Author – Aviini Ashikho
Way back in 1968, somewhere between the quiet town of Pondicherry and the buzzing city of Chennai, a group of about 200 people gathered together on a barren plateau. They had a vision to build a “city the earth needs”, so they began reforesting the barren land to create a new socio-economic, ecological and spiritual habitat named Auroville. Since then, a tiny township has emerged to create a vibrant global community of people from 40 nations, who have built homes, health centers and schools, developed and practices organic farming, uses renewable energy and cost-effective building technologies.
Today, this global town is a perfect example of sustainable living which has created business numerous opportunities from food to clothing, home décor to housing, farming to production. In a world where development has taken a toll on the ecological balance and environmental destruction, Auroville, is an ideal example of a place where development meets nature preservation at its best, where universal harmony, human unity and giving are the essence of its lifestyle. Here are some businesses that have sprung out of Auroville, where sustainable practices have led to the production of eco-friendly goods of various kinds which are exported across the globe:
Uma Prajapati and Manoj Pavitran’s joint venture brought about Upasana, a leading sustainable fashion design studio in India. Since its inception in 1997, the studio has created a huge wave for eco-friendly contemporary garments and accessories in the Indian fashion industry. Apart from apparel design and production, Upasana has extended its undertakings to different social projects that involve the local population, teaching them to have a sustainable livelihood. Some of Upasana’s projects worth mentioning are: Tsunamika – the tiny cloth doll, Small Steps – the handy bag, Varanasi Weavers, Janaki, Tranquebar and Paruthi. Here, apparels and accessories for men and women are produced using natural indigo dyes and the prints are hand painted.
Gecko produces western casual style clothing for men, women and children that are enriched with Indian influences. Established by Dorothee Imhooff and Stephan Himmer, Gecko produces clothes that are 100% eco-friendly. What began as a small company in 1998 to supply products in surrounding towns of Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry, has become a much-sought after brand in different cities of India and the world today. Auroville Dirt Shirt is one of its unique products recently introduced by Gecko. The shirt is hand-dyed with the rich red soil from Auroville, which can restore its original color and enhance the design (in cases of fading) during monsoon by rolling the shirt in a puddle!
Miniature is a textile design and natural dye producing unit managed by an Italian lady, Lilian Fassino. Miniature creates textile products that are a combination of Italian/Mediterranean fashion blended with Oriental/ Indian flavor. The unit’s most popular garment lines such as fine block print designs on saris, silks and cotton materials are fabricated by craftsmen from Rajasthan. These are often hand-woven, hand-spun in the Khadi tradition along with utilizing traditional embroidery techniques. Because of the minute details in designing, its custom-made products are created in small quantities. Some of the prominent products of Miniature are – Block Prints and Tie & Dye.
The Colours of Nature produces 100% eco-friendly natural dyed textiles for garments and interiors. It was started by Jesus Ciriza Larraona, whose interest in researching the traditional dyes of India led to the discovery of the 4000 years old indigo dyeing fermentation technique. The Colours of Nature remains as one of the few remaining natural dyeing units in the world today that presents this ancient dyeing technique for the modern textile industry. The production process is entirely environment friendly and only extracts of vegetable, flowers, fruits, trees and leaves are used for dyeing.
The ‘WELL’ in WELLpaper stands for ‘Women’s Empowerment through Local Livelihood’. It is a social enterprise Started by Danny and Orly in 2005, which focuses on the welfare and empowerment of local women of Tamilnadu. The organization promotes recycling of paper products and converts them into functional and beautiful products for everyday use. Their products consist of baskets, bowls, coasters, jewelry, Christmas décor ornaments, papier mache figures and many more, which are entirely made from waste paper. Apart from maintaining its quality, keeping it green, local and handmade, WELLpaper’s policy of ‘no-waste’ helps the company to up-cycle the final shreds into paper pulp accessories.
Shardhanjali is a handicraft unit established in 1980. To create its products, Shardhanjali undertakes the most eco-friendly process of utilizing natural flowers, plant foliage and seeds to convert them into products that are sold to generate income for the community living in Auroville. For instance, flowers are grown using only organic manure, drip irrigation applied to avoid water wastage. Similarly, decorating flowers on handmade papers are processed by recycling cotton rags, and other natural fibers. Shardhanjalli offers four different types of products: Pushpanjali (cards), Dharti (interiors), Prakriti (stationeries), Beejika (ornaments).
Naturellement is a social enterprise for producing natural and organic food. Swedish food expert, Martina Ljungguist started it in 1991 to utilize her knowledge of European recipes, management, personal hygiene and workers welfare. Today, she has been able to reach out and involve local womenfolk in producing a fusion of East and West gourmet food of international standards. By applying a sustainable method of farming and using all traditional and organic ingredients in the preparation, the company produces some popular food products such as jams, marmalades, fruit syrups, nut butters, breakfast cereals, pickles and pesto, which are marketed in different major cities of India.
Le Fermme Cheese started as a line of handmade cheese for the residents of Auroville in 1988. Powered by a team of 20 cheese-making experts from Italy and Holland, Le Fermme Cheese produces about 100kg of different varieties of handmade cheeses every day. Every step of its production happens in a clean and sustainable environment set to very high hygienic standards. Pasteurization of milk is done with biogas, water is pumped by a windmill and the waste water recycled. Le Fermme Cheese uses whole cow milk, salts, vegetarian enzymes and seasoning cultures for producing the cheese. Mainly two types of cheese are offer: fresh and seasoned, with different varieties in each.
*Note: There are many more sustainable businesses residing in Auroville that have not been mentioned. For more information, one may log into- www.auroville.org