If I can do it, anybody can do it,” declares Smita D Shirodkar, CEO of the Mumbai-based green group Earthoholics. Such optimism is contagious for sure and the young lady comes across as a perfect role model, especially for those striving to make a difference to the environment.
Founded by Smita and supported by her team of loyal friends, Earthoholics spreads the message of sustainability by promoting urban agriculture and organic farming, to attain food security and healthy living in the long run. The formally-registered group is actively engaged in creating awareness on waste and water management, composting, solar products, rainwater harvesting, terrace-gardening, carbon footprints and government subsidies, and conducts workshops for adults and kids titled ‘recycle, reuse and reduce’.
“I was nowhere close to plants; my only encounter with them had been the few times when I was asked to water the plants my mom had on our terrace,” admits the passionate youngster who, surprisingly, did not always have a green thumb. Following her M Com and an MBA in Operations, Smita was busy handling the factory side of her family business, consumer electronics. “It was my mom who suggested that I grow something organically on my one-acre land in Goa. Besides being clueless about organic farming, I hated the very idea of relying only on the sun and the soil. I was cynical of sprouting even a single shoot without fertilisers or pesticides,” she confesses.
That was when she accidentally stumbled upon ‘city farming’ on the Net. “The idea of growing vegetables and fruits on window grills and terraces was so simple and fascinating that I got hooked right away,” says Smita. A couple of sessions with Urban Leaves, a conservation group in Maharashtra, and she was good to go the organic way.
According to her, even the educated and the elite are not aware of the differences between conventional and organic farming. “Organic farming is not a standalone concept. It needs the coordination of several processes, including waste, soil and water management and solar products. We either have to buy or compost our own soil. I chose the latter. Slowly things evolved as a package,” says Smita, whose biggest inspiration in her work are Miguel Braganza, an organic agricultural expert and conservationist, and Preeti Patil, co-founder of Urban Leaves.
The young entrepreneur believes in developing an eco-friendly dialogue between the society and its stakeholders. This belief is the essence behind Nature Bazaar (NB), easily the most interesting initiative of Earthoholics. NB, a mobile bazaar held every month at different locations, is a one-stop abode for the environmentally-conscious. “The idea is to expose as many people as possible to eco-products and lifestyles,” she points out.
In the second series of NB held in April, around 40 exhibitors came under one roof to offer organic groceries, vegetables, chemical-free foods and snacks, biodegradable soaps and detergent, natural cosmetics, organic clothes, cotton and jute bags, cane furniture and other products. “The back-to-back workshops on composting, growing herbal plants, making newspaper bags, making greeting cards from waste materials, handicrafts, utility art, ceramic painting, pottery and rain water harvesting, proved to be a big hit,” Smita beams.
Keeping in mind the growing population, poverty and scarcity of cultivable land in India, how far will our foods go organic? “The issue of food supply and demand is persistent, unmindful of the mode of production. Organic farming is still in its nascent stage. Though everybody is interested in eating healthy foods, only very few are willing to pay for it. Many wrongly perceive the price to be a taboo. With awareness, this will change in the long run,” she asserts.
It is this conviction that keeps Earthoholics on its toes. One way or the other, Smita and her team are determined that we hand over a healthy planet for posterity.