At Goa’s First All-purpose Zero-Waste Store, You Can Buy Anything Without Plastic & Other Wasteful Packaging

Image Credits: Ecoposro

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Born and brought up amidst the tropical freshness of Goa, childhood friends Jonah and Elridge were noticing their beautiful land gradually turning into a garbage dump yard, courtesy the unplanned waste management and eco-’unfriendly’ lifestyle of the residents. Like the rest of the urban spectrum of India, Goans were also opting for a fast-paced lifestyle, befriending the indispensable ‘plastic’ in every walk of life. Jonah, the owner of a guest house and Eldridge, a restaurateur, had always been environmentally conscious. They noticed how their businesses are leaving behind a trail of plastic bottles, bags and non-biodegradable trash.

To compensate, both of them started organising clean-up drives in their town, Siolim and individually adopted a zero-waste lifestyle. For bringing more people into a greener domain, the two friends started Ecoposro, which is Goa’s first zero-waste all-purpose store. “Ecoposro”, (‘posro’ meaning a ‘small local shop’ in Konkani) is a place where anyone could conveniently shop for everything under one roof, without plastic and other wasteful packagings,” said Jonah.

You won’t find any trace of plastic at Ecoposro

How it all started

“When we decided to go zero-waste, we realised the how difficult it was to discard plastic packaging and procure quality goods. Suppose if we need ten items without plastic, we have to visit five different stores – which motivated us more to launch our own zero-waste initiative,” narrates Jonah.

Started in April 2018, Ecoposro has already become a favourite among the locals, who have personally witnessed the benefits of shopping from a zero-waste store.

Ecoposro

“When our customers happily exclaim that now they need to take out the trash only once in three weeks, we feel proud about doing our bit for the planet,” gleams Jonah. “Personally, Eldridge and I have seen our waste reduce by 75% in just a few months,’’ he adds.

How Ecoposro works

The fact that distinguishes Ecoposro from other ‘green’ commercial ventures is that here the owners strictly adhere to the zero-waste policy – right from procuring the raw materials to delivering them to the customers.

Coordinating with local vendors and farmers, Ecoposro requests them to avoid plastic during production. They bring the materials to the shop in gunny bags, jute sacks and reusable tin containers; and arrange them on the shelves in beautiful glass jars or coconut bowls. The customers are encouraged to bring their own paper or cloth bags. Else they are offered recyclable glass jars or paper packs to carry the groceries home.

“All we had to do was think back to the times of how our grandparents went shopping. They took their own containers to the shops, and the rest was wrapped in paper or cloth. And this is exactly what we are trying to bring back,’’ explains Jonah.

What Ecoposro offers

From everyday household essentials like grains, spices, cooking oils, and even local produce like coconut vinegar, rock salt and jaggery to milk and other dairy products, local eggs and bread, Ecoposro will take care of all your basic grocery needs. They also have a section of zero waste detergents, cleaners and toiletries like handmade soaps, toothbrushes, toothpaste, toilet paper, cloth sanitary pads etc. Naturally made organic cosmetic items have also found a place in Ecoposro. “Other than household items, we keep steel tiffins, copper water bottles and a few stationary items made from recycled paper and tetra pack,” Jonah enlists, detailing how a zero-waste store can actually substitute conventional departmental stores.

The vegetables sold at Ecoposro deserve a special mention as they are completely organically farmed by local organic farming enthusiasts – with zero chemical fertilisers and pesticides. Creating environmental awareness actually underlines all the purchases made at Ecoposro.

Different vegetables in the store

The response from the residents

The duo has received an overwhelming response from the locals which translates to be their primary motivating factor. From turning towards a zero-trash lifestyle to frequenting their clean-up campaigns, the Goans have welcomed the Ecoposro way of life warm-heartedly.

Ditching plastic is a bigger challenge than it sounds

Plastic is synonymous with our lives today. Cheap, durable, water-proof, convenient and readily available – it is hard to deny that plastic helps to keep grocery products fresh for a long time. So, initially, Jonah and Eldridge kept on losing their stocks of rice, pulses and grains due to moisture spoilage in the absence of an alternative preservation method. They sought help from senior citizens, who were accustomed to living plastic-free in older days.

Preservation is done right the traditional way

“For example, we learnt from our grandparents that chunks of ‘hing’ (asafoetida) could keep rice fresh and fragrant for around a year. You will find the revival of several other traditional methods of preservation at Ecoposro,” Jonah reveals.

