Serving their first batch of crop-to-cup coffee in 2008 Marks coffee of Auroville has become a local landmark and winner of the 2022 aromatic brew & beanery award. Founded by Marc Tormo who arrived in Auroville in 1997, they now produce 12 tons of roasted coffee a year. Their holistic approach empowers the people it touches at all levels from farmers to drinkers without compromising the environment. Specially chosen beans from across India ensure a delicious brew every time, and sourcing directly from farmers helps to bolster producers’ income while maintaining ecological integrity and nurturing the communities that produce their coffee. In establishing a link directly from the producers to the consumers, and doing all roasting in-house Marc’s Coffee is able to ensure fair wages for the growers and hand-pick only the finest beans. All coffee purchased by Marcs Coffee is bought at premium prices. In line with the ethics of Auroville, all the coffee purchased is produced in a sustainable fashion. This is due to India’s coffee plants being entirely shade-grown instead of clearing forests for production, trees are actually encouraged for the shade they produce, allowing coffee groves to easily coincide with the native permaculture. One of the best examples of Marc’s selections is the Halli Barry estate, an estate run entirely by women. The business is a family affair, consisting of Marc, the owner, his wife, in charge of logistics, and their son, Eden, in charge of quality control for other places that use their product. Beyond the beans, the cafe also gives back to the village of Auroville. The cafe is a place of community and a regular hang-out for locals and travelers alike. The interior is built and furbished entirely with repurposed wood, and all of their accouterments are sourced from local artisans, nurturing the community that supports them. Another example of their dedication to community building is their sourcing of products for their delicious homemade baked goods, such as their eggs. They pay half of their year’s order in advance to allow farmers to produce the quantity they need without taking out loans which are usually at astronomical interest rates. The cafe is also staffed predominantly by members of surrounding villages. This brings income back to local communities that otherwise have few other options and shares the knowledge of food service and hospitality cultivated by Mark through his years in the F&B industry in Spain. In a new chapter of their project coffee is working towards educational opportunities and training of high-level baristas, something not widely available in India. In Marks’ philosophy, coffee brings people together, and is a source of community, it uplifts people in both its cultivation and consumption. In his own words “who would have thought all this could fit in a humble cup of coffee”
Tag Archives: India
After The Weeds: 6am in Auroville’s Buddha Garden
By Donatella Jackson
Is there a simpler therapy than sinking our fingers into rich soil and uprooting what prevents us from growing into our best selves? I arose early on Thursday morning, surrounded by air still heavy with mist, to weed the ground of what prevents its lasting success. Anticipating a rain that wouldn’t grace our skin until Christmas Sunday, the first gift to be opened by many, my bike cut through the fog from the Tibetan Pavilion to a garden rooted in the spirit of peace and giving. With morning gusts of wind gliding past my sunscreen-soaked cheeks, I was reminded of summers spent with my nose buried in tomatoes, slapping watermelons and pinching peaches, white sneakers meeting the caress of wet grass and suddenly when the gravel rocked my front wheels and I struggled to keep steady I hit the brakes.
Buddha Garden is the oasis that Octavia Butler dreamed of. A garden, curated with the intention of growing food with the awareness and love of community. Buddha Garden is the promise of life everlasting. Their produce is grown with the purpose of connecting and nourishing every part of our physical and spiritual being. How many gardens are conceived with the dream of food produced with the aim to nurture our loved ones and the earth that we receive it from?
Buddha Garden pledges sustainability by possessing everything it needs to grow food on its ten acres of land. They use three out of the ten beds in the garden to carry out smart water research that hopes to avoid overwatering and subsequent waste of water on crops. Paces away from abundant plant beds stand a chicken coop where surely eggs are harvested for the morning egg white omelet -a personal favorite- but the compost composed of the chicken waste is then repurposed into fertilizer for the very herbs that add the finishing touch to any meal.
For Buddha Garden, sustainability is about teaching and ensuring the value of farming so that the next generation is not only able to sustain themselves but that they become active participants in the maintenance of their ecosystem. It falls perfectly in line with UN SDG goals of zero hunger and responsible production and consumption. Sustainable gardening’s more than just an ethical practice, the prohibited use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides ensures the safety of local wildlife and the longevity of the ecosystem overall. The maintenance of healthy soil and vibrant plant life also prevents flooding in an area rocked by the monsoon season. This model of gardening is something to aspire to. As the world around us changes for the worst due to our own negligence, it is inspiring to appreciate a pocket of lush, green, hope where we emphasize being present in a system that values our added contribution rather than senseless extraction.
