Community Life / Conscious Living

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle… and Up-Cycle!

The Upcycling Kiosk located at the Auroville Visitor’s Centre is a cooperative of 12 individuals who showcase and sell unique handmade objects that have been transformed from waste into art. They each take turns at the Kiosk to educate visitors on the concepts behind this initiative. The inspiration for the project came in 2010, after an incredibly successful Litter Free AV campaign. In collaboration with many NGO’s, Auroville got to participate in the process of creating an e-course and an e-book to assist youth in starting up ecologically sound business models to meet the waste crisis. The Upcycling Kiosk in Auroville was then created in order to provide a space for interaction, sales, as well as an educational venue to discuss the global and local need to reduce consumption and transform matter.

There is a lot of support for the idea of transforming waste into unique objects of art and useful commodities. However, there is a mindset that needs to change, a paradigm shift – a shift in our consciousness regarding waste itself. Waste is matter, and it is a resource. It is crucial that we find another way to reduce our global footprint so that we curb our appetite for natural resources. We have heard about the 3R’s in school: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Today we need to re-introduce Recover and Repair to that philosophy, or “Re-everything” as Marc would say.

Marc came from France, having been educated at École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs. He was educated with a mindset that industrial design had to have your signature, that copyright was the only way to survive your craft. Today, when he sees a villager copy his design, he is happy to have been an inspiration as he truly wants to experience us all growing together. It has taken him 35 years to come to this new and open way of thinking in regards to design. He realized that when he got involved, transformed by the cause behind upcycling, it changed him. For it is only his good will and the Auroville Charter that moves him forward.

So what can we do to support this cause? Reducing our consumption is where we can have the greatest impact to help our planet. If we take the time to reuse everyday items rather than buying new ones, we will make great strides. Segregating our waste at home to ensure that recycling centres can process them will not take much time, but it does take a conscious effort. Rather than throwing that Tetrapak milk carton directly into the dustbin, rinse it – if this is done at source, it can then be recovered and upcycled into useful items, like a piece of furniture. Take the time to have your clothes and shoes repaired instead of throwing them into the trash; we can continue to have a healthy symbiotic relationship with the tailor and cobbler down the street. These are simple things we can do to have less of an ecological impact. Whatever we cannot transform will eventually end up in a landfill, contaminating soil and underground water reservoirs.

Although Upcycling has become a “trend” in many countries, the local cooperative struggles to enter the online sales market.  For most, each item is unique and cannot be exactly duplicated, which turns into an inconvenience for the client. In order to have more exposure and build a momentum around this movement, Upcycling Studio Auroville  began as an offshoot to demonstrate how waste can be safely turned into something useful and decorative. Understanding the matter of the waste, its chemical composition, helps students and designers avoid its dangers and optimize its strengths.

As more community members began this journey together to address sustainability, it became evident that a greater space was needed to bring like-minded initiatives together. The concept of building a Recenter in the Service Area of Auroville has taken shape and Upcycling Studio and Wasteless are joining in its first phase. Hopefully, Eco-Femme will be able to join in the Second Phase along with Eco-Service. Here at the Recenter, demonstrations on how to segregate will happen to educate the community, so that creativity may emerge. Finding solutions to our ecological crisis and coming up with replicable or unique designs is a collective responsibility. This is why Upcycling Studio Auroville ensures that all its tutorials and designs remain Open Source.

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