My story as a zero waster
March 18 2021
Hey there! I‘m Sahar Mansoor, the founder and CEO of Bare Necessities, a zero-waste social enterprise. I am a circular-economy nerd and a curious traveller. Environmentalism has come subconsciously to me as a little girl; my love for nature was fostered by spending weekends in Cubbon Park with my family, climbing trees and mostly falling off of them. Having lost my father when I was very young, being in nature continued to be one way of remembering him.
In my 3rd year of college in 2012, I watched a video of Bea Johnson in Professor Chris Chapples’s World Religions and Ecology class. I remember being blown away by Bea and her families lifestyle; but I also remember thinking to myself, she can afford to shop at “Whole Foods” or she must a lot of free time to make her products. Dismissing the zero-waste lifestyle was easy especially while working 3 jobs and maintaining my scholarship and social life.
Nevertheless, this was a turning point in my environmental journey. It left me wanting to learn more! I remember walking into my Dean’s office and telling Dean Zaleeza, “You don’t have the major I want” and he smiled and said, okay grab a chair, let’s create one! I added “Environmental Planning” as my second major and took some amazing classes in environmental engineering, environmental ethics and policy!
My mind soon started being plagued by the growing trash problem in our world. Consumers are so caught up in the web of convenience that it passes our mind to think about a plastic water bottle that we use for 5 minutes that then takes 700 years to start decomposing. Of course in the process, harmful chemicals leach into our soil and water; the same soil you are consuming your fresh veggies from!
I moved back home to Bangalore in 2015 and was working at a solar energy social enterprise called SELCO Foundation working on energy solutions for the underserved. Working with a community of waste pickers from West Bengal, I spent time shadowing them and what I was most confronted by was the social justice issues of our waste problem! Every day thousands of waster pickers segregate broken glass, sanitary napkins and needles all with their bare hands. I wanted to stop being part of the problem.
My obvious resources when I started was Bea and Lauren’s blog but importantly were conversations with my mum and grandma asking them what they did back in the day in their life without plastic? A lot of our Indian traditions, including the sheer number of bazaars, is a living example of how zero waste is rooted in our Indian traditions.
I started taking my first few steps in April 2015. My first few steps are summarized below and my friend made this awesome illustration to go with it (illustration by Noorain Ahmed). The transition was incremental, for instance when I ran out of soap instead of buying store-bought ones, I would experiment and eventually learned how to make my own. To date, I have produced half a kilogram of trash, all of which fits in a 500ml jar. However, I am still not completely zero waste – and I doubt I ever will be. It is good to know your boundaries.
In my zero waste journey, I also realized that it was impossible to find personal care and home care products that didn’t contain harmful chemicals and weren’t packaged in plastic. In response to this problem, I wanted to create a company that mirrored the values of zero waste, ethical consumption and sustainability. I wanted to make it easy for other people looking to consume more mindfully and to encourage others to produce less waste. Bare Necessities was born.
At Bare, we attempt to celebrate the beauty and richness of India! We have also realised that it is really exciting to incorporate indigenous, ancient ingredients whose benefits we have probably heard of but never really experienced for ourselves such as, turmeric!
One of the biggest things to remember is to value everything you see as a Resource instead of seeing things as Waste. If you begin to do this you will start to transition to a Zero Waste Lifestyle, which is exactly what the planet and the people closest to us need. And finally, remember to be bold in your imagination and create the most vivid and beautiful life for yourself. After all, we are the authors of our stories. We can physically, emotionally, mentally heal from anything and defy all socially constructed notions of what our life should look like!
This World Recycling Day, let us aim to marry the old and the new to ensure less waste enters our landfills while helping our body and planet thrive. I seek to follow this every morning when I brush my teeth with my bare bamboo toothbrush, Bare natural toothpaste (made with ingredients found in any kitchen).