Sustainable gardening can also strengthen communities. By sharing produce with neighbors and participating in community gardens, you can build relationships and create a sense of community around healthy and sustainable food production, as we did.
Early this morning, my fingertips rooted themselves in the holes left by the weeds, and I laughed. I laughed as someone with exhaustion sitting heavy on my shoulders and wrapping its arms around my forehead, but also as someone who had finally laid on the couch after a long day away from home and put that child to rest. The soil beneath my nail bed had never known comfort like this and even when they were later scrubbed into oblivion, swirling down a drain alongside the element that breathes life into them and 70% of which flows through me, it was not a goodbye but a see you in the next field.
There is an unspoken romance… a poem – yet to be written-about giving a piece of yourself to a planet that has already given so much to you. I think that Buddha Garden captures that love story in a way I struggle to depict with words. What is love if not pouring the best of ourselves into something so that it may be returned to us ten-fold?
If there is anything to be taken away from this experience, it’s that to be in community with each other, we must first be in community with the ground that sustains us. To give to her is to give back to us, and her perseverance ensures our longevity.
By Donatella Jackson
Pondicherry is a city beaming with life, as vibrant as its architecture. Houses dressed in bright blues, bubblegum pinks, and lemon yellows provide a stark contrast to the dull grays and beiges of Paris, France. Pondy, a city of 877,00 people is located in the southeast coast of India, 3 hours from Chennai and 30 minutes from the city of dawn, Auroville. First occupied by the Portuguese in 1523 and then later by the French and the French East India Company, Pondy got its name from the French interpretation of “Puducherry”, pondi meaning new and chery meaning settlement. Replete with history and culture, Pondy’s main language is Tamil, one of the living classical languages with over 74 million speakers worldwide and with writings that can be traced back to as early as 3 BCE.
Despite its eclectic beauty and rich history, the city is marred by the pungent smell of slow-melting plastic waste left In untreated standing water. Waste management in Pondy is poor and as the Yatra Foundation demonstrated it is not solely an issue of lack of access to proper facilities, but it is also a lack of education and a distancing from historical cultural practices after colonization. 6% of India’s total population lacks access to safe water and 15% continues to practice open defecation. Additionally, there are more cell phones per household than there are toilets. In a society, where wastewater, sewage, fertilizer, pesticides, and industrial waste are some of the most common sources of water pollution, it also contributes to waterborne illnesses and death.
Since our arrival in Pondy, I’ve been fascinated with waste management and the apparent neglect of safe water practices. What I had thought was an over-exaggeration made by the Yatra foundation video was almost an underrepresentation of the sad reality of day-to-day life. After later visiting the Mohanam cultural center, I was almost surprised to learn that water was considered sanctimonious in Indian culture. Holding not only spiritual significance, but an intrinsic connection to Indian society and culture as notions of purity and pollution determine much of the caste-based social hierarchy, as well as who has access to clean water and who doesn’t.
Water, since the Vedic period, has been recognized as a spiritual symbol and a reflection of self through its connection to our physical and cosmic being. What then do polluted water sources say about how we view ourselves?
In visiting Sahodoran, I carefully stepped over mounds of plastic mixed with animal waste, observed chickens and their chicks scavenge for food amongst the rubbish, and stared in awe at plates of food that sat idly alongside standing water. In the context of this, I was taken with the concepts of liberation, access, representation, and what it means not just to be seen but to be acknowledged and then in time, hopefully, understood. We engaged in these conversations about transgender life in Pondy and the reality of the community turning a blind eye to your truth for years… seeing you but refusing to understand. I sat with that in the context of our current physical environment, surrounded by mounds of rubbish, behind a mote of polluted water, sitting inside a building that could be repossessed at any moment on the basis of intolerance and I questioned permanence and longevity as it corresponds to our identity and our surroundings.
I wondered then if it was even possible to conceptualize liberation and accessibility if the foundation that we use to construct our plans is unstable, inequitable, inaccessible, and ultimately dangerous to our health. What would it take for something to move beyond being seen and stand in acknowledgment?
