This article is a part of the campaign ‘9 mindful women entrepreneurs who are building a healthy future’. This year we are celebrating Navratri by shining the spotlight on nine modern empowered women who are paving the way for the green future of the next generation. Over these 9 days we’ll feature an inspiring entrepreneur and her journey towards a more sustainable future.
Shubhashree Sangameswaran – 38, mother, illustrator and social entrepreneur
It was June 2016 when she started The Hungry Palette that uses art as a medium to talk about a sustainable and zero-waste lifestyle. Her artistic style, much like her personality, is simple, practical and quirky. Throughout our interview we discussed her work, creating an impact and the role of children in sustainability. She’s a deeply sensitive person who strives to make this world a better place through her work.
Though she was always interested in art, Shubhashree pursued a career in IT for over a decade. It was the birth of her daughter and relocation to Hyderabad which gave her the opportunity to take a break from work and focus on what she really wanted to do. She rekindled her love for art and dove into working with sketch book and has now taken up illustrating, full time.
IT BEGAN WITH MY DAUGHTER’S BIRTH
When my daughter was born I became very concerned about the quality of food and products she needs.
I started searching for alternatives to disposable diapers that contain chemicals and aren’t biodegradable. Researching alternatives led me to cloth diapers and I started to further educate myself about other eco-friendly alternatives. I discovered menstrual cups and I cannot stop advocating them. I stumbled upon environment activist Lauren Singer’s blog and really enjoyed reading her take on zero-waste lifestyle – it sounded like the way I lived as a child. So I started going back to basics.
WHEN THE REST WERE BAKING, I WAS SKETCHING
Food is something I completely enjoy. Since childhood I have loved cooking, baking and eating. Food naturally became my favourite subject to paint. One time, a friend invited me to her baking studio and while everyone was baking, I was sketching the food. My friend saw my sketches and commissioned a few paintings for her studio walls. So I sketched some of the stuff she bakes like cinnamon rolls, ladi pav and this delicious fruit cake. Then another friend wanted some sketches for a book and from there on it was word of mouth. It eventually led me to create The Hungry Palette in June, 2018. Anyone who likes my art can order it from The Hungry palette. The name itself is a representation of my love for food.
TRASH TALK WITH KIDS
‘Let’s Talk Trash’ started with what happens at my own house. If I tell my daughter anything she ensures that I stick to it no matter what. Kids can call out hypocrisy better than anyone. They’ll even call out adults like with my daughter; she calls out my friends who carry plastic bottles. Kids are great activists like that. Unlike many adults who can be armchair activists who talk about sustainability and still litter. So I decided to make an activity book for kids which will
- Sensitize children to the present scenario
- Once informed, encourage them to call out adults
Once a conversation between parents and kids start, it can make a huge impact. When you sit, read and talk about the environment with kids, you understand the concept better and feel accountable for the example that you set.
I created ‘Let’s Talk Trash’ around October, 2018 and made copies for friends. Then, thanks to Instagram and my friends and supporters, the media picked it up. It’s available online now and the response has been positively overwhelming.
MAKING WASTE SEGREGATION FUN & ENGAGING
I conduct two kinds of Let’s Talk Trash workshops. One is aimed at children and the other at adults. The kid’s workshop is based on my book and my attempts to gamify activities and have kids interact with the concept of sustainability in a fun and engaging way. I spend an hour doing activities like waste segregation while making it fun.
For example, I’ll have a bunch of items (plastic and biodegradable) and the kids have to pick 3 or 4 items they would use to decorate a birthday party. Based on their answers, we talk about how each of them contributes to what volume of waste and how to organize a party that will generate the least amount of waste. Effectively teaching them to minimize waste in any activity.
STOP CONSUMING- START CREATING
At the workshop for adults we discuss about the importance of taking a break from our consumerist culture and actually create something with your hands for some time every day. It’s focused on visual journaling where we teach them simple illustrations that allow you to record small things about your life. It’s less about learning drawing skills and more about cutting off screen time for more enriching experiences like taking 15 – 20 minutes of your day to make something using your hands. For the past 5 years, I’ve been recording things in my sketchbook and when I look at it now, I’m so happy that I preserved my memories in such a beautiful way. Gradually, you don’t wait for Saturdays to paint and it becomes a habit. I find the process quite meditative and relaxing and that’s what I want to pass on to the adults.
ZERO WASTE SELF CARE
Art is a very personal thing and it can be used as a way to practice self-care. You should be just as concerned about yourself as you are about the environment and art can help bridge this gap. Your brain is overloaded with so many things, art helps you unwind and create something personal and conscious. The act of creation, in turn, creates awareness and responsibility. Getting into a habit of creating something is powerful.
Kindness, Empathy, and less consumption are the 3 things the world needs right now.