Spotlight Series: Q&A with Jaineesha, Cruelty-free & Vegan Bridal Makeup Artist

We speak with Internationally renowned, award-winning, cruelty-free MUA Jaineesha about her transition to vegan makeup and sustainable living.

What is your ethnic and professional background?

I am a British born Hindu, Gujarati. I am a vegan make-up artist mainly working with Asian brides within the South Asian wedding industry. I’m also very passionate about creating awareness around taboo subjects such as periods, colourism, and gender equality. I’m passionate about talking about how to lead an eco-friendly lifestyle and sustainable living within beauty but also day-to-day practices. 

What are your main values as a make-up artist? 

So I initially started within the industry in 2011. I’ve always had a passion for makeup, but I never looked at the impact that the beauty industry had on the environment and also how the products were being made. In 2017, I came across the term cruelty-free beauty as I started researching on how the products are made and what the production line could look like. 

To put it in plain simple language I was absolutely shocked that our products are being tested on animals to be put onto the shelf so that we can apply them. I’ve always felt that beauty is a luxury and not a necessity, therefore it shouldn’t need to be at the expense of the environment or animals. I managed to change my personal care and my bridal kit which I would use on clients to 100% cruelty-free by 2018. It wasn’t an easy switch because at that point it was really difficult to find out which companies tested on animals, and which didn’t. I had to email companies because information wasn’t as easily accessible as it is nowadays. Usually you can go onto the website landing page and find a logo that will tell you about the company’s ethics. 

The cruelty-free change initially came because my little sister went vegan overnight and it made me think about the products that I was using on myself. So once I had a 100% cruelty-free kit I did start thinking ‘why should I be applying products that may have animal products within them especially because I am vegetarian.’ The whole process started over again and I managed to get 100% vegan kit by 2019. It’s been an investment and it’s not been easy as the quality of the products and the finish that I can create with the products is really important to me.

What inspired you to act as a catalyst for more sustainable practice? Is there a particular story you can share? 

So my sister watched a documentary about the way the animals are treated within the dairy industry and she shared her experience with us and decided she would become vegan. We are already vegetarian in the family and instead of thinking about my diet, I thought about the products that I was applying on myself and also on my clients. I do feel we should be voting with our money and that’s why I think we should be researching how products are made and each company’s ethics. By the time I managed to have a completely vegan kit for myself and for my clients, it started filtering through the rest of my life. 

I started looking at the cleaning products, and what I use for my laundry, the types of clothes that I’m wearing, and the type of food we were eating. Now I pretty much eat a completely plant-based diet and have felt that it’s been better for me, but also I’m hoping that it has a positive effect on the environment. 

Being South Asian do you find any backlash about your career choice from family friends or society at large? How did you overcome it? 

Becoming a make-up artist definitely wasn’t something my parents thought I would pick. When I first mentioned it they were quite keen that I would attend university. I wanted to do makeup at university but they urged me to pick something else. So I went for Psychology which I did enjoy at the time, but once I finished university I think they saw that my heart wasn’t really in it and just let me pursue what I wanted. 

I think generally my parents are very happy with the path I chose. I do know that my friends and family are very proud of what I do, not only because of the business itself but also the awareness that I am able to create through it. 

How have you actively changed your daily practice to be more sustainable? 

It’s something that’s happened over the past four years – I don’t think it can happen overnight. I found making small switches has been easier rather than completely changing everything. I also believe that using what you already have first, is probably the most sustainable option. 

If we were to buy anything new, we look at eco-friendly options that are more sustainable, but also buy less and try to upcycle what we already have – it is definitely something that we enjoy doing. I found it has been kinder to our bank balance and also kinder to the environment. We have actively changed our diet and gardening has become quite a big part of our life now, which it wasn’t this time last year and we are thoroughly enjoying it. All of my beauty products have changed from what I used five years ago. 

Do you feel there is a stigma or lack of understanding of the climate emergency among South Asian communities? What do you believe the blockers to be and how would you go about solving these issues? 

I think the South Asian community as a whole is a very adaptable community. So many of us or our parents or grandparents have moved to different countries for a better life, or have been displaced and have done their absolute best to give a better future for the generations to come. 

I do also think they have done the best they can with what they have at the time. I do think the climate change topic overall, isn’t spoken about that much, but I know I like to speak to my friends, cousins and family about it and share our views about what we think, what new habits we’re trying to make. 

