My first real job was in the public relations department at a company called LensCrafters and their corporate headquarters in Cincinnati, Ohio. Technically I was an intern there for 6 months, but my mentor there, Susan Knobler, didn’t treat me like an intern. She trusted me with all sorts of responsibilities and projects. I did things like write the company newsletter and press releases about various activities happening in the stores. But there was one brand new project that Susan created called Give the Gift of Sight and I had the opportunity to help during its initial stages.
Give the Gift of Sight (which at some point became One Sight), began as Susan thinking about how to close the loop (though I don’t believe that language was too common in the early 1990s): lots of people had to get rid of old prescription eyewear when they finished with it and LensCrafters created this programme to collect those spectacles, refurbish them, and send optometrists to communities where they could distribute them to people who couldn’t afford prescription eyeglasses. This was certainly something that generated a lot of positive publicity for the company–in the days before the acronym CSR (corporate social responsibility) or even EPR (extended producer responsibility) was in vogue.
Susan planted seeds in me that I didn’t realise until relatively recently: namely that I want to be more involved in helping companies and people close the loop so that we reduce what we put into the waste stream.
It recently struck me how informative this particular experience was now that I have made a bit of a career change, shifting from teaching to working at the Daily Dump. This company–it’s not an NGO, though many people incorrectly assume it is–has pioneered closing the loop with respect to “waste” in Bangalore. And once again, its founder, Poonam Bir Kasturi, did so long before anyone was talking about this in Bangalore. And she, too, is someone who is deeply encouraging of the people who work for her to run with ideas and develop them.
And, of course, the Daily Dump is all about closing the loop. We make composting units for people to beautify their “waste”. The original one we sell is called the kambha and it’s made out of terracotta by potters around the country, potters who are dependent on this livelihood as, unfortunately, many people have shifted to buying cement pots instead. It’s insane, actually, for so many reasons: cement pots don’t allow what’s inside to breathe–whether it’s a plant or compost–which is vital and they’re just plain ugly.
I’m still working on educating the next generation about waste, but doing it from a different venue. I’m helping to create programmes that we’re going to be using in Bangalore schools to help them see the value of nature in the city as well as why composting is so crucial to maintaining and enlarging the natural world in an urban context. Plus I get to inspire people to begin composting every day in our shop!
So I’ll keep blogging, but if I begin to write more about compost and soil and why it’s so essential at least you’ll know why.