Words like ‘eco-friendly ’, ‘eco-fashion’ and ‘environmental cause’ are well on their way to being some of the most used and misused words of the 21st century. But if people like Vimlendu Jha continue to ideate, execute and be honest to their cause, then the silver lining in the darkness of all things ‘trendy & fake’ just might be bright enough to blind all.
Vimlendu is a ‘Greentrepreneur’ and a youth leader who heads the Delhi based youth and environment organisation ‘Swechha’. Swechha was conceptualised to fight the dirtying of the Yamuna River and to bring about active youth involvement in issues related to the environment. What started as a niche movement has now expanded its wings into many a worthy ventures and causes; Green The Gap being one such initiative, which has recently open its lifestyle store in Bandra, Mumbai.
‘I made a couple of documentaries titled ‘Disposable’ and ‘Wasted’ on the waste management issues in the country and in particular in Delhi. During the making of the movie I came across the plight of the rag-pickers and that inspired me to do something new; to give waste another life,’ says Vimlendu when asked about the thought behind Green The Gap.
‘Green the Gap is all about Upcycling,’ continues Vimlendu, ‘In the manufacturing stage, we follow three steps: designing the product, choosing the waste material to be used and sourcing of the raw material. Then we turn discarded, wasted items into usable and beautiful bags, wallets, etc. The aim here is to create items that can be used by ordinary citizens like you and me and to discard the stigma associated with products made out of waste.’
As I listen with rapt attention, Vimlendu talks eloquently about what Green the Gap is out there to achieve, ‘Our positioning is two-forked. On one hand we want to focus on sustainability– to make landfills smaller, dustbins lighter. On the other hand, through this initiative we want to provide livelihood to the people who work in this industry; to ensure that the rag-pickers get paid their fair share, to provide employment opportunities to skilled labour and so on.’
Moving closer to home, I ask Vimlendu about the Mumbai store and he is quick to add, ‘The Mumbai store just came together in no time. I had this desire, for a while, to expand in other cities. As luck would have it, as I was casually walking in and around Bandra, I came across a garage cum burqa shop that lay vacant. I decided to turn this place around and within six days we had the store open and running.’
SIX DAYS? *wide-eyed-open-mouthed*
By now I am acutely aware of my lack of involvement in the environmental cause and just when I am about to hide my face in shame, the cynic in me rises. ‘Of course it is difficult to get people to spend money on what they see simply as ‘waste’,’ says Vimlendu nonchalantly. ‘But we are here for the long haul and with proper branding and story-telling we hopefully will succeed in tweaking perspectives and getting people to embrace beautiful products, no matter their origin.’ The cynic in me is sure silenced by that response.
As I wrap up this interview write-up, I am all set to dash to the store and indulge in some retail therapy. And this exercise, I am sure, won’t be a waste.