Murky waters of the modern world – natural cleaners workshop

29th October, 2019, Kanasu Cafe, Ooty

Despite the north-east monsoon pouring down upon us, it was an eager group of women who greeted us at Kanasu café, Ooty as we assembled for another workshop on natural cleaners. As the rains washed down everything around us, we sat down to understand how we might allow these waters to flow, pollution free, from our side. This was the second workshop organised and facilitated by NNHS. Over 50 participants, primarily women, attended the workshop – they came from the Anganvadis under the ICDS scheme, the Tamil Nadu State Rural Livelihoods Mission from around the Ooty block, as well as residents from and around Ooty. The project director (PD) of TNSRLM also attended the event.

The event kicked off with a survey of cleaning products used by the women – either in their homes or work spaces (such as the Anganvadis) or Self Help Groups (SHGs). As always most responded with the usual list of off-the-shelf chemical based products that have pervaded everywhere in today’s world. They were then explained the side effects of many of the ingredients that find their way from the store bought products into our bodies – be it cosmetics or cleaning agents. Pthalates, SLS, BPA, Triclosan, Parabens were some of the few that were discussed and their detrimental effects on the endocrine system, nervous system to name a few. Very soon the group realized how important an organ the skin was and how it is often subjected to abuse because of harsh chemicals we use in our daily lives.
We then moved on to the hands-on session, wherein the participants were shown how to make bio-enzymes with simple leftover peels (fruits, vegetables) at home. They even tried their hand at making bio-enzymes themselves. The numerous uses and benefits of bio-enzymes were discussed before we moved on to other natural cleaners such as soapnuts, shikakai and lime. The participants also got to see how to make soapnut solution for various washing needs. What struck the anganvadi facilitators was the possibility of using skin and eco friendly alternatives to strong harsh handwashes for children using a combination of bio-enzymes and soapnut.

The women were rather amazed to realize that they could do so much of their cleaning jobs with so little of external chemicals and also at low cost to themselves. The SHGs were also intrigued by the possibility of turning these as enterprises for livelihoods, which is now becoming increasingly common in other areas around India (and the world) where people are turning to natural cleaners and looking for sources / suppliers for the same. The event was packed with numerous questions that ranged from the cleaning basics to the cosmetic aesthetics. The two and a half hours session concluded with tea and biscuits as the women promised to try out some of these in their respective areas. The PD of TNSRLM also expressed interest to take this as a training workshop for all their SHGs (over 6000) across the Nilgiris district. The Anganvadi team that attended was also interested in future facilitation programs to help guide them into the making and using of natural cleaners.

Where will all this take us? Perhaps into a society that is more aware, awakened and ready to embrace a more nature friendly lifestyle? Only time will tell.  We thank Kanasu Cafe for hosting this event.

(by Sharada Ramadass)

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