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Lakshmi Menon of Ernakulam, Kerala is the founder of Pure living- an organization that creates sustainable products.  Upon realizing that the clothes scrap gets burnt and causes air pollution, she came with a unique alternative of making bedrolls out of it. At present, she is working on using the scrap generated from the PPE kits in these bedrolls so that the toxic plastic material used in PPE kits does not harm the environment.

She said, “In March 2020- I realized that tailors burn the scrap left behind after stitching of the clothes. Various materials are accumulated in the scrap. This leads to air pollution and also the waste is not reused or recycled, as the tailors cannot afford it. Many needy people sleep on roads and therefore I decided to make bedrolls out of the tailoring scrap. The bed was named “shayya” meaning bed.” She donated shayyas and brought smiles.

Lakshmi Menon who started her journey in 2016 when she was on the journey back from San Francisco where she worked as an artist with a gallery and noticed the garbage lying around on our planet. And Being a designer and responsible citizen, she felt liable to take up the task of doing something about it. Pure living is an acronym -P standing for the product, U standing for upcycle, R standing for recycle and E standing for economize. Lakshmi added, “ we are achieving this through projects which are for the urban, rural and egalitarian- as we consider everybody our people.”

At present, she is working on using the scrap from PPE gowns to make bedrolls. She said, “When COVID-19 hit, units were making 20,000 PPE gowns per day. And similarly, there was PPE scrape generated. The situation of this scrap was even worse as it contains little amount of plastic in it, making it more harmful for the environment. So I thought to try to use this scrap to make Shayya.”

She further said, “Instead of just giving away money, why not to make Shayya from PPE and also employ women who have lost their jobs. And later the results were magical!” she exclaimed. The material being soft, smooth and waterproof helped a lot. It was also used when Kerala recently suffered from floods. The shayyas were donated to the relief camps and also to COVID care centers and panchayats. Many corporate companies also approached pure living and bought shayyas. She added, “These bedrolls are the most needed commodity of the world right now and taking a step towards it is fulfilling.”

Shayyas can be made easily by anyone. Three pieces of the scrap cloth are placed next to each other and braided together. As the cloth reaches the end, more scraps of clothes are added and braided until it reaches 25 meters in length. This is placed in a zigzag pattern and tied together using more scrap cloth. The bed has to be of a length of 6ft, and a width of 2.5 ft. Finally, identify the loose ends and tie them with each other. “The method requires no thread or needle, and the bed remains strong and sturdy. The material is waterproof, and can be easily cleaned by washing in soap. This way the life of the plastic extends and it helps the environment too, ” says Lakshmi. The price for one shayya is Rs 300 only while the mattress which we get in market cost upto Rs 500-700 rupees. Lakshmi has employed 10 women, each one can make one shayya per day.

Lakshmi has a special workforce where she employs women, including grandmothers and paraplegic persons. She says, “ The happiness that comes from it is unparalleled. The blessings that we receive are enormous and that gives us a kick to keep going.”

Menon is also famous for “Chekutty”, basically a rag doll. Kerala suffered a big loss at the time of floods in 2018. All the designing industry, the weaver’s society in Kerala lost their stock of the whole year. The clothes and materials which got drenched and were ruined in the floods, government agencies had ordered to burn it- but Lakshmi took up the task of reusing these cloth materials by cleaning it and chlorinating it and making dolls out of it. It became the face of survival for Malayalis and Keralites. Around 50,000 volunteers in 9 countries were making chekutty. It ended up in huge sales. Again this was also a pure upcycling of waste materials.

Pure Living also sells “Entrée”(my tree) – a pen, which can grow plants. This was Lakshmi’s first step towards producing a sustainable product. The pen is made from waste papers collected from the printing press and is recycled. The paper is tightly wound and given shape by a machine and at the bottom of the pen, a seed is put in. The seeds are of Agastya tree (Hummingbird tree or Butterfly tree), all parts of which have medicinal value. As the refill is used up, the pen can simply be put in a pot and watered. Each pen costs Rs 12 and carries a leaflet with information on the seed enclosed. The refills are available in two forms- plastic and metal. The pen has takers from all across India and abroad. Lakshmi takes these orders and couriers them.

“Every action of ours counts towards the future that we are going to live. Humans have travelled from ice age to metal age to this age where we have started dumping garbage and harming nature, we need to take a U-turn from the same. As humans, we are more than responsible for the harsh changes that are occurring in nature”, says this environmentally-conscious entrepreneur.”

Written By: Kosha Naik

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