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Gunjal Jindal Poddar On How You Can Live More Consciously

Switching to an earth-friendly and sustainable lifestyle is not just a trend anymore. It is the need of the hour and slowly, both brands and people are steering towards making this shift. So, if you’re also someone who is considering adapting to a more planet-friendly life, but doesn’t really know where to begin, there’s an exclusive festival titled ‘Symphony For Earth‘ waiting for you right here in Delhi at 1AQ Mehrauli, on November 12, 2022, 11 am onwards.

This event is a curated exhibition featuring earth-friendly brands and products in beauty, fashion, home, wellness and more by Amala Earth, that’ll help you say yes to a better life. Founded in 2021 by Gunjan Jindal Poddar, Amala Earth is a fabulous homegrown curated marketplace that diligently supports earth-friendly living. It is a platform for sustainable beauty, food products, and even fashion and baby products, with over 30,000 consciously-made offerings and 350 earth-friendly brands. The company aspires to make sustainable living more accessible and easy to achieve.

The first-of-its-kind festival or exhibition is gearing up to be the one-stop-destination offering a wide range of handmade beauty, fashion, gifting, home decor, food and wellness products from environmentally-conscious brands like Doodlage, Shades Of India, Khara Kapas, Urvashi Kaur, and more. And to top it all off, you will also get to speak with the founders and delve into their stories and the journey behind their brands.

As told by the founder Gunjan herself, the epic event will include activities ranging from plant-based food being cooked in front of you and indie artists like Tanya Nambiar performing live, to earth-friendly brands from the food, beauty and fashion verticals showcasing some of their coolest stuff.

There will be children performing a play on climate change, talks on wellness, various fun community activities, upcycling workshops, making your own terrariums, pottery and tie-dye lessons. The event will also feature a workshop on how to start journaling and writing positive affirmations to boost your mental wellbeing.

On this occassion, we exclusively spoke with Amala Earth’s founder about her journey towards practising conscious living . Read on to know more!

HELLO!: How would you describe your journey towards sustainability?

Gunjan Jindal Poddar: “My journey of sustainability started a long time ago. As a family, we always believed in the concept of simple living. We bought simple clothing, ate simple meals and had exposure to an alternative, fuss-free lifestyle. We believed in wearing comfortable and simple clothes for example, and using things that are skin-friendly. We were also taught to experiment with DIY kits at home for skincare.

My childhood was all about organic and natural living. Freshly cooked food, beauty products made at home was our jam for sure. Because of the way I was brought up and the way we lived, I began to naturally gravitate towards earthy and organic products that weren’t too loud or out there. That was the culture that we grew up in and it certainly influenced my decision to go into this business.”

H!: Now that you’ve mentioned DIY skincare, could you tell us your favourite homemade beauty treatment or hack?

GJP: “My go-to skincare concoction consists of cucumber and turmeric with a little bit of lemon. It just never fails to make my face look fresh and glowy.”

H!: Your company was conceived during the pandemic. How strong of an influence did the pandemic have on your decision to start building a business based on the principles of sustainability?

GJP: “I think I was always attracted towards these kinds of products, but that interest grew especially after I had my kids. I started buying organic clothes for my children and I would try to buy the best quality, all-natural products for them as much as I could after entering motherhood. I didn’t want to expose my children to artificial and toxic elements that mass-produced items usually contain, and also wanted to encourage them to adapt to a more conscious and earth-friendly lifestyle from a young age.

So, the idea for my company came about when the pandemic started and we were all locked inside our homes. A voice within me insisted that I should create a marketplace, or a watering hole of sorts, for people like me; people who were also looking to adopt a more conscious lifestyle but weren’t well-versed with earth-friendly, clean brands and products.

When I realised the gap in this market, the idea to curate and develop an umbrella platform came to me. I wanted to build a space where you could get different products and also learn how to use them, know the benefits, and find all of the research together under one roof. People tend to assume that sustainable living is expensive, and I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t need to be, you just need to know where to look. For instance, when I started using bamboo toothbrushes I couldn’t find enough resources on the internet which could point me towards a good quality product; I didn’t know what was good or bad, there were no reviews, and I had to rummage through countless websites. A bamboo brush is such a simple, inexpensive switch, but I just feel happy and connected to nature and the earth when I wake up and see the brush first thing in the morning. Little things like these give me immense joy.”

H!: What or who was the inspiration behind your idea?

GJP: “I think the inspiration was that there was no one-stop-shop to buy earth-friendly stuff across different categories, and that is what really pushed me to pursue my idea. If you go to the Amala Earth website, you’ll see that it offers a very easy conversation of sorts, and it fills the gaping market void that there was in that space.

And, of course, the most important source of inspiration has always been my parents. They encouraged me to start something of my own and run my own business right when I was out of college. I had also taken a break in my career when I was having children, but the passion to do something of my own never left me. My parents always expected me to be my own boss and pushed me towards that goal.”

H!: What teachings did you pick up from your previous business experiences that you applied to your new business venture?

