Books
Subhashree's book, 'Let's Talk Trash' is an illustrated book on zero waste management.

There are a few things that only the '80s kids can relate to. Going to buy milk with a can and bottles to buy oil, bulk buying grocery staples or growing up watching nothing ever going to waste at home - whether it was extra food, or the stray plastic bag that managed to enter the house.

We have definitely changed a lot since then. From getting food delivered in take away boxes at our doorsteps to the umpteen plastic shopping bags that we hoard in our cars, our consumption driven lifestyle has made zero-waste management a thing of the past.

It’s in fashion but at the same time a little intimidating to see how people flaunt their two-year's worth trash in tiny glass jars on their blogs and Instagram timelines. Because being frugal looks fancy only with trendy hashtags.

This trend is exactly what prompted this Hyderabad-based IT professional to come out with an illustrated book on zero-waste management. Subhashree Sanghameshwaran’s book Let’s Talk Trash has grabbed quite a few eyeballs with its detailed miniature sketches on ways to reduce waste generation, starting from our homes to our plush office cabins.

Shubha, who was an IT professional in Bengaluru, moved to Hyderabad a few years back, taking a break from the world of coding and decoding. Meanwhile, Shubha revived her artistic interests and stumbled upon zero-waste management activist Lauren Singer’s blogs.

Talking to TNM, Subhashree says, “Singer’s blog Trash is for Tosser, where she educates her readers to on how to achieve a zero-waste lifestyle, provoked me to think of ways in which we can salvage our planet from the damage we have already inflicted. Having grown up in Bengaluru in the eighties, I have personally seen my parents and grandparents producing little or no waste from their households, who quite literally believed in frugal lifestyles. I recall my father going to the market to buy groceries in bulk and return in a hired tempo or van. I think most of our parents still use the same old Horlicks or Bournvita bottles as containers, of which some still line up our kitchen shelves and are as old as 40 years.”

Shubhashree Sangameshwaran

“However, today, with increasing incomes, hectic schedules and lethargic lifestyles, it would take considerable effort on our part to change our habits for the betterment of our environment,” Shubha adds.

In Let’s Talk Trash, Shubhashree pieces together text and illustrations that take us through the trajectory of subtle comparisons between the lifestyle of the '80s to the present day consumption-driven habits and finally on how one can reduce waste generation in simple ways. The book, now a part of the Brooklyn Art Library,  materialised through the ‘Sketchbook Project’, a global sketchbook based art project by Brooklyn Art Library, where Shubhashree put her ideas on the canvas.

A painter from childhood, Shubha believes in the creative influence of illustrations on readers rather than plain-preachy texts. “It took me 2 months to complete the illustrations in black ink. Though the book has pictures that kids would find engaging, it’s also an interesting read for adults who should imbibe ideas that will help lessen our day-to-day contribution to waste,” Shubha says.

The book begins with three ideas to start with that are ‘low on cost but high on impact’. From reusing steel water bottles to refusing plastic straws and plastic bags, Shubha asks her readers to ditch paper towels and use cloths to clean kitchen spills and containers.

“Most grocery and supermarkets these days have veggies packed in plastic. Find alternatives and look out for open markets,” she reminds her readers. Shubha even illustrates how bringing up one’s babies can be done in a green manner by opting out of disposable diapers and plastic toys.

Talking about the plastic ban, Shubha says it is not easy to wipe plastics off from our lives at one go. “We have largely got accustomed to using plastic, be it a container or a polythene. A change is possible only when people think of its effect on the environment every time they buy one from a shopping mall counter,” Shubha says. “Change should be gradual, especially for people living in cities, who are clueless about kitchen waste composts and living lives without plastic.”

As for future plans, Shubha intends to take Let’s Talk Trash to schools and educational institutions as she says that with kids, it’s never "too early" to help them learn eco-friendly habits and motivate their parents to shift to wastage-free lifestyles.

“We can learn from our earlier generations and how they were pretty effortlessly zero-waste, even before it became a hashtag. However, if you're already 'woke' and you carry your own cutlery and refuse the straw, but some people still don't seem to get it - this book is a perfect gift for them!” Shubha ends with a chuckle.

You can have a sneak-peak into the book at  https://www.thehungrypalette.com/letstalktrash/