Imperfect Sustainability – With Arati Monappa

Arati Monappa – a designer with a rich experience of almost 3 decades. All through the years, she has focussed on natural, eco-friendly creations while working with artisans, craftsmen across the country and helping them get a sustainable livelihood, even before Sustainability became a topic of discussion.

As part of our Imperfect Sustainability series, we bring to you her journey towards a sustainable lifestyle as a default choice. Read on to know about her her own words

Sustainable is a recent buzzword,prompted by unusual climate change,our inability to craft a model economy inspite of advanced technology and access to numbers and tables,and glitches we observe in the social fabric.In the past,’olden times’ as my granddaughter calls it ,one almost naturally lived a life that was sustainable.As a small personal example ,in boarding school I really was not aware of the economic status of my classmates.I am not trying to paint a perfect scenario of the past,but everyone lived simply.Today there seems a need to show where you come from.With access to technology everybody aspires not just to good education or improved health facilities but to owning the latest smartphone,or eating out at the best restaurant in town…

It is difficult to be perfectly sustainable,but an imperfect sustainability is within the reach of each of us.I am as guilty as my neighbor .Growing up,starting a family,ones focus was on a beautiful home ,the urge to collect.And it did not stop at one beautiful aesthetic piece.It became a passion and as one could afford more one kept adding.Did it make my life happier?It did evoke joy,and some pieces still do,but most of them are around because one collected them.Now one faces a new dilemma.As one grows older you realize you can enjoy a fulfilled life without too many possessions.What do you do with those you have?I do not want them to go into a landfill.I am conscious that what I may not need,should be recycled or reused as I am aware of what problems trash can create for the environment.Its not an easy task to segregate,purposefully find the right people to give it to.It is an exercise each of us has to undertake.We may have the resources to spend,and basic spending is important to sustain the economic cycle,but here we have to exercise the option of “mindful spending”

We are human. Retail therapy is not an empty concept.We need to buy essentials and non essentials which apparently vitalize the human soul.As we buy we need to think.As far as possible we need to think especially now with the planet protesting,on the larger effects of our purchases.We have access to goods from different parts of the world.But as in the past it seems to make sense to buy local.Whether it means supporting your neighborhood store,local markets ,environment friendly products,craft and recycling groups,it gives meaning to your purchase.Large corporations have triple figure margins.Smaller vendors depend on you,you also get fresh produce or a n exclusive product.Buy when you really need something.My suggestion is pay more but let it last a lifetime and be worthy of being passed down to the next generation.Its a small effort but if each of us can live mindfully the cumulative effect could be worthwhile.

Everyday I read about small efforts which the person responsible may not realize has a greater impact.Biscuit cups for tea instead of plastic,the customer gets his tea and biscuit and a plastic cup gets saved. Thimmakka with no education realized the importance of planting trees.She had no intention of changing the world.It was something she believed in,which each of us can do too,in our own environment In Africa and parts of India small entrepreneurs are turning plastics and clothing into bricks for building and paving tiles or to build roads.You and I can help by reducing unsustainable material in our lives and unsustainable lifestyles.Carry your own bags.

Sign petitions and join groups that put pressure on corporations to give us eco friendly packaging.Most of my groceries come in plastic packets.I now try and fill my bag straight from the grocers jute bag whenever possible.As the popular saying goes if each of us swept in front of our own home the whole world will be clean. 

I am partial to the textile and craft sector.These sectors need support to sustain I often feel I should pay twice the price ,and should persuade the producer to make one less piece ,so we do not overload the planet.The earth is finite,our needs seem to be infinite!

Weather patterns are disturbing.Perhaps we should travel less,and let the planet recover.Is the Covid crisis natures way to get us to slow down,so that the planet recovers?

We also need to sustain the social fabric.The sustainability of relationships is crucial to the mental health of humans.With the arrival of devices we have forgotten simple pleasures that do not need technology to sustain our lives.The ability of families to be together and to dig deep into our subconscious to generate meaningful ways to support each other rather than tapping on a like button or a ‘heart’ emoji!

A few ideas for simple sustainability

1.Think before you buy, spend or acquire anything. I did not follow this in my youth but now I know simple can be beautiful As you grow older possessions can give you stress instead of joy!

2.Buy smaller quantities so there is minimal waste.

3.Take time to segregate the unnecessary.Goonj has a wonderful program where even torn clothing is used to make quilts.Items that have more value can be given to them to be sold in their shop,and the proceeds used for their charitable activities.Oxfam has successfully used this model to recycle.

4.Discarding ,recycling should be a regular exercise not left to our heirs.

A bit late ,but as I grow older the value of a sustainable life has hit me hard.We are not leaving the planet better than we inherited it.It is important to teach children the value of conservation and the ability to derive joy from simple pleasures.There is too much emphasis on the value of material things .

My generation will soon pass.The legacy we leave behind is important.Each of us has to make an effort to live sustainably…..even an imperfect sustainability is better than none!