A Daily Annoyance
The project has come so far from what started as a simple, daily annoyance: the lack of available cleaning products that are good for health and environment, Margarita explains: “In 2010 we were fed up with the laundry detergents and body care products we were using, as they were full of chemicals and pollutants. So we did research on how to make our own laundry detergent with natural ingredients. At the same time, we got more and more concerned about the water treatment and conservation in Auroville. I am involved in the water group of our community since 2000. Mother spoke about soap-making and water conservation as one project. I have studied probiotics in connection to water conservation my entire life – so the idea to put them into the soaps, so that they reach the water through the drain, was an eye-opener for me. Once they get into the water, they help to clean it from pollutants. So we did all kinds of test for over a year to manufacture cleaning solutions and body bath bars filled with active probiotics. We sent samples at every step to laboratories in the US, to make sure the product works and that the probiotics are actually reaching the water. We realized that when we all move towards probiotic soaps, natural cleaning, and probiotic beauty products, there is the possibility to clean the rivers and oceans.”
The Power of Probiotics
Clearly, Margarita and Guidelma have a great passion for probiotics. For many, probiotics may be known as a health supplement for when you have digestion problems or take antibiotics. What it can do for our natural environment is less well-known. So how did it happen that Margarita and Guidelma already knew about the power of probiotics?
“I have seen probiotics perform miracles. I worked on a project to clean a lake in Los Angeles with a team of researchers. The lake was dead and poisoned. We used probiotics to clean and reactivate the natural balance of the microorganisms. In a matter of months the lake was healthy and clean. I gave a talk about this project on a summit of environmentalists and scientist in California. The governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, came and embraced me. I felt so blessed that we could create this change with the help of these tiny microbes. In my home in Colombia I have seen so many projects where probiotics were used to clean water bodies from pollutants, which has changed the life of so many.
A few years ago, the big plumeria at Matrimandir was in terrible shape. Some people even suggested cutting it down. We coordinated with the gardeners there and enriched the soil around the plant with probiotic compost powder. Today the tree is healthy and in regular bloom.
The changes we have seen with the help of probiotics are amazing, effective and affordable.”
A Holistic Approach to Production
MGEcoduties is only a small company, but because they are value-driven, they are conscious of all the different ways in which production impacts people and environment. “We are passionate about what we do. The impact of probiotics once they go down the drain inspires us so much. Our main concern is our environment and how we can protect and take care. Connected to these values we pledge to use no palm oil, never engage in animal testing and use as little product packaging as possible. Unity and equality amongst our staff is very important. Everyone earns the same, no matter what they do. We encourage our staff to take responsibility and to work independently.
Finally, it is important to us that this is done in Auroville, our home. Living in Auroville is an endless adventure, a place where we can realize our dreams.” Certainly, MGEcoduties is a huge contribution to Auroville, where many units and individuals have completely made the switch to probiotic products.
And the feedback has been amazing. “The knowledge about our products travels by word of mouth. Everyone who gets back to us seems thrilled and satisfied. The probiotics are being used by midwives in Auroville who find our products effective. It is very important to us that our customers know of the secondary use of our products, the good effect of the probiotics once they reach the drain. That people consciously choose our products, making an impact and participating in the change, makes us very proud. It is time to change the relationship between producers and consumers to one that is transparent and fair for everyone, where the main aim is to protect our environment.”
Making Use of Probiotic’s Potential
So finally, what is next for MGEcoDuties? It turns out that for their small company, Margarita and Guidelma are dreaming big: “We want to increase our capacity in the Indian market. One of our dreams is to create a place in Auroville where one can have a spa-like experience with food and wellness treatments, all connected to probiotics. That is still in the future. Right now, we are also supporting Tata Industry in their shrimp farming, to help them move towards ecological, chemical-free farming. To build similar relationships in the agriculture industry is another goal.
We are working on zero packaging, which requires an organized refill system all over. We aim for zero plastic first and zero packaging after. And in terms of products we are experimenting with hemp oil; at some point, we would also like to start with flavoured salts with probiotics.”