I think money is quite a large part that plays into switching over and also it may seem like a not so modern way of living. I remember when speaking to my mum initially about new things that I was doing at home or trying out her response was ‘oh that’s what I did when I was younger and that’s what I saw my grandparents doing.’ So I do think sustainability is actually deep rooted within our culture and has kind of gotten lost or forgotten along the way, due to displacement or moving to a different country or not living within extended families and also being influenced by western cultures to some extent. 

Conversation is key – it might seem like a big change, it might seem like an inconvenient change, it might seem like it’s more money savvy to stay living the way you are, but what I found is that 

even though you might invest a little bit more now, you’re actually saving money in the long run. 

We should just keep talking about it, sharing ideas of how we can be more sustainable and talk about how our grandparents lived in the habits that they had. 

What have been your greatest successes and learnings? 

I think my greatest learning probably has been understanding that my grandparents actually lived a very sustainable life. They grew their own veg, upcycled pretty much everything, they fixed everything that they could – there was no such thing as single use and sharing and caring was a big part of life. I’ve also really love the fact that we are actually so much in control of the effect that we have on the environment. We can adapt new habits such as gardening, growing your own veg, shopping at a refill store, buying cruelty-free and vegan beauty that will all help to have a positive impact on the climate. Many popular beauty brands still test on animals, use harsh chemicals and are packaged in unsustainable packaging. 

Many popular beauty brands still test on animals, use harsh, unnatural chemicals and come in unsustainable packaging. A lot of these brands are actively promoted by influencers. Do you think a more vegan and sustainable lifestyle, particularly when it comes to makeup and beauty, is going to gain momentum? 

Absolutely, I think over the past few months and especially during the pandemic, we have seen a big switch more companies are talking about it. I think sometimes it might just be to gain more sales, but I do think a lot of companies are trying to do their best to change and have the least impact on the environment. 

When I am contacted by companies or brands to work with them, I do try and check that they are as sustainable as they say they are. 

I think we do forget that change doesn’t happen overnight and we can’t expect beauty brands to change their habits overnight. However, I do look at companies such as Estee Lauder and L’Oreal to make large changes more quickly than small brands, as they have the funds and resources to be able to do so. I do also hope that more influencers pick brands that are doing their best to be more sustainable, however 

one thing that I’d love to say to people reading this is try and follow influencers that have the same ethics as you in mind when promoting. 

How can sustainability be made “sexier” in the beauty industry, whilst ensuring the process doesn’t become another prey to greenwashing?

I think it’s getting there. I feel like people who didn’t even know what vegan, cruelty-free meant last year are now buying products that are. 

When I first started letting people know that I had a cruelty-free makeup kit and had change my products from Mac and Bobbi Brown to brands that were cruelty free, I did have quite a few clients say that they didn’t want me to use those products on them because they didn’t trust the longevity even though I had done all the research and trials beforehand. 

Whereas now I have Brides who enquire with me and the first line is ‘I love that you use vegan products,’ so I think the awareness is definitely there. 

I’m not sure if sexier is what it needs to be, I feel that the right education will help the penny drop for a lot of people like it did for me. Also something that is sexy now may not be sexy 20 years down the line and we want to make sure that sustainability, cruelty free beauty and vegan beauty is something that sticks. Hopefully in the next 20 years that is the only type of product that will be available. 

Are there any particular brands or sustainable businesses you encourage people to use? 

Generally a lot of small brands will be cruelty-free and maybe vegan. There’s such a huge list of them now and there’s more and more brands coming up every day. My favourite ones are Tarte which are cruelty free and have some vegan products, Nude by Nature, Lush cosmetics, Pixi beauty, & Illamasqua just to name a few. 

How do you check if a beauty brand is actually sustainable?

I think sustainability is different for everyone. For me, the main points are if they are cruelty-free and vegan. After that I will look at packaging however, for some people they may want to look at the actual ingredients and if they are organic and how they’ve been sourced. People could look at the carbon footprint of the product. 

I think the best place to start is to check the FAQ section and the information that is available on the website and if you are still unsure and you have certain questions, email the company and check if they have the information that you need. 

Another way to check if a brand is cruelty free is to check if it’s been sold in China. Many large brands like Tarte and CoverFx and Urban Decay don’t sell in China. However large brands like Mac and Bobbi Brown still do. 

What advice would you give to younger generations in relation to sustainability and the environment? 

