Anaswara shares her gardening journey: From Houseplant Defeat to U-Pick Farm Victory
I am grateful for the opportunity to share about my 50 year gardening journey with you. It culminated in the creation of Turtle Barn Organic Picking Farm.
My journey began in my 20’s when I couldn’t keep house plants alive. I was really over mothering them with too much water. This was my first lesson in gardening; a little benign neglect could help plants roots grow stronger. A plant’s life may begin in a sheltered greenhouse, yet our goal is to support plants thriving in the wilds of our gardens. Overly sheltered plants develop weak stems and are prone to disease. We want to harden them off so they become strong enough to endure cold and wind.
My backyard produce garden began when I was in my 30’s. I came back from a Llama Foundation Retreat in New Mexico with a “garden calling”. I found myself in Llama’s magical gardens every spare moment I had. When I returned home, I built two 8 by 16 foot raised beds and planted them chock full of vegetables. By the next year, I had converted the rest of our small backyard into vegetable beds and created many herb beds in the front yard. This was the start of something big to come in the future!
When I was in my 40’s, I was so blessed to meet Amma and did a lot of Seva in Amma’s San Ramon, California Center newly started produce gardens in the early 1990’s. I felt Amma graced me with a full-blown gardening transmission. My desire to grow food, care for plants, and share nature with families grew stronger each year I helped in Amma’s amazing Ashram Garden.
When my husband’s environmental career moved us to a new city, we bought a home on a 1 ½ acre lot and created our farm, Turtle Barn Organic Picking Farm. We started turning our Bermuda grass yard into a vegetable and herb garden and planted fruit trees.
One of the parents asked me if I gave farm tours. It sounded like fun, so she brought her Girl Scout Troop for a tour at our farm. All the parents and children wanted to pick produce.They were excited to discover their favorite foods growing and be able to pick them. This farm tour gave birth to our picking farm. We started with 6 families and grew quickly to 15. I guess it was an idea whose time had come for me.
Soon, we had so much surplus produce that I decided to be a vendor at our local Farmers Market. Many of my friends enjoy being vendors, but I did not. I brought a turtle puppet to the market and had fun playing with all the children who came to my booth.
On an Organic picking farm people come to the farm and harvest their own produce. They pay for a year in advance which gives the farmer money to buy seed and hire farm help to care for the plants and soil. Our families love giving their children the experience of seeing how food grows and picking their own food. They love spending time in nature as well.
An organic picking farm can also be done on a smaller scale. If your home’s backyard has only a few produce beds, you could start with one or two friends as your pickers. Or, 3 friends could join and each grow a different crop in their small backyards to share with the other two friends. One could grow produce, the second herbs and berries, and the third fruit trees. All sorts of growing combinations are possible. There are all sorts of possibilities when we are inspired by Amma’s guidance to grow our own food and create community.
Turtle Barn Organic Farm has received much publicity for what is considered an innovative farming approach. Below are some of the news articles, links, and a video about the farm. We hope these will show you possibilities and inspire you to take your next step in your gardening journey.
“Amma has encouraged everyone to preserve traditional and native seed varieties as a way to deepen our connection with nature and strengthen the diversity and stability of our food systems.” -Amritapuri.org
Good seeds are more valuable than gold. Even if we have all the gold in the world, we can’t eat it. Amma has been suggesting we grow vegetables for several years. Many people started small garden plots in their yards. One of the most important requirements for a garden is good seeds. Farmers and gardeners of the past saved and even bred their own seeds. Today good seeds are harder come to by. Understanding general seed terms and using discernment to obtain seeds helps us to find good seeds. Then, by saving and sharing seeds, we can help bring back seed saving traditions and preserve crop diversity. We can even help develop seeds that thrive in our changing climates!
Neighbors often traded seeds adding to the genetic diversity and strength of the plants.