There is so much beauty to behold here. So much life to fill your cup with and enough warmth to ensure that It overflows. There is enough art at every corner with the attention to detail of mathematicians, depicting the story of a culture that has lasted through the ages…
If that same attention to detail and warmth could only be applied to environmental education and reunification of the spirituality of water with a love for community and ourselves, it would not only ensure Pondy’s permanence and longevity but that of the people which make its colors so vibrant in the first place.
Eternal Divers Presentation
Eternal Divers is based just outside of the Auroville on the Bay of Bengal. The first thing we noticed as we approached the location is the beauty of the house, Eternity. Situated on the beach and surrounded by bush and sand, Eternity features a large, open patio that connects to the home and office of Jonas and Tracy of Eternal Drivers. Zeus, their grand Rottweiler greeted us with kisses and just a little bit of fur and slobber. The dog lovers amongst us were thrilled to meet him but we get situated quickly and open our hearts and ears to listen to “Joni” explain the mission of Eternal Divers and the issues that his team, Tracy and he are passionate about.
When Eternal divers first began, it was just another diving company and they wondered how to set themselves apart and make better use of their skills, talents and location. How to be a sustainable business and spread environmental concern and solutions is paramount for them. Yoni discussed something that caught his attention called “ghost nets” which are extremely concerning. A ghost net is a fishing net that has (most likely) become caught on something which makes it impossible for a fisherman to free it or has escaped the control of the fisherman and can’t be reeled back on to the boat. It is left behind, unattended and unchecked forever as it collects, catches and kills without consideration. In addition to the ghost nets, sewage, overfishing and erosion are all concerns for Joni and Tracy and their team. Joni told us that there is a visible line of sewage and ocean water and to help us understand just how detrimental ghost nets can be, he explained that ghost nets cause about 20, 000 US dollars loss per year. Nearby, a ghost net was discovered that had over 30 sharks caught in it and had been floating for what an estimated three years. Of course, nothing in a ghost net can be salvaged for food. It is just a true waste of resources.
Eternal Divers was enraged at the finding and asked us to consider what a tragedy this is when we reflect on the beauty and majesty of all the sea has to offer us. The pointless loss of life and the pollution caused by humans is unacceptable. Naturally, Eternal Divers found a way to expand the teaching and education of scuba and diving to the fisherman and villagers themselves to help them understand how precious their resources were and how carelessness could hurt their livelihood more than they had ever comprehend before.
We learned from them that what they are most proud of and would really like to continue, improve upon and increase the reach of is the education of the fisherman and villagers. Too many humans take the sea and all she has to offer for granted. What lies below the surface… or more importantly what is being harmed and killed off below the surface is unknown until we dive down and see for ourselves. All the incredible colorful life, both flora and fauna, are unseen, under-appreciated and unprotected. It is only through the education and the collaboration with locals that behavior change can occur. Seeing the deep for oneself may be the only way for many to understand what is at risk.
Within global communications, behavior change is the most challenging of all the goals. Behavior change, as in this instance, little to no money can be gained through the education of the locals. In fact, Eternal Divers may find that time and money are lost in their efforts; however, they feel that what India and the earth may gain is far more important if the sea and its life can be preserved through this tactic. The benefits of behavior change are often long-term rewards that seem less important in the moment. For example, a fisherman may be more concerned with how much money he can earn this week, as opposed to the concept that he may not be able to earn any money in a few years if the fish are either overfished or die off because of pollution.
Eternal Divers needs funding to help support the education of the locals, a strategic creative plan and social media revamping/attention, as well as social media viral campaign. I felt very strongly about joining their team and helping. The ocean and all the life in it and that it gives is incredibly important to me. Choosing my NGO was tough when I had to compare Eternal Divers to Marc’s Café, where I had so many ideas from the start, but I’ve loved hearing all about it from my classmate, Beatrice.
Mason listens to the Eternal Divers presentation.
A Day With Disposable Cameras
By: Beatriz Salgado
My day started out with the usual morning breakfast at Morgan’s, scrambled eggs with toast and milk coffee. Then, I went to the Matrimandir for the first time, one of the most intriguing experiences yet, but I’ll leave that for another blog entry.
