At a time when environmental pollution is increasing exponentially with the rise in human population, going green is no more just a mantra, but an actual necessity. While there are many people who talk about conservation of the environment and working towards making the earth a better place to live in, very few people actually walk the talk. Omi Gurung, a well-known fashion designer, writer and green activist from Sikkim is however an exception. He recently received the ‘Young Naturalist Award’ from Balipara Foundation for his exemplary work towards sustainable development.
Omi is the owner of Green Gangtok- an earth-friendly boutique, a first-of-its-kind in Sikkim. The boutique houses an array of exciting products and clothing items made in India that are natural, organic, handmade, upcycled, sustainable and animal-friendly. He was chosen as one of the ‘Top Ten Cutest Vegetarian Next Door 2013’ by PETA India. He was selected from thousands of contestants from across India, making him the first vegetarian from the Northeast to reach the finals of the contest organized by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India.
In an exclusive interview with Eclectic NorthEast, Gurung spoke about his work towards sustainable development and eco-friendly fashion. ‘Where others simply see disposable scrap in household waste like plastic bottles, carton box, broken glass, metal, e-waste, newspaper and so on, we at OMI channelize our talents to transform the waste into thought-provoking art or environment-friendly every day-use products. I design under my brand name OMI and my designs promote eco-fashion and traditional Indian craftsmanship. A social group Oh My India (OMI) was officially launched on 10th May 2010 in Bangalore to create awareness on recycling household waste. The group successfully created awareness to recycle domestic waste and helped thousands of people world-wide to get started. OMI pro-actively advocated the art of recycling via social media, workshops and seminars, display and exhibitions across India.
Coming up with Green Gangtok
The Green Gangtok boutique was opened in August 2012, and it houses an array of exciting fashionable green choices in apparels, accessories and artefacts. ‘I am also contemplating to start an NGO by the next financial year which will work exclusively on domestic waste management and help empower people by creating and marketing sustainable and upcycled utility products, fashion accessories and home décor accessories’ he said. Regarding Green Gangtok, he said that the products retailed here are mostly handmade, natural and animal-friendly as well. They are free from child labour, toxic dyes and unfair trade. Also, at a time when the Make in India campaign is gaining importance, Gurung’s products hold tremendous value.
How to Go Green
When asked how the average person can practice environment-friendly fashion, Gurung says, ‘It is no rocket science to go green. Green is a verb and a lifestyle! Small steps you take today can make a better tomorrow. Firstly, REFUSE to bring home waste. Be eco-conscious and buy only things you need, plan your purchase well. Buy only natural or organic products/produce. Wear organic clothing, use organic cosmetics and eat organic food. Today, you have myriad options to choose from and most are pocket-friendly. Secondly, REUSE your household waste and segregate it into dry waste and wet waste. Cultivate a habit of composting food waste and engage in growing your own kitchen herbs. It is a very simple and fun to do! Free-cycling is something we all can do; give away things you don’t need to someone in need. You can throw a free-cycle party for friends where you can exchange stuff like clothes, cosmetics and accessories. Lastly, when you buy a gift, go for hand-made pieces and support your local creative talents’.
Omi is an animal lover and has been a savior for street animals, especially dogs, helping in their rescue and rehabilitation in Bangalore and Sikkim via organisations like PETA India, CUPA, PFA and SARAH. Youngsters like Gurung inspire others to come out and do their bit for the environment before it is too late. Wish there were more like him who actually worked towards making the world beautiful.