A LIVING TRADITION
To begin understanding seeds, we need to understand a little bit about the history of seed preservation. The worldwide tradition of seed saving gave us the multitude of grains and vegetables we grow today. Historically, farmers selected seeds from the most vigorous and healthy plants for the next year’s crop. They carefully chose plants for desired traits like vitality, productivity, flavor, and disease resistance. Neighbors often traded seeds adding to the genic diversity and strength of the plants.
Over time the plants adjusted to local soil, pests, diseases and climate. If a new disease came or the weather pattern changed drastically, someone in the village likely had a variety that was unaffected. Repeated cross-pollination of the survivor with other strains added new features to the genes of these plants. Together plants and humans created a wide and varied gene pool – a shared insurance that some seeds would survive despite environmental threats.
OPEN POLLINATED SEEDS
Migrating peoples brought their most cherished seeds with them to their new homes. Centuries later many of these varieties still thrive. In this way, people all over the world selected and bred increasingly resilient open pollinated seed strains.
Open-pollinated seeds are naturally pollinated by insects, wind, birds, and animals passing pollen from plant to plant. These seeds are a treasure house of immensely varied genetic material – adopted and selected over generations for diverse needs in every growing condition. Open pollinated seeds are good seeds.
In our modern world of climate change and increasing pollution, seeds born of a time-tested gene pool may become the key to survival for future generations. Preserving this treasure house of adaptability should be a top global priority.
“Animals, plants, and trees all contribute to the harmony of nature. It is man’s duty to protect and preserve them.” Amma, PURITY (2007), Part 1, Amma’s Birthday Message 1993, Center for Training the Mind
THE LOSS OF ADAPTABLE SEED STRAINS
In recent times, there is an unprecedented loss of seed varieties. During the past 60 years many traditional country markets and local grocery stores have been replaced by supermarket chains. Crops are bred for storage and easy marketing rather than flavor, nutrition and resiliency. Many small seed companies were swallowed up by larger seed-breeding facilities. These larger facilities could afford the research and specialized equipment to develop new strains for these new demands. Many larger companies were taken over by multinationals whose primary interest was often manufacturing chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Now just four companies, dominated by Bayer (bought Monsanto), Corteva (a new firm created as a result of the Dow–DuPont merger) and rounded out with ChemChina and BASF control more than 60 percent of global proprietary seed sales. Strong and naturally resistant seed strains of the past are of little interest and even detrimental to the business of these companies.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimated that 75% of crop diversity was lost between 1900 and 2000. This is due to the diminishing use of traditional crops, massive consolidation of seed producers, and large-scale planting of genetically modified crops. It is estimated that 90% of agricultural varieties are no longer available. Farmers and home growers are left with a rapidly diminishing seed pool to draw from. For example, India had nearly 110,000 varieties of rice until 1970. Now only 6,000 – about 5% – of these rice varieties survive. This loss of our diverse genetic seed heritage endangers the world food supply and poses a great threat to the modern world.
To reset the balance on the behalf of seeds, we can gear our seed search towards preserving heirloom seeds. Heirloom seeds stand as pinnacles from the hard work of generations of farmers. These seeds are passed down for generations through families or communities unaltered for 50 to 100+ years. Heirloom seeds are open pollinated and hold their parent’s traits which is referred to as being true to type. They are priceless gems in the world of seeds.
“Take care of the seeds and they will take care of you.” -Rowan White, founder of Sierra Seeds
Hybrid seeds are commonly formed by natural or manual cross pollination of different varieties or species of plants. When these plants grow and bear their own seeds they are call hybrid seeds. If you save hybrid seeds, you can’t guarantee the seed traits will be replicated like an heirloom seed. Hybrid seeds are not stable – some seeds may be infertile; most will not produce seeds like the parent (true to type) but revert back to the grandparent seed qualities.
Over time, gardeners and farmers found certain plants to produce great hybrid offspring that have the best characteristics of both parents such as taste, insect, disease or drought resistance. They worked for years to develop stable seeds with these qualities. This is how heirloom seeds are born.