Plans on the cards

Ecoposro has already fuelled the flourishing of an organic market in and around the Parra village, where small-scale local producers set up stalls and interact with the customers. The founders aim to create a sustainable community which has little dependence on environmentally unhealthy practices. A permaculture farm is also coming up just opposite the shop.

Permaculture vegetable garden

The devoted founders also dream of a cosy restaurant where people will be encouraged to prepare their family recipes and share those delicacies with the community.

Message for everyone

“According to statistics, by 2050, which is in 32 years, there is said to be more plastic in the sea than fish. We will be 60 years old when this happens. We don’t want this to become a reality,” Jonah shares.

“Alternatives such as glass and paper both have restrictions such as weight and strength respectively, but if we are not ready to carry home a heavier bag for the sake of the environment, then we need to reconsider our priorities seriously,’’ he adds.

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MyStory: “Two Months After I Joined IIT For My PhD I Was Diagnosed With TB”

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A person suffering from Tuberculosis (TB) not only battles the ‘Mycobacterium tuberculosis’ bacteria inside his lungs but also from the stigma attached to the disease. It weakens the patients in many different ways in their fight against the dreaded disease.  

My fight with TB was also filled with stigma. I joined IIT Kharagpur for my PhD in January 2015. Two months later, in March 2015, I was diagnosed with TB. I had to take sick leave from March 2015 that eventually lasted till June 2016. Initially, I did not respond well to medication. Further tests revealed that I had multidrug-resistant TB (MDR TB). This meant that the type of TB I had was resistant to two or more of the antitubercular medication I was taking.

About a year after the intensive phase of my treatment, I felt better and applied for readmission to IIT in July 2016. A prerequisite for rejoining was that my faculty members had to verify my application. With the formalities completed, I resumed my education, but I felt that something was amiss. 

My guide indicated that he did not want his work to suffer on account of my illness. I also heard from a senior colleague that my guide had said that I would spread the disease like an ‘infested animal’. I was disheartened at being subjected to this indignity by my supposed mentor.

However, my primary concern was defeating TB, so I didn’t dwell on it. Today, as I reflect on it, I realise the reasons behind the stigma were ignorance as well as fear.

Even among the educated, there are misconceptions about TB. People think all forms of TB are contagious. Others believe the patient is infectious for the entire length of the treatment. Some even believe that TB spreads through touch. This breeds the fear of contracting the illness.

As we know, people stigmatise and discriminate when they fear. I felt the impact of the stigma on two levels – in my professional life and my personal life.

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Professionally, the reluctance of my supervisor to mentor me and his discouragement affected me. I could not decide whether I should wait for the IIT authorities to tell me to leave or drop out. That decision was made for me by luck when I found out that my CSIR grant application was never processed. 

This meant that I would have to pay for my education. Given the expenditure on my treatment, this was unaffordable for me. This was the final nail in the coffin. I was forced to drop out and could not go back to completing my PhD.

What I faced was not technically illegal. I was discouraged from doing my PhD, but it was still a form of stigma. The external stigma I faced led to depression and isolation. 

Eventually, I realised I had to fight. The treatment for TB is difficult, requiring strict compliance and the management of side effects, and these demands resolve. I began motivating myself. I began following a proper diet and completing my treatment to ensure I could recover. I also turned to books as they transported me to other worlds and helped with my isolation. I also focused on reviving my old relationships.

Gradually, things improved. I could not proceed on my desired career path, but I am an educator now. I constantly realise that I have a role to play in shaping young minds. 

Workplace stigma has tangible consequences. It affects an individual’s career, financial opportunities and their right to work with dignity. So what can we do to address this stigma? 

First, we need to sensitise people by educating them about TB, and the impact stigma has on patients.

Another measure is group counselling involving the patient, the employer and the immediate supervisor. Informal versions of these sessions happen in the workplace in the context of illnesses like cancer. Why should it be any different for TB? 

The goal of this session would be to ensure that the patient is in a supportive environment. 

Finally, at a systemic level, there needs to be a workplace policy on stigma mitigation and a mechanism where the patients can anonymously register their concerns about stigma at the workplace.

A person’s career or job is often their calling and a provider of financial security. Workplace stigma creates a hostile work environment, affecting a person’s ability to do their job and their financial security. Financial insecurity and stigma make it harder for the patient to fight TB both in terms of means and motivation. Therefore, addressing stigma in the workplace is critical to patient well-being and recovery but also to their right to work with dignity.

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It's not how much we give
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- Mother Theresa Quote
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