GJP: “To be unique, different and to have structure and organisation in the company. Also, to be really good with excel sheets (laughs), that’s what my speciality is. I have a very manic, detailed and organised structure for myself and I strictly adhere to timelines and deadlines.

Brainstorming is a huge part of our process here at team Amala Earth. I also learned to ensure that I engage in enough conversation with the young people on our teams and take in their fresh, often innovative ideas. I try to make sure everyone is involved in the ideation process, and I want everyone to participate and feel important. That’s a big lesson I learnt from my previous businesses.”

H!: What are some of the coolest upcycled products on Amala earth?

GJP: “I think we’ve got some really nice wallets, bags and fashion related stuff on our platform. There are some beautiful co-ord sets, jewellery from Moira, corsets from Doodlage. For kids, there are Akishi’s ragdolls that are very cute. There’s also lots of upcycled stuff you should look out for.”

H!: What advice would you give a beginner wanting to adopt a more sustainable and earth friendly lifestyle?

GJP: “The first thing is that we shouldn’t feel overwhelmed with the bombarding of information and strong, polarising opinions about this topic that are there online. Taking the decision to change your lifestyle is a pretty big step in itself, so just take it slow. Because there’s so much conversation happening on this topic out there, it’s easy to get confused. You should start with making small, but meaningful changes, and take baby steps.

Like I said, you could start small by doing something as simple as switching from a plastic toothbrush to a bamboo one. I don’t think there should be any pressure, you should be able to make small but permanent changes in your life and take it from there. This could also mean eating healthier food, choosing more conscious FMCG brands, and being aware of what ingredients you’re using on your skin and your body. Think whether you’re being purposeful about your purchases and maybe helping local artisans through it, you know? All of us should really think about whether we’re simply buying stuff for the sake of consumerism or getting something with a story behind it.

You don’t need to fully stop buying your favourite things or quit something cold turkey, you just need to be aware of the story behind the brands you buy from. I personally am the happiest when my purchases boost the livelihoods of talented artisans and handmade indie brands with real people working their magic behind the scenes.”

H!: What is the difference between vegan, natural, organic and sustainable when it comes to products? 

GJP: “Each of these terms have a different meaning, which doesn’t seem so obvious at first. Vegan and plant-based means the absence of animal ingredients.

Natural is a term that is pretty self-explanatory. Everything that comes from the earth and is produced with minimal chemicals and pesticides, is considered to be natural is what I feel. Lastly, organic and sustainable are two terms that are overly used around the world, and there are certifications and stuff involved so I wouldn’t want to go too deep into that.

Many make big claims of selling products that are completely organic, but I don’t believe anything is 100 percent organic, so we should be very careful while labelling things. We should just be vigilant about where our products are coming from, whether it’s a farm or a greenhouse, and what ingredients go into making them.

As for sustainable, we as a company strictly steer clear of using this particular term. We prefer to use the term conscious living, which is much more meaningful in today’s social climate, I believe. Just being aware of your consumption habits and consciously bringing about a change in your life whether it’s shopping, eating or even making dialogue is where it’s at.”

H!: What are the three things one should check before buying a sustainable product?

GJP: “The first thing you should check is the material used, whether it’s linen or khara cotton, unbleached cotton; second is the source of production and who’s getting paid for it. We love helping small communities of artisans flourish and earn their livelihoods through the sale of handmade items. The third thing is to check the product’s longevity; avoid using things that are easily disposable. Thoughtfully crafted, long-lasting items are sustainable, so always choose things that can be reused or recycled or even passed down to your kids.

The packages in which Amala Earth goodies arrive, for example, can totally be reused and turned into something else, like a stationary container for your kid. The key point is that it shouldn’t end up in the dustbin at the end of the day. Ask yourself whether it’s going back to the earth in some way. So, for instance, we recently made these zero-waste Ganesha idols and these wonderful rakhis that lived a complete life cycle without polluting the planet.”

H!: How do you go about choosing brands for your website? Do they need to fit some qualifying criteria?

GJP: “We have a lot of parameters that we look into before choosing our brands. We check everything from what kind of materials and ingredients they use to the way of production and even the kind of people that are creating the brand’s offerings. We love supporting women-led small businesses or brands with unique, handcrafted items. And they need to align with our earth-friendly, conscious living mission as well, of course.”

H!: What are some Instagram pages or celebrities you think people should follow to learn more about a sustainable lifestyle?

GJP: “We feature a lot of real people with real stories to tell for our brand promotions, because we don’t want to be fake. You’ll hardly see any celebrities or extravagant videos on our page, and I think that’s our USP. The only page you need to follow for learning a bit more about conscious living is Amala Earth’s (laughs).

We’ve done a lot of research and we use our platform to have authentic, open conversations with the help of genuine influencers and a no-frills approach. Follow our page and you’ll come across more than a hundred people we’ve collaborated with to raise awareness about clean brands and the do’s and don’ts of sustainable living.”