With a heart full of gratitude, I would like to share my journey into natural dyeing with you. I have been doing seva (selfless service) in the textile department in Amritapuri since 2012. Natural dyeing came to me and opened up a world of beauty and wonder. Growing our own plants helped me deepen my connection with the land and return to my ancient roots and a love for the earth. Rejoining with this cycle of life—from seeding, to tending, to harvesting, to dyeing, to stitching and finally, to wearing—reminds us how we once lived and can live again.
Dyeing with plants is an incredible art form. It’s a way to put forth our love and efforts to restore harmony back to the earth. We see that any small effort made to help to reduce the effects of pollution in the world today can go a long way. This is a devotional, creative approach to natural dyeing, with the hope of using it as a sadhana to deepen our bond to the divine.
Amrita Virtual Academy will be offering a series of classes on dyeing with medicinal plants from our garden, herbs, flowers and plants that we have grown here in Saraswati Garden, in Amma’s Ashram here in Amritapuri. We have been growing bamboo, tulsi, aloe vera, neem, turmeric, rudraksha leaves, henna, and we have other herbs and spices, nonni roots, flowers that give us natural color. We have kitchen scraps that you can also dye with that I will be teaching you, like onion peels.You will learn techniques for dyeing other garments in cotton and silk; and you can also explore your own creative ideas with natural dyeing. I’ll also be offering different techniques such as flower bundles, eco-printing, and the basics in block printing. This is a beautiful experience and I am looking forward to sharing it with you.
“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.
Many people living in cities, apartment complexes, or housing communities with little or no yard space think that composting is not possible or practical. However, I will demonstrate that composting is possible in even the smallest city apartment.
Amma has said that there was never a mahatma (saint or Realized Being) that ever existed who wasted anything! This is a humbling thought for those of us seeking true spiritual growth.
In the past, I wrote a blog about red worm composting. Although it is possible to maintain a small to moderate sized worm bin in a kitchen or closet, many city dwellers with small apartments or homes may feel there is not enough space for such an endeavor. In addition, if red worm composting seems too “high maintenance” for your liking, I will suggest some easier methods here.
With urban composting – especially in composting experiments which seem limited by space – the first step to full success is source reduction. One of the biggest environmental issues is the vast amount of food rotting in landfills which releases damaging methane gas into the atmosphere.
Reducing Your Waste
How sad it is that there are so many people going without food – even starving to death – and 30-40 percent of the United States’ food supply is literally thrown away in landfills.
According to the USDA, Source Reduction is the preferred method to reducing food waste and the ultimate pollution it causes – more important than composting itself. Source Reduction means that we consciously monitor and reduce the waste we produce at home and at work. Source Reduction is also more ideal than recycling, repurposing, and upcycling.
To grow spiritually, we must learn to take less from the environment and people; and learn to give more.`
Regarding the environment, “giving more” means using less and buying less food per grocery store trip.
Is Composting On A Smaller Scale Even Practical?
Recently, I noticed a dear friend of mine who is concerned about the environment throw away food scraps and some recyclables in front of me. I gently asked her why she was doing this when she truly was concerned about the environment. She responded: “I am convinced that individuals can no longer make a difference unless major companies change their ways.”
My question would be: Well, who supports these major corporations? We do.
Humans do not like to take responsibility.
It is the Nature of the Ego to want bodily comfort (which generally does not support Mother Nature’s health) and to say: “Well, HE, SHE, or THEY are doing it! What is the use of me trying to compost?” This egoistic idea is, in fact, the impractical, apathetic problem.
In a recent Amritaculture Special Presentation on the “The 5 Elements of Creation,” Swami Shantamritananda Puri spoke on how Amma had said many of Her children would be sent into the world. Swamiji mentioned that Amma said (I paraphrase), “Do not expect to change the world. It is enough if you yourself do not change (in a negative way).” Let us deeply take Amma’s wisdom into our hearts and apply this to Urban Composting!