I think this is difficult because we can get so easily sucked into what our friends are doing, what we see on the TV and social media. The main thing is to be true to yourself and do as much research as possible and don’t give into trends. I don’t feel like you need the new best thing around. Nowadays there are so many beauty brands that are cruelty-free and vegan at such a cheap and affordable price, so make sure you’re going with them rather than what you’ve seen on the last Instagram ad.

Find out more about Jaineesha here: https://linktr.ee/Jaineesha

Website: www.jaineesha.com

Instagram: @jaineesha_ & @jaineesha_mua

Image credits: MoonCup Ltd @emma_croman.

International Yoga Day & Sustainability, by Akhil Santosh

How Yogic Philosophy promotes Sustainable practice

Sustainability according to the (Brundtland Report 1987) states that “sustainable development should be viewed as development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” 

Sustainability is a holistic approach that considers ecological, social, and economic factors, recognising that all dimensions of life must be considered together to find lasting prosperity. The responsibility lies with each individual, whether they choose to lead their lives based on the principles of sustainability or not; but we tend to find fewer people who are actively living sustainably. The philosophy of yoga provides us with great insights around sustainable lifestyles and we’ll explore yama and how it promotes sustainable living.

Yogic philosophy is one of the oldest of the world, shared by sage Patanjali. It’s also known as Ashtanga Yoga, as it consists of eight limbs and eight sequential steps which are outlined below. 

“yama-niyama-asana-pranayama-pratyhara-dharana-dhyana-samadhayo’stav-angani” (Patanjali, 2:29)

Generally speaking, many Indians and practitioners of yoga in the west don’t pay much attention to the first two limbs of Ashtanga yoga however, these two limbs are critical for promoting sustainable and ethical living in society. They are known as Yamas and Niyamas which consist of ten interrelated moral and ethical principles, guiding individuals to reduce their carbon footprint and live more sustainably.

YamasDefinitionAdaptation towards Sustainable living 
Ahimsa (Non-violence)Not to injure any beings either by thought, word, and deed. Little or no consumption of meat, not to destroy or disrupt natural habitats 
Satya  (Truthfulness) Being honest and truthful by thought, word and deed.Being accountable for individual actions
Asteya (Non-stealing) Not taking things which do not belong to us.Not to over exploit natural resources such as forests, oceans, etc
Brahmacharya (Consciousness)Not to fall into the trap of desire or pleasure. It helps with self-regulation.Differentiating between needs from wants which helps in more conscious consumerism 
Aparigraha (Non-possessiveness)Not be selfish and greedy.Changing perspective as we are here for a temporary period of time and we need to be responsible for the impact we have on our environment

Table 1: Brief description of Yamas

Ahimsa (Non-Violence): Ahimsa doesn’t directly translate to ‘not consuming meat’ or ‘becoming vegan’, however it points towards the balance to be had. Following the principle of Ahimsa provides a solid foundation for leading a more sustainable life. Aquatic and wildlife creatures are harmed when waste is dumped into their habitat – they consume it and naturally suffer which inevitably comes back round to humans, if and when we choose to consume fish. Indirectly we as a human race are responsible for the damage to aquatic life. A practical action would be to reduce our plastic usage, particularly single-use plastics and switch to re-usable alternatives. Another way would be to reduce or stop eating meat, to protect and respect mother Earth’s resources and enable living creatures to thrive. To follow the principle of Ahimsa, we should use the resources we do have sustainably and not waste.

Satya (Truthfulness): Satya means to be held accountable for our individual or collective action. An example of current affairs: some companies are not honestly stating whether their products are eco-friendly and instead they are using fake product labels and marketing them as sustainable (greenwashing) which is going to have a lasting impact on sustainability efforts – the Volkswagen emission scandal is one example. By following the principle of Satya, both organisations and individuals can help in promoting more sustainable goods made in ethical supply chains, which in turn helps to reduce our overall negative impact on the planet and people. A simple action here is to research the companies we buy from before purchasing anything: a handy resource

Asteya (Non-Stealing): Steya means unlawfully taking possessions belonging to others whereas, Asteya means abstention from such tendencies, even in one’s thoughts. There are many instances where people or organisations encroach on indigenous lands, forests, lakes and displace many communities and species. Furthermore, poachers are killing endangered wildlife across the globe. These activities come under steya. An important action here is being aware of brands selling products made using resources from endangered wild life. By being vigilant and not favouring these companies, we can help in reducing the money which funds poachers. Moreover we (humans) are not the only habitants of this planet: we need to be aware of all other living beings and not exploit their resources. By practicing Asteya we can be more sustainable, by not exploiting resources which don’t belong to only humans but to the entire planet.

