Updated: November 4, 2021 7:04:33 am
Every year, as the excitement around the much-awaited festival of Diwali grows, so does the debate around bursting firecrackers. The joyous festival is, unfortunately, marked with alarming levels of pollution caused due to the injudicious bursting of harmful firecrackers. With the festival just around the corner, it’s time we reimagined our celebrations in a more sustainable manner.
Instead of completely doing away with crackers, what if we tell you you can buy crackers that don’t pollute? Instead of burning firecrackers, you can sow them and do your bit to contain the rising pollution levels. This is where the concept of ‘seed crackers’ or beej patakha comes in.
Organisations and collectives like Gram Art Project, 21 Fools and Sow and Grow are producing such innovative, eco-friendly crackers along with other live seed products that will not just eliminate the pollution and waste caused due to traditional firecrackers, but also help increase the green cover.
In simple words, these are firecracker lookalikes but embedded with live seeds instead of gunpowder. “Instead of affecting birds and animals by causing sound, light and air pollution, these are nature-friendly and habitat rejuvenating,” said Shweta Bhattad, founder and co-worker at Gram Art Project.
Gram Art Project, which has been making eco-friendly crackers under their initiative called Barood vs Beej, try to embed seeds that could capture the character of that particular firecracker. “For example, the traditional anar firecracker creates a golden shower that lasts a few seconds leaving behind a trail of toxic smoke and ash. Our golden shower seed cracker contains the seeds of Golden Shower tree (Cassia Fistula) which blooms in summer.”
Divyanshu Asopa, founder and CEO of 21 Fools, added, “Seed crackers are look-alike crackers. The idea is to let people enjoy the festival but in a sustainable way.”
Instead of bursting them, just sow and water these crackers and see them hatch into beautiful plants that can be consumed after nurturing.
The idea behind seed crackers
Seed cracker is a rather new concept in the country that began toying with the idea of initiating a constructive dialogue about the way we celebrate festivals, important occasions and victories.
21 Fools, which initially started as an e-magazine in 2010 and later ventured into products space, moved to sustainable practices after Asopa realised they were wasting tonnes of paper. “Since 2014, we have been creating a paper that would grow into a plant. These are called plantable seed paper and are 100 per cent biodegradable,” he said.
Gradually, targeting major Indian festivals like Holi, Diwali and Rakshabandhan, they decided to create sustainable alternatives to the products that are used in these festivals. “During Holi, we tied up with a community of forest dwellers and made organic colours. To replace traditional water balloons, we created seed balloons that would grow into plants. During Rakhi, we created seed rakhi. And now during Diwali, we have seed crackers, hand-painted diyas and blue pottery diyas,” Asopa explained.
“For us, the idea has been to handle the issue of pollution creatively and have a positive conservation around it, instead of just criticising the practice of bursting firecrackers,” said Tanmay Joshi, a co-worker at Gram Art Project.
“Seed crackers were also conceived because there was an urgent need. Every year during Diwali, New Year, weddings or any other events of celebrations, we see our non-human colleagues suffer very miserably,” Bhattad added.
Gurgaon-based enterprise Sow and Grow started with DIY gardening kits for children. Eventually, they brought in zero-waste and sustainable alternatives of products around major festivals. “For Diwali, we started with plantable seed Ganesha and Lakshmiji idols. This year, we introduced seed crackers which are basically cracker-shaped seed bombs,” Nehal Saharan, the founder, said.
A means of uplifting marginalised communities
What also makes these crackers special is that also follow an eco-friendly making process. 21 Fools and Gram Art Project work with rural women, farmers and local artisans to create these sustainable live seed products.
Gram Art Project, which is based in Paradsinga village in Madhya Pradesh, has rural women working on these crackers. “In all, women from around 100 households of seven villages have made the making of these crackers possible. Some of these women are farmers, some are farm labourers, some are artists while some are homemakers. But one common identity that they all hold can be said that they all are artisans in their own right,” Bhattad said.
Joshi added, “This is just a way to start a conversation to look at women as not just household workers but as people who can also help support the family economically. We are seeing the change as women who earlier didn’t even venture out of their homes are now travelling to different villages to give training.”
It’s no different for Asopa’s 21 Fools which focuses on “uplifting these communities and providing them a source of revenue through their skills”.
“We have a community of farmers and artisans making these live seed products. Seed crackers are created by farmers and a group of rural women in Sanganer and Chhindwara. For blue pottery diyas, we have tied up with another community in Kot Jewar, the place where this art began in India originally. The hand-painted diyas are made by craftswomen from the Jaipur-based Prajapati Community,” he informed.
Sustainable making process
The seed crackers and other such live seed products are 100 per cent biodegradable as only waste paper, cardboard, waste cotton and seeds are used in its making. “Our seed crackers are made from waste cotton, recycled paper and organic live seeds. The embedded seeds are non-GMO (Genetically modified organisms) and non-IPR (Intellectual property rights),” Asopa said.
Talking about the seeds used by Gram Art Project, Joshi said, “Our priority is seeds grown or collected by farmers here. Other than that, we go for open-pollinated variety from National Seeds corporations which is a Government of India undertaking. Our last resort is buying from private seed companies from where we buy open-pollinated, non-GMO and non-hybrid seeds.”
“All our products are completely eco-friendly, made with recycled paper, cardboard and seeds,” Saharan added.
Make the switch
With climate change wreaking havoc across the globe and rising pollution levels threatening the lives of many, it’s time to make this sustainable switch. Joshi said, “Instead of painting it as an attack on culture and traditions, we just hope for people to see it from a sustainable lens. We need to be conscious in our ways of consumption and conversation.”
Agreed Saharan and said, “If you make the switch, your next generation will follow suit.”
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