Jonah and Eldridge had tried it all. Garbage disposal and how to get it right, avoiding buying things that were suffocated in swarms of plastic, and myriad beach clean ups to try and do all that they could to rid Goa of its plastic problem. It simply was not enough. “The rate at which Goa was being covered with plastic was too fast for our actions to have any impact. Which is when we decided to take it to a larger scale. While waste management is great and a necessary thing, we thought the ultimate goal would be to not produce waste in the first place.” And so, Ecoposro was born. Goa’s first zero waste grocery store, a homely little shop tucked into a quaint hamlet in Parra.
A zero waste store would have to be one that goes beyond simply generating waste in the store itself - it would have to trace all the way through the supply chain to ensure that no waste creeps in at any point. To ensure that this is the case, vendors have been handpicked to suit this criteria. “We have spoken to a lot of different farmers, wholesalers and distributors, and have chosen to work with the ones who don’t use plastic at any of the stages along the way,” they explain. “For example, our vegetables come from a vendor who only packs using cloth or jute sacks. Being fussy about no plastic from source has made it more difficult for us, but the satisfaction is overwhelming.” They also add that buying in bulk makes it far easier to achieve their goal.
Providing the perfect example, they regale me with the story of the local red rice that is available in their store. “We source it from a Goan Aunty in Moira, pick it up in a jute sack and store it in a large earthen jar in the store,” they say. Some of their vendors even went about changing their systems so that the vision of the store could be achieved. “Our squashes come from a father and son run business who normally package in plastic. Now, we send them a box of empty glass bottles for filling, and we go and pick it up from their home- based business when it is ready,” Eldridge says, emphasizing their gratitude.
A natural thought for a business of this kind to establish itself is to wonder if the people are ready for a change of this kind. We live in a world where convenience is currency - how then do you get people on board with a vision to create zero waste when a plastic bag is such an easy recourse? The best way is to make this option as easy and convenient as possible. Ecoposro has done this by providing ample parking space right next to the store, and they even home deliver. “If the customer doesn’t have their own container, then we pack it in newspaper or a brown paper bag. For wet and liquid items, we have glass jars and bottles for sale at the store. These can be brought back for a 50% refund” they say.
The produce is both local, and from outside Goa, with organic and non-organic products available. “Our organic items are sourced locally, and we interact with the farmers and vendors on a first- hand basis” they say. Ecoposro also has a range of home and personal products such as bamboo toothbrushes, body soap, loofahs, pens and pencils made from recycled magazines, reusable menstrual pads, household and washing detergents. I had been thinking about making my own toothpaste for a long time now but had never got around to it. At the store, I found a jar of Grinding Stone’s Magical Mint Toothpaste made out of coconut oil, baking soda, and peppermint essential oil. This might be my best discovery of the year.
Is this store too good to be true? There has to be a catch - it must be more expensive, you think. In truth, the prices of the produce is more or less the same as that in Mapusa. Sometimes, it’s even one or two rupees cheaper. This is also why both organic and non-organic products are offered, given the price point between both. Jonah says, “We want to break the stereotype that going zero waste is a more expensive lifestyle. Which is one of the main reasons for keeping the word posro (the konkani word for store) in our name. We want to bring back the practices followed by posros in the olden days, where items were wrapped in paper and cloth because single use plastic didn’t exist then!”
The ultimate vision for Ecoposro is for it to be more than just a store. Eldridge and Jonah envision it to be a center for people to come and learn how to make their own products, an establishment which gives local artisans a place to showcase their work and to become a credible player in the environmental movement in Goa so that the Panchayat begins to take garbage collection more seriously. Until then, they will persevere in their efforts to leave Goa a little greener, a little cleaner.
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