On the other hand, commercial hybrid and Genetically Modified (GM) seeds stand in stark contrast to traditional open-pollinated stable seeds. Corporations invested huge amounts of money in seed research and development of hybrid seeds. The first-generation seed often displays a strong growth known as hybrid vigor. But these Hybrid seeds cannot produce the same standard of plant again when re-sown. Most commercial seed producers find it easier just to produce a new crop of the first generation hybrid from the two parents every year rather than take the time to develop stable seeds. Additionally, many commercial hybrids have parents that are highly inbred which makes them very weak plants. They become easily diseased and attacked by insects. These hybrid seeds often depend on chemical fertilizers and pesticides to grow. Many commercial hybrid seeds are patented, making it illegal to save seeds without permission or payment to the seed producer. Unfortunately, it is often these commercial hybridized varieties that are available in garden shops around the world.
GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organism. Genetically modified seeds are GMO’s. They were introduced into agriculture in 1990’s. GMO’s are made by inserting genetic and other materials from one species or substance into the genetic material of another. This material is inserted into the plants in a way that could never occur in nature or in traditional crossbreeding. The genetic material is chosen for specific qualities from an animal, plant, bacteria, virus or chemical that yield desired results such as increased shelf life and improved harvests in the altered plants. It is important to note that in order to improve harvests, GMO crops are bred to withstand being sprayed by herbicides and pesticides. The chemicals sprayed onto the plants soak into the leaves, stems and seeds. Thus, these chemicals enter our bodies when we eat the vegetables from these plants.
Additionally, GMO seeds float in the wind threatening the purity of seeds everywhere through unwanted cross-pollination. When it comes to seed saving, this cross pollination becomes a big issue. GMO seeds are patented and often must be licensed for use; it is illegal to save seed for use the next season or even research their impact without corporate permission. Some GMO seeds yield plants that have sterile seeds; this could be a problem when they cross pollinate causing other plants to also have sterile seeds. Additionally, GMO seeds and their accompanying herbicides and pesticides have harmful impacts on soil health, beneficial insects such as bees and butterflies and other harmful impacts.
When you look at the issues seeds are up against it can seem overwhelming. But simple life affirming acts can make a huge difference!
Organic refers to a specific way plants and seeds are grown. To earn this label, they must be raised and processed in accordance with the USDA’s National Organic Program. Organic seeds are grown without chemical herbicides, pesticides or genetic alteration. GMO seeds are not organic seeds. Try to avoid buying conventional or hybrid seeds. Unless seeds are specifically labeled organic, there is a good chance that they may be have been chemically treated. We recommend purchasing organic, open pollinated, heirloom seeds whenever possible.
BE PART OF THE SOLUTION
When you look at the issues seeds are up against it can seem overwhelming. But simple life affirming acts can make a huge difference! Planting, saving and sharing seeds is easy and fun!
Home gardeners around the world have kept traditional vegetable varieties in cultivation. These backyard seed savers are the guardians of a huge store of genetic diversity. Their home saved varieties may have preserved the right genes for dealing with the challenges of our rapidly changing world – tolerance for drought and extreme weather, resistance to diseases, and more.
“Every seed we plant is a tiny loving prayer in action.” -Rowan White, founder of Sierra Seeds
You can become one of them! Buy one package of organic, open pollinated heirloom seeds and you are on the road. Just like that – you are now supporting people engaged in seed saving and seed diversity. Then plant the seeds, even in pots if you don’t have space. Suddenly you are caring for a living being and believe me, life begins to open up. Before you know it the bees, along with a host of other creatures show up. Maybe you’ll have too much lettuce so you share with a friend who has too many beets, so you trade. You grow some flowers and neighbors you never knew stop to talk. Even if you can’t save seeds, plants will do the job. Plants are brilliant at going to seed – many will seed themselves and grow again without your help. You’ll make new friends as you give away your abundant plants and seeds! As time goes on, you’ll wonder who grows more – me or the seeds?
