, rather than running off to the city to work as a tech customer service representative. URAVU meaning “Spring” or “source of life”, was started in 1996 by a group of Indians who had met in college and were politically active who wanted to help make a change (fun fact Kerala is the only state in India that democratically voted a Communist Government). When I pressed, Sivaraaj pin pointed the two main reasons for starting this work here – to break the caste system and to address environmental concerns that were coming about at the time. I asked him what changes he has seen since starting, and he said that “we have gotten women out of the home, and we have been a pacifier for the religious tension that boiled over a few years ago.” He indicates that the organization has gained a lot of respect for hiring all types of people (all religions) especially tribal people and women, and helping the community in an › Continue reading
Not long ago, my sister embarked on an extended traveling adventure with the goal of experiencing science in a variety of cultures to develop new educational curriculum in sustainability. This 3 part article series is about her experiences in India. Enjoy!
I had been in India 3 weeks before I discovered Bamboo Village. Prior to leaving, I had read in the Sivananda Ashram copy of the Lonely Planet that the Wayanad wildlife area is the most beautiful place for wildlife sighting, in Southern India – even “ask an Indian!” I had 16 days left so decided to start heading for a town nearby named Sultanbatheri – a place from which a jeep or trek into the forest, one can experience a variety of wildlife and – possibly (gasp) Tigers! I set off via train then local bus. We went winding through the mountains and brisk hill stations of Coonoor and Ooty, monkeys watching and eating on the side lines like the road were a parade route. To my delight these places were breathtaking – and the routes afforded wonderful views. Also, I started to see something I had never seen so far in my travels in Kerala and the south – environmental propaganda signs. I was wishful that they would have a solid law backing the “no plastic in Nilgiri Hills” proclamation, but soon found that they did not. The gorgeous rolling tea and coffee fields were lined with the usual plastic bags and bottles. India has an issue – the tap water is perceived to be unsafe to drink therefore, bottled water is sold everywhere – even in restaurants. Containers are discarded and can be seen everywhere you go. Just as in my Kerala backwaters boat tour – floating plastic debris among lily pads and invasive plants – and there doesn’t seem to be › Continue reading
You may be hearing a lot about an emerging trend in food sourcing at local restaurants called Farm to Table or Farm to Fork. This takes local and usually organic food to a whole new level with a menu prepared from the restaurants own local garden or a nearby partner farm.
Fair Trade is a term you are beginning to see much more as the eco-friendly movement grows. Fair Trade Designs embodies this ideal with their great sustainable items, each with their own background story of the artisans who create them.
Vetiver Root Place Mats – Hand woven from cotton and vetiver root and tied together with vetiver tassels. Vetiver is a fragrant easily renewable and naturally aromatic root indigenous to India and Indonesia. The soothing, herbal scent covers kitchen smells and also makes great drawer liners. Because of its deep growing & tightly meshed root system, vetiver is also used by conservation and community development projects to stop erosion in deforested areas. The mats are hand made in a fair trade village cooperative in Java, Indonesia.
This product comes from Zen-Zen, a Fair Trade Federation member. That means everyone they employ, including their subcontractors, gets a fair living wage and has good working conditions › Continue reading
I am a big fan of Fair Trade products, and Stephanie over at Fair Trade Designs was kind enough to send me some of their products to review. One thing I really like is the stories about each of the artisans, so you really get to know the people behind the products you are purchasing.
Fair Trade Designs jewelry is sourced from all over developing countries and are made from a wide variety of eco-friendly and sustainable materials including seeds, recycled glass, and even paper. Here is a sampling of some of their wonderful products and stories.
Rainforest jewelry from Ecuador – The tagua nut fair trade bracelet comes from Ecuador and grows on a species of South American Palm. This eco-friendly cuff bracelet is handmade from “vegetable ivory” which is shaped, polished, and naturally dyed, giving it a distinctive smooth, cool feel. It is a great earthy and robust feeling piece, with more character and flair than the plastic counterparts you see in jewelry and fashion stores.
There is a long history of using rainforest seeds to create jewelry in Ecuador, however there is no real export market to sell their jewelry. Artisans are unable to live from their craft and their jewelry is rarely seen outside the small villages in which they originate. › Continue reading
There has been a bit of an explosion of natural and organic mattress retailers, many of them have been in business for years in Europe and are just now popping up state-side. Conventional mattresses these days are made with an array of materials and chemicals, especially the popular memory foam mattresses.
Unfortunately many of the mattress producers are also required to add toxic flame retardants although there are more natural ways around this. Still, many compound the issue by using petroleum synthetics, unsustainable materials, and manufacturing practices that release harmful VOCs (that really bad chemical smell from paint or a new foam mattress), and that are not biodegradable or recyclable only to waste space in landfills.
Lucky for us there are now a pluthura of all natural mattress manufacturers out there which use all natural, organic an sustainable materials such as:
- Natural Rubber (Latex)
- Organic Cotton
- Bamboo Frames and Support
- Sustainable Wood Frames
- Coconut Fiber Batting
- Horse Hair
- Cactus Fiber
Some of the larger names using 100% natural rubber and various other sustainable materials include › Continue reading
A pair of green entrepreneurs have come up with a great easy kit to grow your own fresh sustainable mushrooms at home. Alejandro Velez and Nikhil Arora came up with the idea during their last semester at UC Berkeley and turned it into a full fledged sucessfull sustainable business: Back to the Roots.
Using the recycled coffee grounds from Peet’s Coffee and Tea houses around the San Francisco bay area as a growing medium, they came up with a full circle pearl oyster mushroom growing kit. Providing a way to grow your own fresh produce in the home while utilizing a waste product (used coffee grounds) they further complete the circle by selling their mushroom/coffee ground compost ‘waste product’ as a premium soil amendment.
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