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She’s an illustrator, designer and zero-waste warrior8 min read

March 12, 2021 5 min read


She’s an illustrator, designer and zero-waste warrior8 min read

Reading Time: 5 minutes

An average Indian generates 600 grams of waste every day! Multiply that with the population of the country, and you have a very heavy number at hand. There are many zeroes involved. But there is a way to avoid this mammoth dump by including another zero in our vocabulary! Zero-waste—

The conservation of all resources by means of responsible production, consumption, reuse, and recovery of products, packaging, and materials without burning and with no discharges to land, water, or air that threaten the environment or human health.

from United States Environmental Protection agency

Owliver met Shubhashree Sangameswaran, an illustrator, designer, and author who walks the path of zero-waste to know more about her journey, and her cause.

Sourced from The Better India

Shubhashree has been on this journey for close to seven years. She has gathered her learnings in an activity book titled Let’s Talk Trash. She is the illustrator behind The Hungry Palette. She also holds workshops on visual journalling and sustainability. At present, she is working on another book on sustainability. Owliver shall keep you posted!

Let’s get to know this trailblazer better!

How did it all begin?

Shubshashree’s journey as an artist began when she was a child. She jokingly adds, “But being from Bangalore, I became an engineer by default!” She worked in the Information Technology sector for ten years. She turned to art when she moved cities with her partner and 18-month-old daughter, and decided to take some time off. She says, “I could not imagine going back to a full-time job.” A friend commissioned her to create some work for her studio, and that is how her journey as an illustrator took shape.

From a recipe illustration © Shubhashree

And what about sustainability?

“My journey of sustainable practices began when my daughter was born. So around 6 and a half years ago,” says Shubhashree. She had started looking for alternatives to disposable diapers because of the health concerns around their use. But her research told her just how bad they are for the environment. She adds, “This is when she found zero-waste living. I got really curious and started educating myself.” Attributing part of this awareness to her upbringing, Shubhashree says, “There was always a sense of responsibility growing up in a middle-class Indian family where wasting is not acceptable.”

Shubhashree created a sketchbook for the Brooklyn Art Library’s Sketchbook Project on sustainability. Her work started receiving recognition on social media. She printed 100 copies of the first edition, and it assumed a life of its own.
She went on to create an activity book for kids, Let’s Talk Trash, which works as a starter’s guide to zero-waste living.

Sourced from The Hungry Palette

A childhood memory about sustainability…

A page from her book. Sourced from The Hungry Palette.

It was during her research that Shubhashree realised how her upbringing was informed by sustainable practices. She adds, “I realised this is very close to how our parents used to live and what our grandparents used to say. It became a trend only now!” As a child, she used to watch her mother wash and rinse out milk packets and use the last drop of that water. She remembers how her mother used to pour water in rice, and use it for curd the next morning. She juxtaposed that with how she used to hoard something in the fridge and forget about it the next day, relentlessly adding to household waste. She adds,” There is so much wisdom in it— fermented rice is great for one’s health.” She quips, “Maybe it seems like hoarding but it’s more akin to not buying things if needs can be met with things that are already available. I went away from this wisdom but I am now finding my way back…,” she adds with a chuckle, “…slightly sheepishly”.

What adjustments were needed to walk this path?

At my home, if we are throwing out plastic, we always check if it can be reused. If it is being thrown out, we ensure we wash it nicely. There is a higher chance of it being recycled, if it is cleaned. What may look like inconvenience are worth the effort.

Her inspiration

I recently read a post from one such source who said composting is great but how about reducing the amount of wet waste that comes out of my house. Like watermelon rind, that is used in sambhar, rice, can also be used to make tutti-fruti!

Her biggest achievement?

For Shubhashree, her biggest achievement in her words is the realisation that “modern is not always necessarily better.” She adds, “It takes some effort to realise that we don’t know everything and maybe our parents and grandparents knew what they were doing all along.”

How does she practice mindfulness?

Shubhashree says that it is an ongoing journey. She says, “I do a lot of visual journalling, and gratitude journalling. I feel all of us are constantly consuming content and are always distracted with multiple tasks at hand. For us, it is important to come back to ourselves.” She conducts visual journalling workshops for people beyond constraints of how ‘good’ someone is at art as there is so much mindfulness in art. She recalls, “When COVID-19 was struck and all of us were stuck at home, I did gratitude journalling with my daughter and it made things easier.”

How does she unwind?

Shubhashree loves to bake and read. She also turns to crafts in her free time. She adds, “I try to do more things with my hands as its calming. So crafts with my daughter is what I resort to every now and then.” She also likes being outdoors, or what she calls, “being in nature.”

And here’s Shubhashree’s message for all of us—

You can buy Let’s Talk Trash, here. To get in touch with Shubhashree, write to her on thehungrypalette@gmail.com.

(Trailblazers 2.0 is a bi-monthly column that celebrates grown-ups who look at the world around them with wonder by charting their own unconventional paths with success)

Would you like to nominate someone you know to be featured in this column? Write to us at hello@owliverspost.com with their name, and what makes them a Trailblazer.