Seed saving and sharing have always been and will always be a vital part of the cultural fiber of community. They are integral for any goal of local food sustainability. Seed saving is a necessity to secure our earth’s magnificent and precious biodiversity. Let us honor this vital responsibility. Plant a seed and begin to make an offering to the future generations of plants and humans in the world.
LET’S GET STARTED!
Winter and Spring
Do some research. Check your local co-op, garden stores, etc. for organic, open pollinated heirloom seed companies. These will have seeds most likely adapted to your climate and soil conditions. My hometown, Port Townsend, WA, now has about 3 small local organic heirloom seed companies! Talk to neighbors and friends who save seeds. Check out seed companies that sell organic, open pollinated heirloom seeds online (several are listed in the resource section). Get some good seeds.
Summer and Fall
If you have a garden, pick a few vegetables or flowers you want to save seeds from. Flowers are an easy way to start. Do a bit of online research and save a few seeds (seed saving info is listed in the resource section). Trade seeds with friends and neighbors. Attend a local seed exchange.
If you are ready to start your seed saving journey, Amritaculture is now offering a seed saving course! Join with fellow devotees and learn how to save seeds.
Thanks to Green Friend’s Lets Grow Seeds for lots of the info in this article.
Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties: The Gardener’s and Farmer’s Guide to Plant Breeding and Seed Saving, 2nd ed. Deppe, Carol. (2000). Chelsea Green Publishing Thorough, readable book detailing all aspects of seed selection and breeding techniques for creating your own new varieties.
The Resilient Gardener: Food Production and Self-Reliance in Uncertain Times. Deppe, Carol. (2010). Chelsea Green Publishing Great info for any gardener in uncertain times!
Lets Grow Seeds. Green Friends. (2014). Mata Amritanandamayi Mission Trust. A great starter guide to saving seeds, lots of pictures!
Braiding Sweetgrass, Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants. Kimmerer, Robin Wall. (2013). Milkweed Editions. Fantastic book weaving botany, ecology and indigenous wisdom in a world view grounded in reciprocity and gratitude.
Seed: The Untold Story Seed reveals the story of passionate seed keepers around the world as many irreplaceable seeds near extinction. Great interviews. Available to rent on Amazon.
Here are a few places, mostly on the USA West Coast to get heirloom seeds. These sights are inspiring and have great online resources for all things gardening including lots of seed saving info.
https://www.adaptiveseeds.com/ Pacific Northwest grown, open pollinated, organic seeds.
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds http://www.rareseeds.com/ Baker Creek has probably the most beautiful seed catalogue around – one is free and the big one – The Whole Seed Catalogue – costs a bit and is filled with lots of fun info. They feature unique heirlooms.
Seed Savers Exchange http://www.seedsavers.org/ The largest public access seed bank in North America. Great seeds. Great resource. Does great work. Become a member!
Uprising Seeds https://uprisingorganics.com/ All seeds are certified organic, open pollinated and grown by small family farms in the Pacific Northwest.
Here are two free online sites with seed saving info. Most of the seed companies listed above and the Organic Seed Alliance also have seed saving info.
Organic Seed Alliance https://seedalliance.org/ A non-profit that advances ethical seed solutions through research, education, and advocacy programs. Doing great work with farmers and advocacy work. They host an incredible organic seed conference for growers. They have a free Seed Saving Guide for Gardeners and Farmers that you can download. They have some good articles as well: The Sobering Details Behind the Latest Seed Monopoly Civil Eats, January 11, 2019 Kristina Kiki Hubbard, Advocacy & Communication Director, Organic Seed Alliance https://civileats.com/2019/01/11/the-sobering-details-behind-the-latest-seed-monopoly-chart/
Farm Aid https://www.farmaid.org Farm Aid is a non-profit that supports small family farms with good info on farm, seed and food issues. Here’s a quick and easy article on GMOs. GMO’s – Top Five Concerns for Family Farmers https://www.farmaid.org/issues/gmos/gmos-top-5-concerns-for-family-farmers/
Rowan White is a seed keeper/farmer from the Mohawk community of Akwesasne and passionate advocate for indigenous seed and food sovereignty. She is the Educational Director and lead mentor of Sierra Seeds, an innovative land-based educational organization located in Nevada City, CA. She is the National Program Coordinator for the Indigenous Seed Keeper Network, an initiative of the Native American Food Sovereignty Alliance, a non-profit leveraging resources to support tribal food sovereignty projects. She is also chair of the Board of Directors of Seed Savers Exchange. the largest public access seed bank in North America. Check her out at https://sierraseeds.org
GLOSSERY of SEED TERMS:
Conventional Seeds: seeds grown with herbicides, pesticides and chemical fertilizers. What is commonly sold in stores.