Do not worry about the scale of your composting experiment. Just do it; and do it sincerely with love for Amma and the Earth. Buy less food per shopping expedition. Notice how much you throw away each day and week. Modify your shopping list as you move forward to reduce your need to compost to the very minimum.
Whatever method of composting you use, even if you compost only a portion of your food waste, multiply that by the 8 billion people on this planet. If we can make it part of our human culture that all humans do this minimal effort, the environment might have a fighting chance to heal. Also, if 8 billion people (or even a quarter of this) decide to not support mega-corporations with no view to environmental protection – how long can those criminal companies stay in business?
Let each of us act on the environmental changes we want to see others doing. Shine for all to see! This is true sadhana (spiritual practice) and true seva (selfless service).
PROS • Bokashi Bins are a very easy method of clean composting that uses minimal kitchen space. • All kitchen scraps (vegetable, meat, and dairy) can go in the bin. Bones are the one exception and moldy foods are not recommended. • It produces a liquid fertilizer which can be added to plants or gardens. • The internal broken-down compost can be added to plants or gardens. • No odors are perceptible.
CONS • There is the ongoing expense of purchasing the Bokashi fermentation mix which you add over layers of compost. Bokashi mix is a sawdust/grain and uses a specially designed micro-organism mix made up of lactic acid bacteria, yeasts, photosynthetic bacteria, actinomycetes, and fungi. • This is an anerobic process of composting which does release some methane gas – not constantly; but when the sealed bin is opened. • Ultimately, things break. The hard plastic parts are recyclable. Look for Bokashi Mix refills that are in paper based packaging instead of the plastic one seen in Figure 2.
PROS • There are a lot of electronic composters on the market. • Most brands allow kitchen scraps (vegetable, meat, and dairy) to go in. Bones and fruit seeds (like peach pits) are not permitted for some brands – so read the fine print. • No odors are perceptible.
CONS • They tend to be expensive — $300 USD or higher. You must balance the cost with the ease of use, the fact you do not need repeat purchase of fermentation mixes or liquids, that they do not require bodily strength (like Trench Composting discussed later in this blog), and they are “clean” – no dirt will get on your hands!
• I am suspicious of the length of time these machines last. In our culture, we do not often repair items but through them away. Many areas of the world do not offer electrical appliance recycling. I would hate to see more things piling up in landfills…
To explore more about electronic composters, this YouTube link may be of interest:
Now, we will review urban composting methods which require more effort but have little expense, a onetime expense, or even no expense at all. Not all methods will work for all people.
Soil Crates are easy to use and in some of its variations they are very environmentally friendly. Soil Crates are traditionally made from wood – which requires a simple YouTube search for DIY people! Alternately, you can pay a handy friend to make you one. (See hard plastic versions below.)
If you have a small green space or a balcony, this is a marvelous method of composting that is relatively effortless. You DO NOT need a massive soil crate to make a BIG DIFFERENCE.
Create the bin according to your green space’s or balcony’s dimensions.
Add soil. Add food scraps. Done.
Once a week rotate the compost with a hand shovel or a normal shovel. Add water (keep it moist!) Keep it protected and covered from rain.
Insects and micro-organisms will come to help you! Do not add meat, bones, or dairy – otherwise, you will attract rodents, raccoons, and other undesirable animal friends. The food scraps break down relatively fast. The soil becomes “living soil” which can be used for potted houseplants or blended into your garden’s soil.
Figure 5: You can purchase online hard plastic versions of the same with or without a lid.
Pit Or Trench Composting
I live right in the middle of the bustling capitol of Toluca, State of Mexico, Mexico – our home base for GreenFriends Mexico! I am fortunate to have a small garden in front of my home. I use trench composting all the time. I have a trench dug and I bury a lot food scraps there. The earth worms love me! The food decomposes shockingly fast which creates living soil rich in composted fertilizer. This soil becomes exceptionally sponge-like, and less watering is needed when I plant veggies and flowers along the trench. When I lived at Amritapuri in 2006, I regularly composted via the trench method which is what inspires me even today to continue doing so. You can also reserve one area of your green space to dig a pit and bury the food scraps in the pit. You can use the same pit monthly over and over. The food scraps will be long gone when you come back!
