Second To None

Shilpa Kamath, Reena Chengappa and Anu Gummaraju, founders at Second To None (2nd20) practice and encourage ideas around reuse, recycling, reducing waste and replenishing resources. With a simple idea and an undying passion, these three women sure do practice what they preach and talk to STW about all the great work they do in Bangalore city.

STW: Second To None is obviously a fantastic idea, aimed at encouraging the three R’s and maybe more! Tell us about the birth of this brain child.

2nd20: Anu: Everyone loves an activist. Activists make us feel there is someone, somewhere, who is doing something to make this place a better one to live in. But an activist is right inside each of us, if we choose to practice a lifestyle that will make a difference. It does not have to be an external body, an NGO. We (Reena, Shilpa, me) took a form of this activism from our private lives and our homes to an online space focused on Bangalore. It was to start simple acts of not discarding, not hoarding (and hence leading to more consumption), and not disposing usable things which could find perfectly good use by others.

So Second to None started as a much required online and physical space in Bangalore for buying and selling used goods and for exchanging ideas on reuse and recycling. A gujri like place where you could sell your old, unwanted things, and pick up stuff you need at bargain prices. And where you can pick the collective brain of the community for recycling at home, DIY projects with waste, and such.

(Taken by Archana Srinivas) Left: Reena Chengappa (pink dupatta), Center: Anu Gummaraju; Right: Shilpa Kamath.

Reena: The consumerist age that we suddenly find ourselves in is exactly why we to need to relook at our lifestyle choices and start with small, but significant changes. Stop and think before buying that new piece of furniture, decor product or kurta! This leads us to the age old debate of need versus want, but that again is very, very relative 🙂

We made a few simple choices and wanted to bring that consciousness into our daily living and the idea of preaching it and spreading the message wasn’t big on our wish list. But when someone sees you following a particular lifestyle/choice/community – your friends and family who are in your immediate circle of influence, then I think, change takes place on its own. Before you know it, it becomes an option and perhaps the only one, what with the city grappling with waste management and segregation! 🙂

So when we wanted to start this community (on FB) to share and work on recycling, reuse and consume less tenets and when we got a few like-minded folks who joined in enthusiastically, the market idea came up and from a state of mind of ‘will anyone register’ to ‘oh we got 10 registations’ to ‘oh, we can’t take in more than 30 registrations/stalls’ a year ago we’ve come a long way! It’s a lovely example of what a ‘practical and relevant’ idea can turn into and become a movement!

STW: Many of the Second To None initiatives are focussed around giving old or second hand items a new lease of life. What types of end-products result from this process?

2nd20: Shilpa: To list a few – newspaper: papier mache lamps, vases, bags, coasters, pens, paper bead jewellery. (Rabi of Refresh Studio, Vidya of Sattvam, Belaku Trust). Magazines: decoupaged trunks, framed art. Used gift wrapping paper: decoupage on various objects, gift tags, napkin rings. Used bottles: decor pieces, lamps, vases, platters. (Message on a bottle by Anokhi Planet, Upcycled bottles by Athreya and Reimagine by Lynn, Gilaas by Nirmala). Old cassettes : Pen/Pencil Holders (Anokhi Planet). Used denims: Bags, pouches, laptop cases, key rings. (100 hands/Nimhans Rehab center initiative, Karaashilp). Used, scrap fabric: Pouches, pin up boards, gift box covers (Enthucutlets). Old rubber tyres: Planters. (by My Sunny Balcony). Tetra packs: Pouches, Bags (Anu Group). Used food tins: Painted, or crocheted over and used as pen stands, etc. (Rainbow Bunting). Waste wood: small furniture (Project Emm)

STW: How receptive are people to these repurposed products and what would you say has been most well received?

2nd20: Anu: First timers who come to our flea markets are quite taken aback with the number of uses that waste material can afford. The upcycled products do not look old or used and worn. They look cool! So bags, pouches, pin up boards, gift tags, cards, decor pieces from old bottles are hot!

Reena: Another significant end-product – awe, inspiration and ‘oh-things-made-out-of-waste-can-look-so-pretty-too?’ reactions 🙂 Not to forget that a few creative upcyclers launched their innovative ventures via the 200 platform and have a dedicated set of end-users, as well.

STW: What are the direct benefits from reusing items that could potentially be thrown away?