Brahmacharya (Supreme Consciousness): Bramhacharya is not to be misunderstood as only abstinence from sex, rather it goes much further than this. It is about the control of our sensory organs, being connected to our soul. By controlling our senses, we are able to have greater self-awareness and overall self-regulation. This self-regulation helps in differentiating our needs from our wants. Needs are basic things required for functioning of the individual however, wants arise to satisfy short-lived waves of pleasure. Brahmancharya helps individuals to follow simple lifestyles where they can live with minimum resources and be more conscious of their consumption.

Aparigraha (Non-possessiveness): Aparigraha means non-attachment or not being selfish and greedy. Exploiting natural resources is due to the greed of the individuals and corporations who want to simply grow wealth, at any cost or damage to the environment, ecology and communities. We need to remember the quote given by Mahatma Gandhi “The world has enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed”. Every individual should remember that we are here on this planet for a temporary amount of time and we shouldn’t destroy the planet. By practicing Aparigraha, individuals can become better people by shedding their attitudes which don’t serve them or the planet well, keeping sustainable living at the forefront.

Following the five principles of yama encourages indviduals to live ethically and responsibly which also helps in sustainable development. Let us integrate yamas into our life and make sure that we live our lives as sustainably as possible to protect the planet.

The meaning of yoga is derived from Sanskrit word “yuj” which means to unite. We can use such principles to respect all living beings and live in harmony with nature, without causing destruction or degradation.

References:

Spotlight Series: Q&A with Climate Change Journalist Sharlene Gandhi

We spoke to Business, Climate Change and Food Systems Journalist, Sharlene about her insights and experience covering stories from the point of view of marginalised communities

What is your ethnic and academic/professional background?

I am a Hindu Gujarati Indian, and I am a journalist with a focus on small business, climate change and food systems.

What inspired you to act as a catalyst for sustainable practice? Is there a particular story you can share?

In my final year at Lancaster University, I was chosen for a special bootcamp-style module to attend the World Business Council for Sustainable Development’s liaison-delegate meeting. Before this, I hadn’t had any specific interaction with the environmental sustainability movement, but I had always been involved in social justice and grassroots community initiatives. Going to the liaison-delegate meeting was so eye-opening because it not only revealed the science behind the climate crisis, but also all the many social, economic, cultural and community impacts it will inevitably have. That was in April of 2018, and I’ve since been enthralled with the subject, reading widely, going to talks and eventually embedding it into my journalistic practice.

Can you tell me about your career in journalism and how you got into writing about climate change and environmental injustice/race intersectionality? 

It was really a matter of luck – I had always wanted to be a journalist because I loved writing, but often struggled with the difficult question of whether to become a specialist journalist or stick to general reporting. I decided to start specialising as a climate and business journalist on a freelance basis, mostly to also be able to learn about some of the work that was being done on the ground by communities and small / micro enterprises. 

The more I researched and reported, the more I started to learn about the intersections between the climate crisis and marginalised communities and came across the term climate justice as a result. That’s been one of my key focus areas ever since, because once you see it, you can’t unsee it.

I’ve been involved in writing about agricultural justice, housing inequality and land redistribution, as well as Indigenous rights. 

Find Sharlene’s Portfolio here: https://muckrack.com/sharlene_gandhi

What have been your biggest successes and learnings to date?

For me, I’ve always been deeply inspired by the work of Indigenous, Native and Aboriginal communities around the world. There is just a wealth of information to learn from them and how they have championed an approach to living that is in harmony with nature. 

My biggest successes have just been people giving me the opportunity, time and time again, to write about, speak about and explore this deeply intricate and important topic. I was super honoured to be part of shado magazine’s editorial team for their Climate Justice issue, which was published in September this year, and earlier in the year, I also researched and wrote up an investigation about the design and psychology of emission tracking apps for the American Institute of Graphic Arts. 

Being South Asian, did you face any backlash from family, friends or society at large for choosing to take a niche/unfamiliar career path? 

I was luckier than most in that I didn’t face any particular backlash when choosing my career path, but I think being from an immigrant family – particularly one where money wasn’t always floating around freely – means that you have financial security in the back of your mind. So while I wasn’t pushed into medicine or engineering or law, I was certainly gently encouraged to do a degree that would lead me to a job. That is how I ended up with a business degree, because it would lead to a financially stable career.