I’ve had an idea for my personal project before I even left for India. Working with children in Brazil and establishing a genuine relationship was always something I felt passionate about. So, my idea was basically to get children to walk around Auroville and take photos of something, I hadn’t really thought about what that something was until I started volunteering at Wasteless. I mentioned my idea with Rihbu, the organization’s founder, and thought he could help. He really liked the idea and thought it could be great if the project complemented Wasteless’ new educational program kNOw PLASTICS. Together we decided the kids would take pictures of plastics. They were to think about where they got their plastics? How did they use plastics? And where they threw their plastics away?
I had already been to Aikiyam School the day before to observe the pilot testing for Wasteless’ new educational program, so I had met the principal of the school, Shankar and he said I could meet with the kids on Saturday afternoon. The next day, I got all my gear, which included three disposable cameras, a laptop, water bottle, my journal, and a charger and headed for Kulapalyum Road. While I waited for Shankar to confirm, I had a delicious lunch at Frites with my classmate Imani and later coffee and brownie at Marc’s café, an indispensable place to drink coffee while in Auroville.
Finally, I heard from Shankar and walked to Aikiyam School under the hot afternoon sun, not to mention it was winter. I went to the science room where the teacher and students were doing extracurricular work and waiting for my arrival. They usually have some activities during the weekends to keep the students busy. Before heading out for our photography exploration, I decided to talk to some of the students and interview them about plastics. Though they were a bit shy in the beginning, I was surprised by how much they knew about the issue.
To start our photography hunt, I divided them in groups, two girls, Deepa (13 years old), Roshini (13 years old) and two boys, Chandru (14 years old) and Chander (13 years old). Later, we met up with two other students, Arjun (13 years old) and Thiru (13 years old) who decided to join our expedition. I gave each group one disposable camera and explained to them the objective of taking the pictures.
The purpose of the assignment was to take photographs of plastics in their point of view by keeping in mind the three questions mentioned above. As soon as we stepped out of the school, they immediately started taking pictures of the waste they found right outside the school: plastic bottles, bags and even a CD! We walked along the main road and headed towards Kulapalyum village where the kids lived. As we strolled around, the students entered different shops and interacted with people explaining to them what they were doing and why they were taking photos of plastics. Then, we started heading to each of their homes. What was interesting to observe were the different perspectives they had on what was clean and dirty. One of the questions was if they thought where they lived was a little, medium or a lot dirty. Most of them answered little or medium and that it’s sometimes clean and sometimes dirty. I remember thinking, ok, so they live someplace decent. I was wrong though, what was surprising was their notion of somewhere clean turned out to be a completely different conception from my reality.
During the interview, they all answered that they threw their trash and plastics in dustbins in their homes and that they don’t throw waste on the streets. One student even said they separated organics from non-organics at his house and that after it was separated, the “people that do the duty comes to pick it up” (Arjun).
The small comfort that I did have, despite seeing those kids’ environment and their reality, was that they were still being kids and had so much fun taking photos with a simple disposable camera.
A Visual Insight Into a Sustainable Fashion Business
“I am Full of Hope for the Future”
Sustainable fashion designer Uma Prajapati talks about bloody cotton, high-speed trains and why she never wanted to become a business woman.
Uma Prajapati in her apartment in India. Image Credit: Mia Windisch-Graetz
January 7, 2016. 3:22 P.M. Auroville, South India.
“Hold on tight or you won’t survive,” I keep telling myself while sitting on the back of Uma Prajapati’s motorcycle. The rebellious driving style of the fashion designer and founder of Upasana clearly reflects her obstinate approach to her career path. We are on the way to her apartment, where I interview her over a cup of tea. Besides her impressive book collection, design furnishings and a kitchen everyone in their twenties can only dream about, it is her story that fascinates me.
MIA WINDISCH-GRAETZ Tell us about your career progression, where you studied, where you worked, who influenced you.
UMA PRAJAPATI After I finished my studies in economics in my hometown Bodh Gaya, I went to New Delhi. There I did my major in fashion design at the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) from which I graduated in 1994. Then, I worked two years for the European fashion market in Delhi. For a design project I came to Auroville in 1996. I remember I only had 2,000 rupees in my pocket, less than 30 euros. Actually, I was supposed to be there for two weeks but those weeks turned into years. And well, I ended up creating Upasana in 1997. Wow, it’s now been twenty years since I first got here.