2nd20: Shilpa: Reuse keeps materials out of landfills. Reuse provides an excellent, environmentally-preferred alternative to other waste management methods, because it reduces air, water and land pollution. Reuse results in less hazardous waste. Reuse saves money in purchases and disposal costs. Reuse creates an affordable supply of items that are often of good quality.

STW: Anu, Shilpa and Reena – you obviously care a great deal for this initiative and invest a significant amount of your time and energy to it. What makes you want to do this everyday?

2nd20: Anu: It is insane how many people are out there who want just an avenue to reuse or see their old stuff reused, rather than junking them (and we had not a clue before the group took off). The fact that Second to None has become this avenue and is bringing more and more people into the fold every single day – this is what makes me tick. And makes us want to make this even bigger. So no amount of time or energy seems like too much!

Shilpa: The response to our flea markets and the ever growing community and traffic on our Facebook page makes me genuinely believe that we can overcome whatever restrictions we have to reuse/recycling if we can increase awareness through mediums such as our flea markets, blogs, our Facebook forum, workshops, and the media. With more and more people becoming aware of the benefits of reuse and recycling we can surely improve the quality of life for our generation and the next.

Reena: A year ago we aspired and envisioned the 220 forum to be this little group of like-minded, passionate (so what if the world does not get us) and sensitive (to their immediate surroundings, flora, fauna, home, city, land and the planet) reaching out to people and communities one at a time. We still do. And, this makes every day a very fulfilling and a satisfying work in progress project and we can see the effort brightening up tiny corners of our lives as well someone else’s.

STW: What is your mantra and vision at Second To None?

2nd20: Shilpa: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – everyday. Second to None began with a core principle of consuming less and reusing more, and making healthy choices for ourselves and for the planet. Apart from the sale of used products, we are keen on getting experts in the areas of waste management and similar clean and green living concepts to reach a wider audience in the hope of promoting such practices among ourselves and a wider audience.

Anu: Gaining a critical mass with reuse, so that it actually starts telling on production and consumption patterns in our societies. A tall order! And of course, reusing is only one part of the larger system that needs to start functioning, if we are ever going to NOT overburden the planet with man made goods. Reuse, recycle, buy less impulsively, manufacture less hazardous materials like plastics, start using waste and scrap material as raw materials instead of manufacturing new, incentivize businesses that use scrap and waste. This has to be a continuous and collective process. For our part, now, encouraging a community that adopts reuse and conscious consumption as a lifestyle, rather than a feel-good-once-in-a-while activity, is the aim.

Reena: Work with innovative groups/communities specialising in recycling/waste management area, use the network we have developed via the 220 forum to reach out and educate/create awareness about the options people have about the lifestyle choices one can make and help them look at the bigger picture. Schools, apartments and coporates are main targets to start this and support the program through workshops and sustained engagements.

STW: Talking about other types of wastes – Do you believe there is a sustainable and feasible waste management system out there, that can be implemented and maintained? With recent news reports on the state of Bangalore city, this seems a relevant and pressing matter to be addressed by every citizen.

2nd20: Anu: Even as we speak, the BBMP has issued the directive to all households to start segregating waste. This is a fantastic move! Making it mandatory and penalizing for defaulting; this is the only way to get a large population to start taking an active interest in a problem which is ours as much as the BBMP’s. Yes, there are sustainable waste management systems, but only to the extent that they try and ensure that most reusable components, which they receive in a segregated fashion, are sent/sold to manufacturers who reuse them. But there is no system to ensure that we generate less waste in the first place, which is the need right now. This needs a huge mind set change, and education, coupled with systems to deal with both conservation and managing waste. Utopian, for sure! But it is high time we started worrying and feeling guilty!

Shilpa: There are activists like Vani Murthy who actively promotes organic gardening and waste management, Divya Bhandarkar who has set in motion a waste management system in Brigade Gardenia that helps it’s residents segregate waste and manage waste efficiently. Vani and Divya have been part of the flea markets to educate people on how one can start making a cleaner, greener space by segregating and managing waste better in our communities. Daily Dump has also been part of our flea markets and they have educated and encouraged people to manage household waste and convert it to useful high-quality compost.

If you’d like to connect with Second To None, leave a comment here are STW will help you get introduced.


About Shruti Bharath

Social entrepreneur and developmental writer, passionate about creating workable solutions in the areas of improving employability of youth and women through skill enhancement/training and generation of productive and sustainable employment opportunities.

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