How to live naturally with Earth’s regeneration capacity

Have you ever wondered how different your lifestyle is from that of your grandparents? Have you ever stopped and examined the impact your lifestyle will have on your children?

A few years ago, these questions kept me up at night. I began re-looking for the source of the food on my plate, the resources I consumed daily, and the impacts of my activities on the earth. My questioning gave me a newfound appreciation for the regenerative capacity of the earth and for the wisdom our ancients had to adopt a lifestyle in keeping with this capacity. I began a quest to understand how we could contribute to it and take control of our ecological footprint.

The journey was one of exploring sustainable consumption and the use of biodegradable products that complement the earth’s regenerative cycle rather than disrupt or harm it. Water conservation and regeneration, sustainable sanitation, promoting ecological diversity, and traditional healing practices were other areas I engaged with deeply during this period.

Earlier this year, my learning, strengthened by the success of my experiments with sustainable consumption, resulted in the creation of Devara Kaadu.

                                 The mud hut at Devara Kaadu. Credit: Rishi Mazumdar

                                 The mud hut at Devara Kaadu. Credit: Rishi Mazumdar

A community centre with a strong belief that equitable access to natural capital can work better than poverty alleviation measures, Devara Kaadu undertakes biodiversity and ecosystem conservation and works to revive indigenous knowledge and strengthen local economies.

PraanaPoorna is a range of natural products made using traditional, locally sourced ingredients. They draw from native knowledge and indigenous practices to make natural, earth-friendly products for daily use and consumption. All PraanaPoorna products follow a cradle-to-cradle approach and use the least possible resources for packaging and transport.

Devara Kaadu is guided by the principles of Circular Economy and Community Co-creation Centres where people can come together to create for our needs, alter our consumption patterns, and work with Earth's regeneration process. Our time is spent in creating for our needs and in engaging and supporting the community that produces for our needs.

PraanaPoorna’s range includes natural cleaners, shampoos, detergents and healing skin creams that can easily be made at home and used as substitutes for commercial products. The products and their uses are shared below:

1. Skin butter using beeswax and frankincense in virgin coconut oil

This sacred healing anti-ageing traditional creme can be used for moisturising and healing at all levels through the skin

Frankincense is a resin used traditionally for physical, emotional and spiritual healing, is considered holy and used in rituals by all religions for centuries. Frankincense contains sesquiterpenes that stimulate the part of the brain that controls emotions.

Beeswax brings to your skin healthy effects in a package that is completely natural. Even when processed, beeswax is still active biologically and preserves anti-inflammatory, germicidal, antibacterial, and anti-allergenic properties, making it the chosen solution for many skin disorders. While beeswax is the main material for the construction of the honeycomb, propolis (which is also called the bee glue) is used to fill and repair small gaps and cracks in the honeycomb and to smooth rough surfaces. Propolis is a resinous substance that honey bees collect from tree buds, sap flows, or other sources of natural resins. The desired aroma and charm of beeswax (as well as many of its unique health advantages) come actually from these natural ‘contaminants’ – honey, propolis and pollen.

Virgin coconut oil has very small fat molecules which are rich in MTC (Medium Chain Triglycerides) fats that quickly penetrate into the skin. These benefits can be attributed to the presence of lauric acid, capric acid and caprylic acid, and their respective properties, such as antimicrobial, antioxidant, antifungal, antibacterial and soothing qualities.

2. Natural cleaners made with citrus, soapnut and shikakai

Natural cleaners work with the Earth's regeneration process, thus reducing conflict with Earth and other living beings co-habiting this ecosystem while bringing abundance of life force into our lives. Using a combination of soapnut, shikakai with bioenzyme, and wood-ash, we can replace all the chemical cleaners used in our homes home. 

  • The bio-enzyme breaks down the grime rather than burning it like chemical cleaners do.
  • The wastewater that leaves our home and joins water bodies will add to the food pyramid because of live microorganisms present in it. It does not deplete oxygen.
  • Washing with soapnuts consumes lesser water.
  • Lakes and streams need not froth and choke as these cleaners work with Earth’s natural regeneration process.

Uses of bioenzyme

  1. Accelerator in composting or bio-digestor process.
  2. Ceramic, steel surface grease and grime remover (bathroom or Chimney cleaning)
  3. Toilet cleaner

Uses of soapnut liquid

  1. Filter and use the liquid directly as shampoo or handwash. The first filter is very strong and works well to wash off grease or oil.
  2. Use 100 ml for 5 kg load in the washing machine. Use depending on the volume of soiled clothes. This works best with hot water.
  3. Dilute and use as required as floor cleaner to replace all the other chemical soap needs.
  4. Apply on cuffs and collars after wetting clothes in hot water, scrub within 5 minutes. Do not let it dry, it could stain.
  5. Use directly to clean all plastic food containers including Tupperware.

Refill the container with water and use the water solution within 3 days. The soapnut can be reused until it stops lathering, then composted. The seeds can be made into seedlings.

Some other uses of bio-enzyme cleaners

  • Dish washing: Use soapnut liquid for washing your glasses, dishes, cutlery and pans. The lack of bubbles is not a statement of the effectiveness of the cleaning. There are no artificial foaming agents so there will be very few, if any, lasting bubbles.
  • Cleaning and detoxifying food: Soak your fruit and vegetables for approximately 10-15 minutes in the soapnut liquid. Rinse off and enjoy this food free from harmful chemicals and residue. This soap nut solution can then be reused for household cleaning.
  • Cleaning jewellery: Soap nuts are commonly used in Indian households for cleaning and shining jewellery. Jewellery is soaked in soap nut liquid and then rubbed with a cloth to give it a shine.
  • Natural pesticide: Using soap nuts is an effective and natural alternative to repel insects off your plants and around the house. This easily replaces chemicals. This is a great use for leftover soap nut liquid from washing or laundry.
  • Shampoo: Simply use soapnut liquid in place of your regular shampoo! Since soapnut liquid does not foam like regular shampoo it’s easy to use too much liquid. If you find your hair is feeling dry or greasy, you probably used too much. For best results, reuse a shampoo bottle with a pump to help determine how much you need. It will naturally help prevent dandruff and keep your hair soft and strong. When using to treat dandruff, apply the liquid soap nut on your scalp and leave on for 5-10 minutes. Make sure the liquid does not get into the eye as it will burn. Rinse hair with water. Also works well as a body wash! Traditionally it is used for removing lice from the scalp.
                                      Soapnuts being prepared for making the shampoo

                                      Soapnuts being prepared for making the shampoo

Read more about the benefits of natural cleaners and learn how to make them. For more information about Devara Kaadu and our work, visit our Facebook page.

If any community or self-help group is keen to start their own enterprise, we can help set up and promote local production and consumption.

Featured image credit: Rishi Mazumdar.

Smitha Kamath is a spiritual ecologist and founder of Devara Kaadu.