Some people make more elaborate pits if they have larger green spaces and like the idea (see below).
Figure 10: This is a large compost pit dug out in Delhi, India. The dirt is kept aside as food scraps and cardboard are added, a layer of soil is placed on top. A cover of wood or some other device can be used to prevent people from falling in. I have a very small form of this in my front yard in the city of Toluca. Do not ever think that a smaller scale is ineffective! In a tiny pit, I compost a ton of used napkins, food scraps, and cardboard boxes from Amazon or cereal boxes, etc. It works and it works fast! Dried leaves, twigs, and lawn scraps can go in, too!
What Do I Do With All This Compost? I Live In The City!!!
A common concern is what to do with the compost generated in the house. Here are some brief ideas: • Mix your compost in with soil for potted plants in your apartment or urban home • Go on a hike or to a city park and sprinkle it over the grass or at the base of a tree as you chant Lokaha Samastaha Sukhino Bhavantu or your mantra. • Share the compost with neighbors or community gardens in your area. • Trench or pit compost if a small green area is available.
I hope this stimulates many more ideas for you to compost in cities or in homes with little or no green space as this small article does not come close to exhausting all the possibilities out there! Challenge yourself to start a composting experiment today. Offer this to the Divine – without delay!
If you have any questions, please feel free to email email@example.com. Om Amriteshwaryai, With Love, Eknath
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.
Being involved in civic engagement was NOT my plan. As a matter of fact, I despised anything to do with politics as I had deemed the entire institution corrupt and highly unspiritual. For decades I sat on the sidelines while indulging my ego in jaded cynicism. The truth is, other than voting in the primary election, I never cared to understand or be involved in the democratic process because I was comfortable.
In March 2017 my blissful ignorance came to an end when China announced new legislation called, ‘National Sword’. I suddenly became aware that we (developed nations) had been shipping our trash and recycling to developing nations and dumping it on their doorstep. I was devastated. Then in April 2017, we moved to the Oregon Coast. As I walked the beaches, I noticed millions of pieces of microplastics in the sand that Mother Ocean had regurgitated. She was literally choking to death on plastic! The final (single-use plastic) straw came in November 2017 when I went to India for the first time and witnessed the magnitude of the single-use plastic pollution crisis. Unlike the US, India has no way to hide their waste. The truth was out in the open polluting the streets and waterways and destroying nature. My heart was blown wide open and I knew then, my days of sitting on the sidelines waiting for someone else to do something were over. I needed to stand up, be that someone and become civically engaged.
But I was terrified! I was ashamed that at 50 years old, I didn’t know anything about the democratic process! I was afraid my ignorance would be exposed but my love for nature was greater than my fear, so I was willing. Fortunately, I had been a member of the Surfrider Foundation for years and they are experts in advocacy. I became actively involved and shortly thereafter, was asked to be co-chair on the campaign to ban single-use plastic carry-out bags in my city. I accepted and by default, I was required to interact with and get to know my city council members. In doing so, I realized they weren’t the villains I’d made them out to be. They were people just like you and me! A humbling lesson in contempt prior to investigation.
There were many other spiritual lessons along the way. This process exposed some very deep-seated prejudices and negative tendencies in me that needed to be healed and wouldn’t have been revealed while sitting comfortably on the sidelines. I also gained the kind of ‘Self’-confidence Amma talks about. The kind where we realize we are not the do-er, that God is actually doing everything through us, so then what is there to be afraid of?
On April 15th, 2019, through Amma’s grace and the effort of many, Ordinance #2148 was passed, banning single-use plastic carry-out bags in Newport, OR. The sweetest part of the victory was knowing I was an instrument in affecting change that would benefit my community and Mother Nature. Amma says, “Don’t be discouraged by your incapacity to dispel darkness from the world. Light your candle and step forward.” And when we do, She will be with us every step of the way.