GMO Seeds: Genetically Modified Organism – seeds specifically modified by genetic engineering. Genes from an animal, plant, bacteria, or virus are placed in another species in a way that can’t occur in nature or in traditional crossbreeding. These seeds are mostly sold to large commercial farmers and are mostly for cash crops like cotton, corn, soybeans, canola, sugar beets. Some GMO fruits and vegetables including potatoes, summer squash, apples, and papayas are available. GMOs are in many foods we eat such as corn, corn syrup, corn oil, soybeans, canola oil, tomatoes, potatoes, apples, beets, rice, wheat is on the way and granulated sugar. Most GMO crops grown in the USA are used for animal food. The European Union (EU) outlawed most GMO foods but many EU farm animals are fed GMO feed from the USA.
Heirloom Seeds: Seeds passed down for generations through families or communities unaltered for 50 to 100+ years. Heirloom seeds are open pollinated and hold their parent’s traits (reproduce true to type). Heirlooms are not GMO seeds.
Hybrid Seeds: Hybrid seeds are commonly formed by the manual cross pollination of different varieties or species of plants. Hybrid seeds are not stable – some seeds may be infertile, and most will not produce seeds like the parent but will revert back to the grandparent seed qualities. Hybrid seeds also happen in nature all the time – if a bee travels from one type of tomato to another, the seeds from that plant will have traits from both the parents and be considered a “hybrid” of the two. If you save hybrid seeds, you can’t guarantee the seed traits like an heirloom seed.
Hybrid F1, F2, F3 seeds: F(X) seeds correspond to the generation of the seed – in other words, F1=kids, F2=grandkids, F3=great-grandkids. The more generations, the less the seed genetics will drift or revert making it more likely you’ll have similar plants in the next generation. Over time, with careful selection of seeds, the seeds become stable. Eventually it can be considered an heirloom seed.
Non-GMO: A non-genetically modified organism; genetic modifications were not a part of the plant breeding process.
Open-pollinated Seeds: Seeds naturally pollinated by insects, wind, birds, and animals passing pollen from plant to plant. All heirlooms are open-pollinated plants, but not all open-pollinated plants are heirlooms. Both hybrid and heirloom seeds can reproduce through open pollination. Open pollinated seeds are not GMO seeds.
Organic: Organic refers to a specific way plants and seeds are grown. To earn this label, they must be raised and processed in accordance with the USDA’s National Organic Program. Organic seeds are grown with a focus on soil and plant health, with natural fertilizers and pest control. Organic seeds are not GMO’s.
Treated or Pelleted seeds – Come coated and are often brightly dyed to indicate their treatment. Some are treated with herbicide or pesticide to help prevent fungus and insect damage. Some coated seeds are safe to use. These are usually small seeds to make them more easily to handle and may help with germination. Make sure you read the labels on treated seeds if you are avoiding chemicals in your garden.
True to type: Stable seeds produce offspring with characteristics that are similar to their parents’. We call stable seeds true to type because their offspring have the same characteristics as their parents.
Pongal is celebrated the day on which the sun begins to move northwards is called ‘Makar Shankranti’. In Tamil Nadu this festival is called the Pongal or Thai Pongal. The period is referred to as Uttarayanam and is considered auspicious. Pongal is a four-day festival.
