On a warm fall evening, I found myself visiting an eco-fair in Banani and as I entered the quaint space, I was overwhelmed at the crowded room with an array of different stalls with different banners containing an eclectic range of products. Earthy tones and smells surrounded me as I entered the room, and everywhere I looked, an energy of wholesome goodness spread throughout the venue. Familiar faces amongst unfamiliar ones filled the room, and as I talked to the participants, one thing was clear–this event was indeed a welcome addition to Dhaka’s growing eco-conscious scene.
The Eco-fair 2017 held on October 14 was organised by a group of enthusiastic individuals led by Tamazer Ahmed and consisted of different vendors that sold clothes, food, agro products, home and living items and books. A farmer’s market vibe was brought in by the agro stalls, namely Parmeeda, Prakriti, Nagar Krishi, and others. Sunbird Dhaka featured jackets made out of kanthas
(blankets), demonstrating an excellent example of everyday urban sustainability through reuse. Junk art focused on similar methods by reusing scraps by upcycling them into usable furniture. Bookcentric encourages sharing as they’re the first online library in Bangladesh, a concept that encourages the basic concept of sustainable consumption. These were, of course, some of the many stalls that were present on the day, all spreading the same awareness–sustainable urban consumption. Another informative and interactive part of the event was snippets of talks throughout the event by Dr. Nazim Uddin from Bangladesh Agriculture Research Institute, Dr Latiful Bari from Dhaka University molecular biology and Shahriar Caeser Ahmed, conversation biologist from Conservation Alliance.
For me, this event was a much-needed one as it brought together people and created an awareness to the public about environmental issues that are under our own control. A chat with Tamazer explained her vision on this fair and a different outlook on how we consume and purchase. When we think about terms related to the environment, we automatically think about heavy topics such as climate change, deforestation, loss of ecology; topics that we don’t think we can change directly and can only be changed by policymakers. But what we don’t think about is how issues related to the environment have become a humanist one rather than an environmentalist one, and how our responsibilities are directly related to environmental damages that we face today. Each of us is responsible for our own carbon footprint, and with a simple understanding of how we consume can lessen this significantly.
How we purchase things affects our health and the future generations directly. If one thinks about a vegetable that one buys from the store, the biggest concern that one faces is if it would be laced with some kind of chemical. But what doesn’t come into consideration is how that chemical might have leached into the soil, causing permanent pollution, how that chemical might have leached into a nearby water body, causing harm to the biodiversity around us. And the kicker to all this is the fact that the environment will adapt–but adaptation to this change by people is the difficult part.
Tamazer hopes to spread awareness through this event and tells us that buying local will encourage local artisans to create a thriving market while giving these small companies a fighting chance in today’s globalised economy. With this event, she hopes to launch the ‘sustainability alliance’ which brings together individuals who are enthusiastic about creating a change in the way we consume. In her words, she would like “to create awareness of our direct and tangible relationship to what appears to be faraway ecologies, so that we make more conscious decisions when we undertake any activity.”
Humans and natural systems are tightly entwined, and understanding the meaningful connection we have to nature will surely bring in a positive force towards environmental sustainability in our daily life in the urban context. This event is hopefully one of the first successful initiatives to bring local businesses focusing on eco-friendly products together.
So next time you make a purchase, take a second to think about the life cycle of the product you’re about to purchase and your place in this chain, and how you, yourself can make a difference in this entire chain.