MWG What does sustainable fashion mean to you?
It means to care. Once you start to care about people and the environment, the ways you make decisions will change. This twist in your mind comes naturally. The way you think changes. And your plans change. You really have to plan ahead to dodge around big conglomerates that only want to make profit.
MWG What inspired you to create Upasana?
UP A couple of things. A little more than ten years ago, thousands of cotton farmers in India committed suicide because of the rising costs of farming brought about by Monsanto. It has driven them to crippling debt. They felt they had no other choice. That really hit me. And change happens when it hits you. It doesn’t come easy but when you get hit and cry helplessly, that is when you find the change.
Since then it became very clear to me that fashion has to be sustainable. I worked in fashion and with cotton at this time. I had to live with that. I felt responsible for what happened. Many people in India pretend to not know what’s really going on. There is a seed mafia and farming communities are not well educated. I knew that everyone would just continue the way they work. Why is the world so unfair? Fashion is the second largest industry in the world. And it’s a really bloody business. When we started to work with cotton farmers in South India, it changed my life. What I could do to help these people? I had the choice to either write nasty articles and blame others, or I could just go ahead and change the way I work and consume. And that’s what I did. At first, it was hard but I realized that positive conversation has a far greater effect than negative conversation for a positive cause. I thought, Okay, I will give you fashion but I will make it my own way. I also wanted to create a space where young professionals from all over the world can come and explore Auroville through textiles and design.
Upasana Spring/Summer 2015 Collection. Image Credit: Upasana
MWG You said ‘a couple of things.’ What else hit you?
UP There was an old lady. I encountered her in a village where I was running a project to empower local weavers in South India. When I was sitting there, next to our car, about to go home again, she suddenly came over to me. She nudged me and asked: ‘Would you support us too?’ I did not expect that and just asked her: ‘What do you want me to do?’ She just wanted to work and earn a few rupees a day. This woman was about sixty and still had a dream. The dream of only earning a few rupees a day.
MWG How is Upasana a sustainable fashion brand?
UP We only use cotton from local farmers. Going organic was the biggest change we have ever made. The clothes are made by our seamstresses and tailors at Upasana. And we only use high quality, naturally dyed fabrics that are made in India.
Image Credit: Upasana
MWG Sounds very costly… Between ourselves, does it pay off?
UP To be honest, it really broke us financially. We did not realize how badly it would hit our business. I did it all wrong. I jumped in blindly. If I had known how difficult it would all be, I would have done things differently. Instead of taking a leap of faith I might have taken baby steps in the right direction. Despite everything, I am very proud of that move.
MWG Why did you choose fashion as your medium for social change?
UP Because I didn’t know anything else. If I had known music I would have used music. If I were a writer I would’ve used writing…
MWG Every project you have started so far has been very successful. You launched a concept store in Pondicherry and sell your clothes throughout India. You give TED talks, CNN reported about you, and local designers as well as people from all over the world come to work with you. Was starting your own business always a dream of yours?
UP No. I never wanted to start my own business. I wanted to be an artist. Even as a child I was obsessed with painting and writing poetry. It was clear to me that I wanted to become a painter or a writer. I knew myself well enough to know that I wouldn’t be able to make money. Making money didn’t interest me at all. But then I came to Auroville and well, look at me now. I don’t know why, but something in me accepted that I am a business lady now. It took me a long time to digest that.
MWG What keeps you doing all of this?
UP I love the community. Many people appreciate us for what we do, for being consistent and for actually doing what we truly believe in. Bringing a sense of value in the fashion industry is what I am very proud of. I have a good night’s sleep, you know. And I am really grateful for all the support we get.
Image Credit: Upasana
MWG Did other girls you were growing up with have the same opportunities as you had?
UP Wow, that’s a very serious question. I can’t speak for other girls. I can just say that you have to jump at every opportunity life offers you. I just did it. When you keep on asking yourself questions like ‘Is it the right time? Can I? May I? Will I?’ and never risk anything, then you might risk that there might be no more chance. And the opportunity will be gone forever. Sometimes we just have to make decisions and act. I can think of so many girls in my class that had the exact same opportunities as I had but few put them into practice.
MWG Do you think people consciously ignore the work that goes into what they buy?
