Published: 13th September 2018
From making idols out of cow dung to using natural colours, this start-up is all set for a green Ganesh Chaturthi
eCoexist makes eco-friendly Ganesha idols in all sizes and shapes and over a period of time, they have been able to stop people from polluting water bodies in Pune, Mumbai and other metro cities
Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if rivers and lakes could talk. They would have surely told us about the stories of festivals. While most of us had the time of our lives, the water bodies are obviously overlooked and as a result, they are filled with pollutants. Not to forget the story of Ganesh Chaturthi, when they are burdened with plaster of paris and colours, thanks to the immersion of Ganesha idols. But turns out there is a feasible solution to this problem. eCoexist, a Pune based start-up has been working for more than 11 years towards this by making eco-friendly idols.
How did it all begin? Here's the story. In 2006, Manisha Gutman, the start-up's founder was working with Kalpavriksha Environment Action Group to create awareness during Ganesh Chathurti. That's when the idea struck her to make products like eco-friendly idols and even organic Holi colours. With that idea, along with her friends Natalie Leek and Lolita Gupta, she established eCoexist. The vision was to work for a cause and to bring sellers and buyers together on a single platform.
Ganesha time: eCoexist's clay Ganesha are available in Bengaluru too at Eka stores too
"When our team was working in 2006 in Pune to bring awareness through our 'Safe Festivals' campaign, there were very less or no families who were using eco-friendly Ganesha idols. We approached the sculptors and asked them to make Ganesha out of clay and use natural pigments to colour them. Even though we assured them that we will buy those, it was difficult to convince them," says Manisha. While one stroke of chemical colour is enough to paint the idol, it takes two or more strokes of natural colours. This would consume more time for the sculptors and it was very unconventional.
But all that is history. Today, with a lot of research and experiments, they have started using pigments from Beetroot and Spinach. If you think this is an easy task, then you got it all wrong. Lolita tells us why. "We thought we should introduce red and green colours in our idols. But painting with Spinach pigment has posed a lot of challenge as the colour once dried changes to thick black. Just a few hours before the delivery of the idol, we paint the idol green. Using Beetroot juice for colouring is another challenge as it contains a lot of glucose content and if you paint the idol with it, it will remain sticky. Hence, a lot of research is still required to use beetroot juice which we have not used this year."
Say no to plastic: eCoexist makes cloth bags which can be reused again
Apart from using clay, eCoexist has been using paper to make Ganesha idols. Wonder how? The makers prepared dough out of paper mache and later paste clay on it. The idol looks almost the clay. In fact this year, they have introduced idols made out of cow dung!
eCoexists only encourages eco-friendly Ganesh idols, but they also work on replacing a lot of plastic and thermocol made materials used for decoration. With a view of avoiding it, this year eCoexist has introduced a lot of ornaments made out of shola, which is a kind of thermocol. "We have also introduced ornaments which are made of paper and fabrics. All these are made by women who come from low-income background in Mumbai and Pune" Lolita says happily.
But despite all this, she is still worried about people still using watercolours to paint the idols, "Unfortunately, there are so many people out there in the market who are using watercolours instead of natural colours. But they can use a lot of simple techniques to go green. For example, turmeric can be used instead of yellow watercolour," Lolita explains.