The first day, Bhogi, is celebrated on the last day of the month of Margazhi. On this day, people decorate their homes. New vessels are bought and clean up home and environment.
The second day is Perum Pongal, is the most important. People worship Surya, the Sun God. Women decorate the central courtyard of their homes with beautiful kolams, done with rice flour and bordered with red clay. The Pongal payasam is cooked in the early morning during the sunrise, exactly at the moment when the new month is born.
The third day is Mattu Pongal, celebrated to glorify cattle that help farmers in a myriad ways. On this day, the cows are bathed and decorated with vermilion and garlands and fed.
The last day is Kaanum Pongal. It is that part of the festival when families used to gather on the riverbanks and have a sumptuous meal. It is also time for some traditional dances such as kummi and kolattam. Special prayers are offered by women for the well-being of their brothers.
Pongal ushers in the New Year in Tamil Nadu. Newly-harvested grains are cooked for the first time on that day. Joyous festivities mark the celebration in every home. The poor are fed and clothed. On the next day, the cow is worshipped, and birds and animals are fed.
Amma says “For me there is no creator and creations. Like the ocean and the waves, they are all one and the same. God is in the people or in the world, and the world is in the people. It is love that transforms into worship. Even nature is part of God. That is why we have temples even for insignificant creatures such as lizards, trees and poisonous snakes. We have ‘Mattu Pongal’, we worship the cattle. We need them for cultivation. It is a form of thanksgiving to the entire creation as that is the power that sustains life.”
The Sun is worshipped as the embodiment and source of Life-Force, without which we could not be. Payasam is offered to the sun seeking his blessings, and then eaten as prasad; the second day, animals are venerated, usually through the worship of a representative cow, which again is offered sweet payasam; the third day sees the family relations worshipped, of course through more offering of payasam, and, more importantly, through the coming together of family members. If there have been arguments or miscommunications in the family, this is the day when the air is cleared and hearts are opened. It can be a very healing time, restoring a deep relationship with the Universe, Mother Nature and one another. Through this festival, the Creation is recognized as the miraculous divine blessing it truly is.
Amma also explained an interesting point about the intelligence behind this kind of worship, saying that it is not superstitious, but in fact very practical. During this particular festival for example, the tradition of cooking payasam and allowing it to boil over is observed all over South India. This overflowing of sweetness represents the Prema (Divine Love) that should overflow from our hearts towards all of Creation. Amma continued with a remarkable point. She said that the steam rising from the rice, jaggery, cardamom and other spices being boiled in so many households and mixed with the smoke from the firewood traditionally used, actually creates a special medicinal combination that has a very beneficial effect on the atmosphere. The collective observance of this and similar practices has a positive effect on both the ‘mental environment’, as well as the weather, climate and harmony of Nature in general. This is just one aspect of the subtle wisdom underlying these simple, elegant customs.
“Pongal means ‘to overflow.’ The time when humankind’s love for nature and nature’s love for humankind overflow—that is Pongal. Human beings make nature happy by having good thoughts and doing good actions. Nature blesses humankind with a bountiful harvest. When the universal mind and the individual mind overflow and become one—that is what Pongal is symbol of.
“Matru-devo bhava, Pitr-devo bhava, acharya-devo bhava atithi-devo bhava—‘May you see your mother as God, your father as God, your teacher as God, your guests as God’—this is what Sanatana Dharma teaches us. Respect everything, worship everything. Why? Because there is nothing other than God. May this Pongal Festival be an opportunity for you to you to instill this culture and God deeply within and spread it without.
“Festivals are, in fact for everyone living in the area. Even people working far away will return home in order to participate. Everyone will sit together, eat together and remember old times together. On such occasions, we experience the joy and exuberance that occur when hearts come together. These festivals are sacred moments that help us to establish love and unity and nourish our relationships.
How do we take our used clothes and contribute to sustaining the future of our planet? The answer to this question is evolving in inspiring and powerful ways, from our own (often overcrowded) closets to the massive production lines of the fashion industry.