And my parents weren’t wrong – I spent the first two years of my career as a consultant, with a very healthy paycheck attached. But ultimately I wasn’t happy with myself in that role and wanted to transition into a career that meant more to me in due course. 

How have you actively changed your daily practice to be more sustainable?

Shopping locally and from small businesses has been a large part of the shift for me. It takes more time and more effort, but at least I know that I’m contributing to someone’s wellbeing and financial stability much more directly than if I were shopping from a larger supermarket that squeezed margins for their farmers and producers to make sure the end retail price was as cheap to the consumer as possible. 

Nearly three years ago, I also gave up all fast fashion and high street shopping, favouring secondhand, vintage and charity shop purchases for clothes, accessories and shoes. That hasn’t been easy, particularly because of the convenience and speed that fast fashion affords you as a consumer, not to mention the attractive pricing. But for me giving up fast fashion is crucial not just to planetary health, but also to climate justice. It signals to these companies that we can’t put up with the terrible conditions that they expect their garment workers to produce in.

Do you feel there is a stigma or lack of understanding of the climate crisis amongst South Asian communities? What do you believe the blockers to be and how would you go about solving the issues?

I wouldn’t say there is a stigma more than there is a lack of understanding. But that is highly ironic because a lot of the things that South Asian families do naturally are sustainable. It generally starts with low-income, immigrant families championing these practices, with the most famous example being using containers repeatedly to store curries and daals. South Asian cooking often involves using entire fruits and vegetables in order to minimise waste. South Asian culture is slower and more deliberate than capitalistic, time-driven Western culture, and a slower lifestyle impacts our surroundings less. South Asian food practice has always been about buying local and supporting grassroots shop owners, where possible.

Religions and cultures that are prominent in South Asia favour a lifestyle that works in conjunction with nature as opposed to extracting from it.

So, in other words, sustainability comes to South Asian communities easier than we might think, but the way that modern day sustainability is wrapped up and packaged makes them feel like it’s far away and unattainable. 

Being carbon conscious in a practical day-to-day sense can be quite costly – how can people easily and cost effectively make a difference? Do you think being sustainable is accessible to everyone?

Naturally, being sustainable is supposed to be accessible to everybody, because it actually requires us to live slowly, more locally and more deliberately. A plant-based or vegetarian diet can be cheaper than a meat-based diet. Shopping locally shortens the supply chain from raw materials / ingredients to the final consumer, which reduces the end price and makes sure that the original producers are adequately compensated for their effort.

However, the marketisation and mainstream branding that has now been attached to sustainability has meant that there has been a premium price attached to it, which has also in turn made it unaffordable for a lot of people to make sustainable choices. Starting small and stripping back your routine is a good place to start though, rather than thinking you need to invest in additional products or services at a cost to you. 

What advice would you give to younger generations in relation to sustainability and the environment?

Personally I think younger generations are much more knowledgeable about social justice and environmental sustainability than we are, simply because they don’t have a choice. So there is probably more than we can learn from them than they can learn from us!

I think for those interested in making a difference, I would advise starting small. Start with yourself and your sphere of control, extend that to your social circle, then to any impact you can make in your local community through conscious consumption, volunteering and raising awareness. Only then can you learn about the issues on the ground, on a grassroots level, which help you understand the system at large and why it functions the way it does. Otherwise, starting with the system and its flaws can seem too monumental and overwhelming to be able to make a tangible change. 

Can you share one life story which has deeply impacted you?

I’m just humbled that I get to do so many wonderful things and continue spreading the word about sustainability! In the last couple of years, I’ve been so honoured to speak at the Almeida Theatre, at Global Action Plan, at Amnesty International, for IKEA, and for various smaller organisations looking to educate and inspire change. I’ve been able to interview amazing people, including Leah Penniman of Soul Fire Farm and Sana Javeri Kadri from Diaspora Co.

In one of my earliest pieces of work, while I was working with the Pentland Centre for Sustainability in Business, I got to interview Arctic climate scientist Dr Oran Young. He has dedicated his whole life to the study of climate and spoke so passionately about the links to aspirational lifestyle and the worsening climate crisis. It really hit home then that this is more than scientific. It’s about how we define happiness and success. 

