Everwards: Stewards of a Sustainable Future

Oct/04/2020 / by Melanie Fourie

Living a sustainable lifestyle requires us to consciously reduce our carbon footprint and prevent the depletion of the Earth’s natural resources. Veena Balakrishnan and Sudarshana Pai are two young women from Chennai who understand this, and are driving efforts in this direction, thanks to Everwards.

The duo, both graduates from Chennai’s National Institute of Fashion Technology, founded Two’s Company in 2018, an events and consultancy platform that assists corporations with sustainability solutions. Soon thereafter they started Everwards India, a sustainable living start-up with an online store that offers a broad range of eco-friendly alternatives to plastic waste. Everwards manufactures personal hygiene products, and products for the home and school. These include newspaper pencils, cloth sanitary napkins, copper bottles, bamboo toothbrushes, and cosmetic items sans synthetic ingredients with re-usable packaging.

They know that using zero-waste, organic, and plastic-free products is not only good for the environment, but can benefit everyone. ‘What a Waste 2.0,’ a World Bank report, noted that waste generation could escalate to 3.4 billion tonnes by 2050, and India, with the second-largest population in the world, would have to reduce its waste.

This is what the duo have done to counter this.

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The Spur That Kicked off a Movement

Regarding what got her to work on these start-up’s, Pai told the Deccan Chronicle, “Back in college, we had an elective paper called ‘sustainable development’ where our professor used to teach us beyond sustainability in fashion. That created the spark in us and made us discuss a lot about the need of the same.”

Balakrishnan spoke to SEEMA about the roots of her inspiration.

“My brush with sustainable development began quite early.  I remember, even as a child, deeply caring about building an environmentally and socially conscious society,” she said. “Growing up in a middle-class Indian family teaches you a lot of things, things including mindfully using the resources available to us. Our clothes were often passed on to countless family members before it became a floor mat in its final days, I inherited my mother’s uniform when I started school. We bought only the things we needed, and extracted the maximum value out of everything before recovering and repurposing it. It was a way of life for us.”

Balakrishnan added, “Though we did it to save money, it kept our carbon footprint minimal.  In 2010, I received the highest honor in Bharat Scouts and Guides, the Rashtrapati Award, from Smt. Pratibha Patil (the then President of India) for my humanitarian aid and campaigns for compassionate coexistence between community and nature. The turning point was when I discovered the environmental and human exploitation by the fashion industry… [That] was when I came across the terms ‘circular economy’ and ‘cradle-to-cradle design.’ I was fascinated by the world of possibilities they could open to tackle some of the pressing issues concerning the production of goods. ”

Balakrishnan said that though she was Pai’s senior at college, the two bonded and became friends “over their love for entrepreneurship.”

A Zero-Waste Wedding of Sustainable Proportions

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Two’s Company is at the forefront of promoting events that do not harm the environment. This includes zero-waste weddings, with this all starting with Balakrishnan’s own in 2018. For their wedding Balakrishnan and her then fiance Vighnesh, informed guests that they wanted a minimum-waste wedding. They advised guests not to buy new clothing and saved paper with e-card invitations.

They also substituted plastic chairs with mattresses, and, for decorations, only used flowers that could later decompose into fertilizer. Food was served on banana leaves and water in steel glasses. Guests were gifted with seed paper, which when put in soil allows seeds embedded in it to germinate and sprout life anew.

Pai also played a fundamental role in thinking through the concept of zero-waste weddings and helped Balakrishnan organize her wedding, among other things, distributing excess food to the needy by teaming up with the Robinhood Army, a Chennai-based non-profit organization that delivers excess food from restaurants to the underprivileged. Balakrishnan’s wedding has since inspired many other Indian couples to opt for a zero-waste celebration.

Sustainability and the Way Forward

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Everwards creates “wealth from waste,” and uses materials such as upcycled textile waste and natural resources. It also collect coffee bean waste from local restaurants, have hosted second-hand clothing sales for proceeds, and their products are locally hand-crafted.

“With COVID-19, it has not been the easiest ride for Everwards,” Balakrishnan told SEEMA. “We have had to pause operations the last couple of months. I am also going to be pursuing my masters in sustainable resource management at TU Munich from this October, to synergize the important personal and professional decisions that have deepened my inclination towards conscious living over the years. However, we will continue our B2B services. Post my masters, I hope to take the learning to Everwards, to grow it into a company that can integrate environmental sustainability with social innovation.”

There are always incredible entrepreneurs to support on SEEMA, including Earth Rhythm founder Harini Sivakumar

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