UP We are living in a high speed train. Everything is so fast. Now you are relaxing and listening to me, but as soon as the interview is over, you will go back into the train. The speed of life is accelerating and the demands to our flexibility are constantly rising. Sometimes we manage to communicate through three technical devices at the same time. Everyone is on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp. And we are expected to respond within seconds. There is such an overload of information. The question is, How do we process all of that? Our attention is limited. Being quiet enough to make a conscious choice is very hard nowadays.
I personally need to mediate and do yoga for at least thirty minutes a day. It is challenging to make a conscious choice in times like these. When we hear that Africa suffers we say ‘Ah, that’s horrible!’ but a few seconds later, we forget about it because we get a Whatsapp message from a friend or see a funny post on Facebook. News touch our brain cells for just a few seconds and only a moment later, they do not exist any more. Because we have other problems. Because we do not feel responsible and don’t have time. I think that many people simply don’t know that the consumer has the power to make a conscious choice and change the world. So I would not blame anyone.
MWG Do you think that peopleʼs values regarding sustainability have changed in recent years?
UP Yes. Education is definitely changing people’s values more and more. Sustainability has never been such a big topic. It matters to us, our children and next generations. I am full of hope for the future! I am very, very hopeful.
Image Credit: Upasana.
MWG Will they ever have the potential to compete with big fast fashion conglomerates such as H&M or Zara?
UP There will always be a market for both, as they address different target groups and meet different individual needs. I am sure that there will be more of a change but I can’t predict to what extent. There will certainly always be a place for people who want to promote an ethical lifestyle. Niche markets will always exist and find people who support them.
MWG In 2012 the second largest fast fashion retailer H&M launched its first conscious collection. Could sustainable fashion finally be going mainstream?
UP Not really. This idea sounds kind of utopian to me. We should see the world in many shades of grey. Nobody is perfect. And diversity is a beautiful thing. Let’s stay optimistic and say that although big companies will always exist, they may change their ways in order to become more successful in the coming years. People start to think differently, even if only at a slow pace.
MWG You are already working with many organizations and designers in India. Are there any other organizations or designers in your mind that you would like to work with?
UP I am impressed how big the ethical fashion market in Europe is. I would like to work with the European sustainable design market.
MWG Which social development project are you most proud of?
UP The little Tsunamika doll is still our most successful project. She is a darling. She is more than a living symbol. She is hope. She is love. It is impressive what a huge impact a small doll like her can have on people all over the world. In 2004, I wanted to help people who were affected by the devastation of the tsunami. So I employed women to make female dolls that are made of recycled waste that remained of the devastation. The doll cannot be bought or sold but only gifted. More than six million of them made it to eighty countries across the globe. And the Tsunamika story is told in schools ranging from Spain to Singapore.
The Tsunamika dolls. Image Credit: Mia Windisch-Graetz
MWG Where do you see Upasana in the next five years?
UP Upasana has already inspired many students, organizations, designers, brands and people. We will just keep on designing for change. I want to do as many things as possible: Going international without going too crazy and breaking our neck, keep being financially sound and take baby steps to reach our goals. I see Upasana as a shining star.
Towards the end of the interview, the fashion designer suddenly jumped off the couch. Apparently, she was no longer in the mood to answer questions. “Let’s have more tea. We need a break.” After she persuaded me to try some vegan honey nut balls, (Prajapati’s lactose intolerance means one cannot find any diary products in the household), she offered me a ride back to my hostel for the night. Once I arrived, I posted a photo on Instagram and did some work for university while I kept my friends updated on Whatsapp. She was right. I was back. Back on that high-speed train.
By Mia Windisch-Graetz
The Impossible is Possible
By Mia Windisch-Graetz
Three dead bodies carried away by a bunch of six-legged murderers – in India one can have interesting encounters in the bathroom. I will never forget the moment when I discovered an ant colony that evidently split into three small groups in order to carry away three (still living) wasps. Attracted by the light in the sanitary facility, the wasps apparently got tired and while having a rest, they offered the perfect opportunity for an ambush attack by a hungry ant family.
(Unfortunately, one can’t embed a video, so WATCH it HERE)
Without a doubt, an ant alone has no chance to defeat a wasp, but their teamwork as well as their extraordinary communication skills make them invincible.
