Now that is a term you might have seen bandied about quite a lot these days. But surprisingly, sustainable living is not a new mantra at all! This used to be the way of life before the advent of the industrial revolution. No, let me rephrase that - before the advent of corporate greed and the need for profitability at any cost. For, to blame the industrial revolution for the ill-effects of our excesses that we have become accustomed to in our society today would be a great disservice.
So, what do we mean by sustainable living?
Well, in very simple terms, it is all about consuming the resources available to us responsibly so that we can make it last without disturbing the balance of nature. To borrow from another old cliché, we really do have just one of this planet with its limited resources which need to be used by all 7.2 billion of us.
To put it into context, lets pick (just) one of the most glaring problems of our times - that of plastic waste. Do you know how much plastic waste we produce annually in the UK alone? 275,000 tonnes! Most families throw away about 40kg of plastic a year! And why exactly is plastic waste a problem? Because not only does it takes nearly 500 years to decompose but also requires a lot of energy to produce.
But all of us recycle. That should be enough, right?
It would be enough if we recycled what we used in exactly the same quantities. That would not put any more pressure on our resources. But if we take up the case of plastic again, the use of plastics is going up by 4% annually.
On a recent trip to Bruges, I was met with this sculpture of a whale rising up from the canal. Made from 5 tonnes of plastic waste recovered from the ocean, it is meant to make an impact on the public & the millions of visitors to this city. But does the city address this problem? No. Water is still sold in millions of single use plastic bottles. Tourists devour frites and waffles using plastic plates and forks. Nowhere can you see any innovative solution to overcome the plastic waste problem that the whale sculpture so beautifully highlights.
And therein lies our basic quandary - we would readily create monuments to our issues but shirk away when it comes to implementing a solution.
Is there anything that can be done?
Yes, sustainable living to the rescue! I mentioned at the beginning that this is not a newfangled idea but something that the human race has known all along. However, with the temptation of an easy life driven by corporate profits, we have lost track of those ideas and techniques.
Sustainability, by its very definition, goes hand in hand with being eco-friendly. Sustainable production not only uses earth friendly techniques but also provides sustainable livelihoods to those who have preserved these techniques and are ready to pass them on to future generations.
That is why, we have partnered with initiatives that bring out the best in skills and products and also help our environment along the way. Be it handmade wooden toys coloured with non-toxic natural dyes, handmade greeting cards made from recycled paper, board games that instil environmental awareness, handwoven fabric homeware and accessories or eco-friendly heating - each of our product lines has been carefully chosen with the principle of sustainable living in mind.
Here's to a sustainable future for all of us!
A new identityWe changed our name from Ethicological to Ethiqana earlier this year. We'd arrived at the original name after a lot of deliberations and combinations but it turns out it wasn't very easy on the tongue nor was it easy to remember. Cue, another back to the drawing board exercise. Lots of head scratching, hours of research into memorability and many many searches for available domain names later, we decided on Ethiqana. It's short and sweet and we think it conveys our sense of ethics and ethical business.
A new platformSpeaking of ethical business, we'd always been a bit uneasy selling only on Amazon. But as a startup with limited funds, we had no other choice but to bite the bullet and gain access to a market place of millions of customers. It did work to a certain extent and we'd like to thank each and every customer whom we could serve on Amazon. However, we made a decision early on in the year that rather than finding another platform, we're going to bring e-commerce to our very own website. The time frame? Summer of 2018! I love deadlines, don't you? Needless to say, it didn't happen and we finally launched our new website with our e-shop last week - 23rd November 2018. Nothing to do with the cult of Black Friday, before you ask. It was a date which we'd picked and decided to stick to it.
New product linesWell this was the most interesting and also perhaps the most challenging part. Finding suppliers whom you can trust is a big thing! But we have been very fortunate in finding people and organisations who are on the same wavelength as us, care about reviving old art forms and are passionate about sustainability and empowering artisans. Creating new designs and selecting from existing ones was a very satisfying process and we're sure that our friends and fans would love them too. Have a look and see if something takes your fancy.
What's next?Well, in the most immediate sense, we're off to our Christmas Market stall in Milton Keynes from tomorrow where we're hoping to wow more people with our collections. But yes, there are plans hatching already about our next steps in the new year - all along the lines of how to bring to our friends and fans all that is ethical, real and sustainable, all that is Ethiqana!
A business is, by definition, an endeavour to make money. Traditionally, businesses have focused on profit which meant amassing wealth for the business owners, caring little or not at all for the machinery (read people) that keeps the business running.However, with more awareness of the geopolitical situations in the world made possible, in no small measure, by 24x7 TV channels and the growth of the internet, the idea of ethical businesses has taken hold and rightly so. For it is not implausible to think that a commercial activity can be mutually beneficial to the owner of the business and the wider society and environment that it is dependent on. Sounds quite fair and logical, doesn't it? The idea for Ethiqana was borne out of such thinking. There is plenty of art and innovation out there - some that has existed for centuries and more that are constantly evolving to suit the needs of the modern world. There is a massive need for economic empowerment of the communities of artisans who have been left to fend for themselves simply because their art forms do not fit the modern narrative. Either that or massive factories churn out cheap alternatives, often at the expense of the environment and at such a rate that these talented workers don't stand a chance against this greedy industrial juggernaut. And while it is important for us to focus on the needs of the artisans, we must not take our eyes off the ecological innovation ball. For it is the lifeline for our planet if we are to keep it habitable for our future generations.
That is why, at Ethiqana, we take great care in our selection of the range of items we bring to you - ethically sourced, eco-friendly products, providing sustainable livelihoods which make total sense. And as we grow, we will continue to invest and re-invest in our valuable sources and hope to make a small positive contribution in our own way. Like a true ethical business.