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The Salty And Sustainable Standard: My Trip to India: adventure, sustainability and textiles

India, has just overtaken China in the largest population of the world with over 1.42 billion people and growing. I am currently here, in Pune, and this is apparently one of the ‘quieter cities’ but wow nothing is quiet about this place compared to the mellow town of Salt Rock.


India- a melting pot of culture, diverse climates, animal life, geography, languages, foods and industries. It really is an assault on the senses. I felt slightly anxious about coming here, dreading the encounter with the severe poverty. While I read about it from the comfort of my home, witnessing it firsthand seemed unnecessary, as it would only bring sadness and make me feel insignificant and powerless to make a difference. I have always maintained a mindset of concentrating on my circle of influence- areas where I can actively create change and have a positive impact. This is why I strongly advocate for supporting local initiatives and businesses in South Africa. By keeping our money within the country, we can generate more employment opportunities, even if it means creating just one or two additional jobs through my small business. I am still of this perspective- the support local one- however I have been challenged and changed in many ways. Put it this way, I won’t look at an item with disdain when I see ‘Made In India’ on the label anymore. And I have somewhat let go of the Western schools of thought on my view of India that I wasn’t even aware I was holding on to.


It has been an incredibly eye-opening and heartwarming journey. Despite a large portion of the population’s economic struggles, the people here possess a mindset that transcends poverty. I've witnessed individuals who may be financially poor but are immensely rich in spirit and compassion. The cost of living is remarkably low compared to other places I've visited, including numerous third-world countries. Life here feels uncomplicated and rewarding- these assumptions gathered from meaningful conversations with many locals.


A Traditional South Indian Breakfast
A Traditional South Indian Breakfast


Something that has concerned me most is the litter and waste in this country. The number one issue is poor waste management and with such a large population this is vital. With the demand for the new, for fast fashion and for fulfilling short term needs affordably, the plastic consumption is increasing. Ocean plastic is a severe issue here too, and marine life and their habitats are being harmed. The oceans around Mumbai, Kerala, and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are among the world’s most polluted. (Phew Trusts, 2022).


A littered beach in India
A littered beach in India

The country has taken a defining step which has banned single use plastic from mid year 2022. The criteria was based on low utility, high littering potential, together with the availability of alternatives. Many large-scale manufacturers and start-ups are on board to create low-cost, eco-friendly alternatives that can be made at scale. This ruling, over a year in, has shown to be helping greatly. It is so encouraging to hear about steps such as this one. A personal example for me is our experience of eating at numerous street food stalls where we have been served in real crockery with cutlery that they then wash and reuse- that is exciting too.


Traditional India breakfast of Poha served in reusable crockery on the street
Traditional India breakfast of Poha served in reusable crockery on the street


Another area I have been fascinated by of course is the textile industry. As the worlds second largest textile and apparel producer behind China, this industry makes up 4% of the country’s GDP and over 14% of the country’s export earnings. This means it is the largest manufacturing industry in India and second largest employment creating industry, employing a total 105 million people directly and indirectly and is set to create an additional 50 million jobs by 2025.


Fabric Shop in India
Fabric Shop in India


We have met many people employed by the industry from factory workers and machinists to street vendors making a living selling textiles that they’ve bought from someone who has bought from someone who has brought from someone- many people making a living in between manufacturing and final use. This knowledge through research and networking has made me rethink my opinion on always avoiding things that are “Made In India” back home in SA. I would prefer to support local however after seeing all of this it definitely won’t hurt to once in a while buy an imported good.


Lets open up this space for conversation- how strongly do you feel about supporting local and why? Please also feel free to share your thoughts on fast fashion, any Indian experiences you might have and new fresh innovative ways to reduce our waste and consumption on single-use goods.

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