November 2011
#Ecology , 1643 Views

Byline: Bharat Sikka
Photographs: Bharat Sikka

A photo essay depicting the different ways in which India has traditionally had eco-savvy down pat, through the innovative ways of prolonging the lifespan of or recycling everyday items.

For cool hunters the world over, green has long been on the radar. Recycled and repurposed objects have become increasingly more common and stylish, and practices aimed at saving resources are regarded as expressions of contemporary, intelligent living. But in India–a country that has only relatively recently discovered the wasteful and disposable quality of consumerism–reusing, recycling and repurposing have historically been a fundamental part of the culture.

In this photo series, Bharat Sikka draws attention to some key examples of how Indian culture is still, as a result of traditionally having to make do with scarce resources and therefore adopting a thrifty mindset, largely inclined towards simple but inventive ways of reusing objects that end up prolonging their life, or practices that minimise waste. Such methods are apparent in a society that, for the most part, still tries to stay away from wasteful habits and uphold an attitude of eco-innovativeness, one that’s intrinsically cool because, well, it’s smart, and efficient.

Quid pro quo. Guilt free shopping by swapping used clothing for steel utensils by way of roaming kabadi walas.
Tote bag. Nylon cement sacks are turned into sloganed, reusable utility bags.
Unlimited edition zippo. Candy-coloured disposable lighters last longer when refilled with butane from a syringe.
Eco friendly. India has long had this ecologically savvy practice down pat; using caked, dried cow dung as an alternative to fuels like wood and kerosene.
Maison collection. Beautiful old saris are enjoyed twice when sewn into a quilted duvet.
Double collar shirt. A look inspired for its function – handkerchiefs worn over shirt collars keep them crisper for longer.