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

For South Asians, there is an absolute wealth of literature to delve into in terms of prominent writing about environmentalism, anti-capitalism and racism. Two perhaps obvious voices are Vandana Shiva and Arundhati Roy – they give a great introduction, in the content of South Asia, of why environmental sustainability needs to tie into social justice.

Find some of Sharlene’s work here:

Supply Chain Transparency: https://mailchimp.com/courier/article/building-transparent-supply-chain/

Carbon Tracking Apps: https://xd.adobe.com/ideas/principles/app-design/how-carbon-tracking-apps-are-designed-to-foster-responsibility-and-why-this-might-be-flawed/

How Green is UK’s New Deal?: https://www.ourstosave.com/feature?id=ckda46h78000p07234osxdkme

IKEA project: https://lifeathome.ikea.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/IKEA_Life_At_Home_Report_2020-2.pdf

Follow Sharlene on Instagram and LinkedIn

Spotlight Series: Q&A with Shilpa Bilimoria

We spoke to Shilpa, Creative Director and Founder of House of Bilimoria about her ancestral roots in tailoring and how she ‘luxcycles’ South Asian textiles

What is your ethnic and professional background?

I am Indian, my mother was born in Kisumu Kenya, my father in Mumbai. My grandparents were all born in Gujarat. I have a BA (hons) in Design for Fashion & Textiles and have worked in the fashion industry for the last 15 years.

What is House of Bilmoria, how did it come about and what are your main values as a business?

House of Bilimoria was born from the gifts my ancestors have bestowed upon me – the craft of tailoring and making clothing. I was dissatisfied working within the fashion industry as a high street retailer when I first graduated. I came to very quickly discover that it had none of the energy, or substance that I felt designing and creating should be about. With that in mind, and being pregnant with my first child, I decided to take it into my own hands and start my label. 

The values of my label would be all the things I didn’t find in that first job: ethics, sustainability, culture, community and circularity. More detail can be found here.

What inspired you to act as a catalyst for sustainable practice? Is there a particular story you can share?

My inspiration was and will always be my elders, my grandparents, my ancestors. I was so proud of what they did for a living, I was so proud that I had these skills embedded inside me and that they only needed to be ‘switched on’ in a sense. 

The story I always come back to is when I was first gifted a toy sewing machine, I must have been about 8 years old and so excited! I quickly went to use it, but was so frustrated, that it wasn’t actually stitching. It had a needle, foot pedal, and was battery operated. What was going wrong? I took the machine to my Dada (grandfather), and he looked at it, and said to me “Shilpa, there’s no bobbin.” I was so disappointed. I can remember the shock, and being so stunned at how quickly he knew why it wasn’t working. He explained what the bobbin’s job was and I understood, and swiftly went on to use the actual sewing machine my Mom had – no more toys! I love this story because it was my first glimpse into the real technical side of sewing and the craft. I knew then I would need to know all of the parts of the machine and how it all worked. You could call it the moment that the penny dropped. 

Being South Asian, did you face any backlash about your career choice from family, friends or society at large? How did you overcome it?

I did. I had people in my immediate family that were not supportive of it at all, that this was ‘going backwards’. If I really wanted to make any money and be stable I should be an accountant. That negativity was and has been one of the toughest things to navigate through, as all you really need and want in life is to be supported and believed in by those that are the closest to you. With the burden of failure already implanted into my mind, it had become a barrier to starting with the strength and belief in myself that would have been a great gift. But on the flip side, it made me even more determined. I would do this, and I’d do it with all the ideas they had which were so wrong about the industry in the first place. 

Alongside that, I must give total credit to my Mom and some of my extended family who have actually been nothing but supportive. I mean my Mama & Mami (uncle and aunty) were the ones that gifted me the toy sewing machine in the first place. I have many that are so proud and happy to see that this craft and legacy is continuing. This is how and what I use to overcome the negative aspects; being very in touch and in tune with my why – which is continuing my ancestors legacy, and that over any opinion wins, always. 

How have you actively changed your daily practice to be more sustainable?

There are lots of things that I have changed and continue to do so slowly. It is not an overnight thing. I consciously choose our detergents, soaps, and cleaning products to ensure they are not harmful to the environment. I have grown up wearing and loving hand me downs, so this is something that has continued in my own home. My girls wear clothes that have been passed down to them, and even more special that they have also grown up wearing the very dresses I had worn, that were made for me by my grandparents. We don’t own a car and use public transportation. I also have a lot of second hand items of furniture in our home! Before I look at new things, I always check if I can source second hand items.

