Culture: the beliefs and traditions we hold and pass down to future generations. Generations that evolve and develop, their beliefs influenced by their environment. That is what Amit Gandhi of Handy DIY Store is using to create a new culture in a beautiful Crowthorne village and its surrounding areas. He has devised a way of drawing residents into the 21st century using 20th century techniques. He has developed an eco-store.
In the wake of another successful protest in the city of Bristol by the well-known eco warrior, Greta Thunberg, objecting against the sluggish response of politicians and large corporations to reducing waste that will impact climate change, Amit’s response might seem small in comparison to what these oligarchs could achieve, but his revolutionary methods of improving his business whilst reducing the carbon footprint of his customers do not fall short of inspired. As the world plays catch up, he is celebrating a year of selling eco friendly products and offering a refilling station for household cleaning supplies that encourage customers to reuse their old detergent bottles instead of adding them to the overflowing landfills in our towns and villages.
Speaking to the eco warrior about his decision to supply products that promote environmental change, he told me that over a year ago, he was approached by the organisation, Crowthorne Reduce Our Waste (CROW), which was set up by Georgie Morris in early 2018 after she became frustrated with the amount of single-use plastic from a weekly shop. The organisation has accomplished Plastic Free Community Status for the Crowthorne village, a status established and awarded by the Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) to towns and cities who fight to reduce their plastic waste. The organisation called on local business owners to champion their cause to reduce single use plastics from everyday shopping. Following his own passion for change, Amit decided to research products that had a lesser impact on the environment and began restructuring his local shop to accommodate products with a lower carbon footprint, replacing the everyday detergents and utensils we buy in supermarkets with biodegradable alternatives. A year on, he is still on the hunt for more alternatives, never tiring in his search to provide his customers with eco-friendly options.
“I am originally from Kenya where, even today, we go to the shops to get refills on certain products. Bottles are collected and returned to be reused. That is how we have always lived. Some residents here remember doing the same thing.”
What drives a business owner like Amit Gandhi to make that change? He believes that we all have a part to play in reducing our carbon footprint, but his passion goes further than that. Through conversations with local residents who have lived long enough to see the change in our consumerist culture, he recognises a parallel to his own childhood. “I am originally from Kenya where, even today, we go to the shops to get refills on certain products. Bottles are collected and returned to be reused. That is how we have always lived. Some residents here remember doing the same thing.” Amit’s belief that our older ideals should not be dismissed or thrown own with modernisation highlights the throw away culture that has developed with the excess in supply and demand of goods in our modernised culture. The Department of Environmental Food and Rural Affairs produced a report in February 2019, stating: “The UK recycling rate for Waste from Households (WfH; including IBA metal) was 45.7% in 2017, increasing from 45.2% in 2016. There is an EU target for the UK to recycle at least 50% of household waste by 2020.” If communities are to reach that target, more households need to embrace change.
“The UK recycling rate for Waste from Households (WfH; including IBA metal) was 45.7% in 2017, increasing from 45.2% in 2016. There is an EU target for the UK to recycle at least 50% of household waste by 2020.”
So, while the world sluggishly engages with a cultural change that existed before the turn of the century, Amit is spearheading the change needed to encourage shoppers to reuse their plastic bottles and purchase goods that won’t sit in landfills for centuries to come. From biodegradable kitchen foil and dog poo bags, to bees wax food wrappers and bamboo kitchen utensils, as well as eco-friendly cleaning products, his shop is in the forefront of fighting waste. Products such as Ecoleaf Washing up liquid, liquid hand wash, toilet cleaner, fabric conditioner and laundry liquid are available to purchase, and dispensers are in place for convenient refills.
“Just a conversation with him, he tells me he’s on a boat for days and sees plastic straws floating around.”
Amit’s decision to supply products that promote an environmental change is a small step to improving the world and hopefully impacting climate change. Surrounding himself with a belief system to sustain and supply, he might not be as well-known as Greta Thunberg, but he is still an eco-warrior to those that know him. With a friendly, down to earth attitude, he shares a story about his friend who goes diving around the world to explain just how far the impact of waste affects the environment. “Just a conversation with him, he tells me he’s on a boat for days and sees plastic straws floating around.” Amit shakes his head and points out that we must do something to stop this from happening. His attitude and those of societies such as CROW and Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) campaign for a better world for all of us. Maybe it’s time we take a page out of the own of Handy DIY Store in Crowthorne so that we too can become part of the cultural change.