As India hosts World Environment Day on June 5 SheThePeople.TV decided to speak with an individual, who is working towards making this environment a better place. Twenty Seven-year-old Sahar Mansoor, a resident of Bengaluru, is the founder of Bare Necessities, a zero-waste company. An alumna of the University of Cambridge, with a background in environmental planning, policy and law Sahar formerly worked at the World Health Organization in Geneva and SELCO Foundation on decentralised energy policy. We caught up with Sahar to know more about her work. Edited excerpts from the interview.
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Inspiration to go zero-waste
Sahar’s love for nature fostered through climbing trees and mostly falling off them during weekends in Cubbon Park, with her dad and sisters. Sahar’s dad was a nature lover and her family holidays always included road trips, stopping on the way to jump into waterfalls, beaches, early morning walks, soaking in sunsets and sunrises. She says, “Having lost my Dad when I was very little, being in nature continued to be one way of remembering him.”
During her third year in college, she watched a video of Bea Johnson in Professor Chris Chapples’ World Religions and Ecology class. She was blown away by Bea and her family’s lifestyle. Sahar, who worked three jobs at a time also maintaining her grades for the scholarship, almost gave up thinking how she would live a waste-free life. Nevertheless, the ecology class was a turning point in her journey. It left her wanting to learn more!
“The thing about trash is that, we are so caught up in this web of convenience that we don’t think about our personal trash and often attribute to a larger global problem that we have no control over.”
Sahar, always wanted to live a life more congruent to her environmental and social justice values.
“I needed to walk the talk.”
In 2015, Sahar moved back home to Bengaluru and was working at solar energy (social enterprise) called SELCO Foundation working on energy solutions for the underserved. While working with a waste-picker community from West Bengal, she was most confronted with the social justice issues of waste. She puts it this way, “Every day thousands of waste-pickers segregate broken glass, sanitary napkins and needles all with their bare hands. I wanted to stop being part of the problem.”
Culmination of Bare Necessities
Through Bare Necessities, Sahar also seeks to capture the essence of India. They take a cradle-to-cradle approach to every product, which is powered by natural, bare Indian ingredients; having no harmful impacts on health or the environment. All products are handcrafted by women in Karnataka.
“In my zero-waste journey, I realised we lived in a world with landfill destined products. Toothbrushes, for instance, 4.7 billion of them land in the landfill every year, and take 200-700 years to start decomposing. So every toothbrush you and I have ever produced is sitting on our planet somewhere! In response to this problem, I wanted to create a company that mirrored the values of zero waste, ethical consumption and sustainability. I wanted to make it easy and accessible for other people looking to consume more mindfully and to encourage others to produce less waste. And thus, Bare Necessities was born.”
Her share of challenges along the way
There were some challenges that Sahar faced. The major one was understanding what zero waste lifestyle actually means. “I was finding it hard to find high-quality products that I trusted, that were chemical free and plastic free. If these products were available, they were hard to access or too expensive. Also sometimes, you ask for no straw or no plastic and you get it anyway. Medicines are still a tough one.”
Sahar believes we, as citizens, aren’t doing enough for our environment. Studies show that by 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. She explains, “I think the ecosystem for zero-waste is still underdeveloped at the moment. By ecosystem I mean you need to have five factors in place: Awareness, Right products, Right places, Right price, and Policy environment.”
On being a driving force of change
“In all seriousness, it’s harder to quantify change or impact when it comes to a lot of environmental issues, because we attribute to something larger, that we don’t have control over; it’s the classic tragedy of commons.”
Sahar believes that she’s just getting started. BN has sold over 5000 reusable straws 2000 bamboo toothbrushes which means that’s 7000+ less plastic straws and brushes in the landfill. Through Talks and workshops, Sahar has addressed over 2000 people. On a more positive note, she looks at the cup as half full. She says, “So that’s 2000 more people who are thinking about reducing their waste now perhaps”.
The young entrepreneur believes that encouraging an environment-friendly lifestyle is on top of her list. She puts it this way – “In the larger sense, BN seeks to change the narrative on waste in India. In future, BN seeks to become an interdisciplinary hub, a home for product designers.” Sahar wants BN to manage waste better and reduce it further.
People like Sahar are making a difference in what we can call a negligent society, also reminding us of the fact that environment conservation should be our utmost priority if we want to make this place worth living for our future generations. This world environment day, let’s pause and think about the surroundings we live in and vow to protect it. In a first, we can start by protecting it from ourselves.
Bhawana is an intern with SheThePeople.TV