Do you feel there is a stigma or lack of understanding of the climate crisis amongst South Asian communities? What do you believe the blockers to be and how would you go about solving the issues?

I don’t feel it is a stigma, I think it is more the lack of understanding, alongside a cultural and societal success benchmark which is very materialistic. If we look intrinsically at many of the habitual practices we have at home and have grown up with, they are things like saving the empty yogurt container to use for leftovers. I am sure there are homes that have cupboards full of these ready to reuse. I am sure that before this boom of fast fashion, many have also grown up wearing hand me downs too.

I think the blocker is now having a greater consciousness and connecting the dots backwards, as to where and how the products we buy are made. 

It doesn’t take much to see that the products we consume are and have been made with the lives of our own communities and people on the line. Once this connection is made, I believe that it would be hard to look at things without thinking about them. 

The South Asian community is very fixated on the idea of what ‘success’ outwardly looks like and maintaining that picture to the world. This though is an outcome of what the generations before us have been through, it’s something that I am beginning to unravel for myself. I believe that it’s once this work is shared and done, that our communities can look at starting to break into these cycles, which will in turn have an impact on how they live their day to day lives and becoming present to the issue of climate change and what it is a bi-product of. 

Do you find such lack of understanding makes having a sustainability-led business like yours more challenging? 

Short answer YES! Educating our audience is 75% of the work, but I am happy to do this, and it is what I am passionate about so… I also see it as a challenge that I am ready to be up against. 

What advice would you give to younger generations in relation to sustainability and the environment? 

Choose and start with ONE thing that is important to you, ethics, animals, air, water… Start with that and see what you can do to live in line with ensuring that you approach life and purchases being conscious of that. Once you have got one working well, add another. You will often find that with one, others come automatically too. It’s a win win!

Can you share one life story which has deeply impacted you?

I lost my older sister at a very young age. She used to talk a lot about the environment, about not being wasteful, I can remember brushing our teeth. She would always tell us to stop running the water in between – it’s wasting. To cut up all the plastic rings the cans of soda used to come in back then because they would end up strangling birds…

As much as my grandparents inspire my deep love for craft. My sister inspired and instilled my passion for sustainability. It’s also a part of her I can keep living on.

In many ways she was a spirit that was here well before her time (this was in the early 90’s), and she left me messages that I can live through and by everyday. 

Is there anything else you’d like to share? 

I love to share, exchange ideas and collaborate with like minded people! Don’t hesitate to contact me or DM! 

You can find out more about Shilpa and follow her journey here: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Linktree

Campaign Launch

January 1st 2021 saw the launch of South Asians for Sustainability, introducing our mission and values as a community-led organisation.

Our Mission

Our Values

Together with the incredible illustrator Isher Dhiman, our logo was created representing various aspects of South Asian culture and heritage. 

You’ll find a map of South Asia in the middle, connected to the roots of a plant. The roots represent South Asian traditions strongly grounded in our ancestral countries. The plant represents nature and trees, commonly associated with being the Earth’s lungs and a big nature-based solution for climate change.

The hand represents our common responsibility to take care of the planet and hold onto the privileges it provides us with. It also draws inspiration from mudras – symbolic hand gestures or marks, practiced frequently in Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism. 

The circle around the map represents circularity. This is a concept used by many environmental scientists as the key to reduce excess use and waste. 

Both the hand and circle can also be interpreted as the circle of life and the part we play in our choices or karma.

The choices of colour were based on the ancient ayurvedic natural elements: Yellow and Orange representing Fire. Blue for Water. Brown and Green for Earth and White for Air and Space.

What is Sustainability?

South Asia, a subregion of Asia, is made up of 8 countries – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and The Maldives. 

Home to one of the world’s earliest known civilisations; the Indus civilisation, South Asia is now one of the most densely populated regions on planet Earth.

Despite a history of ethnic, linguistic, religious and political fragmentation, there are common cultural and ethical outlooks; a wealth of ancient literature in Sanskrit, Prākrit, and hundreds of regional languages. There are also many shared rituals, customs and modes of worship, with music and dance at the centre of South Asian tradition and arts.

The main mountain ranges of South Asia include the Hindu Kush, the Karakoram Range, the Himalayas and the Eastern and Western Ghats. The main rivers include the Indus, Ganges (Ganga), Narmada and Brahmaputra.