Let’s start with the global clothing and textile sector….
With a creative fire, the concept of upcycling is dawning in the world of fashion—and with good reason. The industry has a critical role to play in achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
Clothing and textile is a $2.4 trillion-dollar global entity that employs approximately 300 million people across the value chain, many of whom are women, and the scale of the industry is only expected to grow over the coming years.
But alongside, there are currently serious unsustainable practices that include social and environmental consequences. The United Nations Environment Programme states that without major change to production processes and consumption patterns in fashion, the social and environmental costs of the sector will continue to mount.
Fashion is responsible for an estimated 2-8% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Around 215 trillion liters of water per year are consumed by the industry.
Textiles account for approximately 9% of annual microplastic losses to the oceans.
With its progressive actions that look at how to move forward rather than dwelling on the negative, the UN launched the Alliance for Sustainable Fashion in March 2019. Its participants include members of the fashion industry, environmental organizations and labor groups. They work together to find sustainable solutions that go from raw materials to production to waste streams.
The fashion industry is beginning to evolve in alignment. Partly this must be thanks to the creative ways of thinking in design, as well as the fact that fashion needs people to buy its products. Regardless, it is inspiring to see that upcycled designs have started to appear on the runways with this new social vision. In November 2020, Vogue Magazine published an article that upcycling was the season’s biggest trend. Young independent designers had started long before, making their names by repurposing textiles that already existed. But major luxury brands finally decided to follow suit.
Recutting, redying, reusing whatever old or unsold material they had on hand led to unique items. It was a process that also lay within the context of COVID-19, as new fabric was often not available. In the long run, it will also require the fashion industry to restructure itself overall and that will take time. But at least something has begun.
So how do we take part in this movement within our own daily lives?
It’s easy, but first, the term ‘upcycling’ needs to be clearly understood. Wikipedia, also using the term ‘creative reuse’, says it is the process of transforming by-products, waste materials, useless, or unwanted products into new materials or products perceived to be of greater quality, such as artistic value or environmental value.
The web is teeming with imaginative ideas for DIY upcycling, including for clothes, so this inspired us in Amritapuri to give it a try. As Amma says, “Don’t be discouraged by your incapacity to dispel darkness from the world. Light your little candle and step forward.”
In Amritapuri, people donate a lot of western style pants to Ram’s Bazaar, a place that gives second-hand goods a new life. Yet due to the hot and humid climate, people often do not need them. I came up with the idea to upcycle the unused pants into yoga mat bags for the Ecology Center, as its founding principle is to care for Nature.
The idea for the Ecology Center was presented to Amma in 2004, and Amma enthusiastically agreed. The concept was to educate people about how they could begin to avoid negatively impacting their environment and bodies. Amma immediately said to establish the center in an old house at the Ashram which was being used for storage.
The Ecology Center seeks to offer 100% natural products to replace conventional, harmful chemical products and encourages recycling and saving water. All proceeds go to the humanitarian initiatives of Embracing the World. There is a wide range of ecological choices, including food, body care, books and local handicrafts. The sevites buy in bulk where possible and repack items themselves to promote the optimal use of recyclable plastic containers. They provide certified organic food and fair-trade merchandise.
The Ecology Center also makes its own range of items, from organic nut butters to natural, chemical-free cleaning products for both body and household use. In terms of upcycling, the center has handicrafts made in the Ashram that creatively reuse plastics. Amrita Upcyling makes fashionable and practical items, such as tote bags and wallets, out of what would otherwise be waste.
So in that context, this latest endeavor—the upcycled yoga mat bags made from used clothing—is a hit, especially the bags made from jeans. People from all over the world arrive asking about them.
After a lot of research, I wrote an easy pattern, as trust me, I am not an expert tailor. Since it is based upon the principle of DIY, I decided to share it here. May the Creative Force be with you!
Want to learn more about Amrita Upcycling? Check out a new workshop from Amrita Virtual Academy & pre-register your interest.