Ants are considered as one of the best communicators among all beings worldwide: The lone ant follows the path marked earlier by her companions. Along the way, if it stumbles into a giant wasp that would feed many in their family, it releases a complex cocktail of chemicals to summon reinforcements which soon arrive. Not only do they know how to find the hunt, but they also bring the necessary tools and personnel to kill the wasp and bring the body back to their nest.
It sounds scary but is indeed clever: The ants’ efficiency at foraging has even inspired business and computer problem–solvers, who are looking for new techniques to come up with quality answers in the quickest time.
However, the wasp itself was never regarded as a problem. Instead, they transformed the ‘problem’ into a solution from the start. We should consider these brilliant little beings in the bathroom as role models. By transforming waste, ‘the problem’, into something useful through recycling, we kind of already did. Also, by creating communities, such as Auroville, that unifies people with similar aspirations in order to change the world and make it a more sustainable place, we kind of already did.
Furthermore, this encounter reminded me of our group: How they carry something big together, they move things together, solve problems together, think and act collectively, help and support each other.
Let’s do it the anty way and make the seemingly impossible possible. Let’s move things together that seem to be too big for an individual to carry. Let’s fight together against these waspish wasps, no matter if they are called Monsanto, pollution or waste.
A Visual Throw Back
By Mia Windisch-Graetz
It’s been a week now since our arrival in Paris and apart from that little sun burn on the nose and a bunch of insider jokes, especially one thing remains: memories. Memories from a life-changing experience in India we will be telling our children about one day. No matter if they are in our mind or on the SD card of our reflex camera: we will keep them forever.
The slideshow below features some pictures I took during this amazing journey. Tip: You can also listen to some Bollywood classics to get even more into the Indian mood while watching.
Same same but different but still same. Or would you rather call it different different but same but still different? Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the visual throw back to a world different but ‘same enough’ to call it our own.
Nandri et bisou
‘We just can’t’
Two toilet paper rolls, six dresses, twenty-seven cold showers, no laundry load (hand-wash only), and 1.5 Gigabytes of internet. – All in one month. If you had told me that I would be able to ‘survive‘ this way before I left Paris, I never would have believed you.
Right after our arrival at the Chennai airport we went to a restaurant where we did not only have our first ‘real Indian‘ dinner but were also confronted with a ‘real Indian toilet’ for the first time. As soon as you entered the bathroom, the hygiene standards were not the same as we are used to back in Europe because there was no toilet paper instead you could only find a dirty bucket. Some of us went, while others kept saying ‘I just can’t, and waited until they arrived at the hostel. On the bus, some of us were dying to go to the loo because our bladders were about to explode.
Toilet, bed, toilet, bed. – While everyone was out and about visiting NGOs, I was running back and forth from my room to the toilet. Suddenly, I realized that the toilet paper was all gone, which gave me no other choice but to use my hands and a bucket. And guess what: it was not too bad.
When we found out that the washing machine broke down at our hostel, I asked myself: am I going to wear the same dirty clothes all week? Consequently, we had no other option than to hand wash our towels, dresses and underwear.
During our stay in Auroville, the most problematic issue was that internet was almost non existent. Thus, we had difficulties communicating with our families, friends abroad, students from our group and the NGOS we were working for.
This month was not about sitting in a classroom and learning about sustainable development from the books. We were actually living, breathing and talking sustainably. The problems we were confronted with lead us to find more sustainable solutions.
A question we could all ask ourselves after this month: how much toilet paper, water and energy did we actually save here?
By asking several students and according to the data I gathered from doing some research I found out that our group saved 38 toilet paper rolls composed of 38,000 sheets of toilet paper, which is equivalent to about 2 miles. Moreover, a standard toilet uses about 3.5 gallons of water per flush, a low-flow toilet uses 1.6 gallons whereas for squatting toilets only 0.21 gallons are needed. With the average person flushing about 8 times a day, (not accounting for the people who had diarrhea) we saved approximately 13 502.16 litres of water in total or the equivalent of a swimming pool.
Considering that none of us used a blow dryer or a washing machine, and as we were mostly cycling around with our bikes, we saved a great amount of renewable energy as well.
What will happen when we get back to Paris? Will we ever able to continue the ‘Aurovillian lifestyle?’ – This month, we made it happen, so the answer is: Yes we can.
by Mia Windisch-Graetz