Posts Tagged ‘organic’


If you have to hold your nose or wear gloves when using something, it really shouldn’t be in your house.  We’re talking about cleaning products here.  We use a lot of cleaning products in our daily routines – all of which could contain harmful chemicals and toxins which our kids are exposed to.

But before the advent of modern chemical cleaning products, our ancestors in India used completely natural preparations to cleanse and purify.  Such as:

Brushing Teeth:  Instead of synthetic toothbrushes and toothpaste, our ancestors used twigs from the neem tree, which they chewed until the ends became frayed.

Soap and Shampoo:  Also called reetha and kunkudukai, the berries from the soapnut plan contain natural saponins.  When boiled and squeezed, they work up a rich lather when rubbed onto the skin or hair.  Interestingly, “soap nuts” are being resurrected by organic and sustainable living shops as a natural laundry detergent.

Dish Soap:    This may come as a shocker (unless you’re an avid camper), but wood ash – when combined with the fats and oils in used pots and dishes – makes lye and crude soap.  So the fuel used for the fire to cook the food was then recycled when cleaning the dishes!

Air Fresheners:  A simple solution, really – a cupful of baking soda or talcum powder placed in a room will absorb the bad odors (it probably took a little longer than modern sprays though).

Antibacterials:  Pluck a lemon off a tree and there you have it!  Lemons have powerful antibacterial qualities as well as a fresh and invigorating smell.  They can also be used as mild bleaching agents.

Here’s a simple DIY all-purpose cleaner you can make with a few simple ingredients – safe enough for your kids to go to town with (and a great Montessori Practical Life exercise):

In a squirt bottle, combine 2 cups water, 1 cup vinegar, and a few drops of essential oil for fragrance (we used 100% pure therapeutic grade Pink Grapefruit).  For really messy areas, pretreat by sprinkling some baking soda and wiping off with water (but avoid baking soda on easily-scratched surfaces).

Clean and natural!

Kajal :: Baby Makeup
Author: Gnaana

You may be scratching your head at this if you’re a true-blooded Westerner – but back in the day, most families in India (and across the Middle East) applied kajal (or kohl), to their baby’s eyes.  Kajal was thought to have a cooling effect upon the eyes – protecting them from the harsh rays of the sun. Superstition also dictated that applying kajal to an infant’s eye (or elsewhere on the face) would ward off the evil eye.

Kajal has been used since ancient times by Egyptian queens (think Cleopatra).  It was originally made at home by combining the soot from oil lamps with ghee or castor oil.  However, commercially prepared kohls have been found to contain alarmingly high percentages of lead.  Needless to say, pediatricians now recommend that baby’s eyes be kept free from any application of kajal – as it can lead to elevated lead levels in the blood stream, as well as allergies and infections.

In short, if you didn’t make it yourself, don’t use kajal on babies or children.  And read the ingredients: don’t buy anything unlabeled.  To be safe, stick with naturally derived kohls and eyeliners – for yourself and for your daughters.  Two to try:  100% Pure’s Black Tea Pigmented Gel Eye Liner and Physicians Formula Organic wear 100% Natural Origin Eyeliner.

Curl Up With Coyuchi
Author: Gnaana


(Images courtesy of Coyuchi)

Starbucks put “fair trade coffee” on the map.  But what about “fair trade cotton?”  Cotton is such a large part of our lives – from the towel we use in the morning to the sheets we sleep on.  Fair wages and the non-existence of child labour should be the norm – whether it’s coffee or cotton, right?

Coyuchi certainly thinks so.  This California company is a pioneer in the application of the principles of fair trade cotton to the bedding and bath industry.  Not only are they fair trade certified, but they are also certified organic.  And guess where their cotton is produced?  Yup – India.

India accounts for about 16% of the world’s cotton production (second only to China).  But did you know that it is the world’s largest producer of organic cotton?  Roughly 50% of all organic cotton is grown in India (Turkey is second).  Coyuchi works with a single mill in India, which sources its cotton from a cooperative of 6,500 family farmers who grow organic cotton.  Farmers and mill workers are paid a fair wage, giving them the ability to afford health care and education for their families.  The company also works with the Chetna Project in India – an organization devoted to growing fair trade and certified organic cotton.

It certainly feels good when my family curls up with Coyuchi!

Featured above are the George Pillow Sham from the Baby collection and the Jersey Duvet Cover.  Learn more about organic and fair trade cotton at the Coyuchi Gallery .


Aveda Ayurveda Rituals

I love Aveda – they’re the only salons I go to for my beauty needs.  I’d much rather have plant-based products used on my hair and skin than chemicals. 

It just so happens that the Aveda philosophy – a holistic approach to beauty and health “that works in harmony with the greater web of life” is eerily similar to elements of the Hindu philosophy.  It’s also ironic that “Aveda” in literal Sanskrit translates to “against the Veda (knowledge).”  Any student of Sanskrit will tell you that if you put an “A” in front of a word, it will mean the opposite of the root word.

So Horst Rechelbacher, the founder of Aveda, obviously wasn’t a Sanskrit scholar.  But he founded a global powerhouse of a company clearly rooted in the ancient Indian system of Ayurveda.  And his book Aveda Rituals is an intelligent and refreshingly concise prescription for incorpating simple Aveda (errr…Ayurveda) style rituals into your daily life.  Rituals like the “Aroma Energizer” and the “Good-Morning Movement” stretching exercises – that awaken your senses and your spirit, connecting you with nature and your surroundings to inspire you to lead a healthier and more fulfilling life.

If an American company can research, re-package and superbly brand ancient Indian wisdom into a format that we can all understand – I’ll take more of those.  Now its off to my evening Meditation Moment.


As we say on our site:  Ancient India gave birth to a rich array of ecological ideals.  Of course modernity burried some of these ideals, but one of the movements that is (re)gaining ground in India is the push for organic and sustainable farming.  We sat down with Sonia Gupta, founder of My Little Pakora – a fabulous line of baby wear inspired by South Asia (and produced with organic cotton from India), who enlightened us about what it means to buy organic clothing:

  1.  Your clothing is certified by SKAL – what does that mean?
    SKAL is the certification for organic cotton production. What it means to the consumer is that you can be assured that the farms where your organic cotton comes from have been inspected. The inspection includes farm visits, examination of the soil, and review of samples taken from the farm to confirm that pesticides are not being utilized. 
  2. What percentage of the cotton grown in India do you think qualifies as organic?
    I would say around 32%.  As the demand for organic cotton grows I do foresee this percentage increasing.
  3. What do think is the most important immediate benefit to Indian farmers of growing cotton organically?
    I would say there are multiple benefits but one of the important facets is that the cost of farming is lower for the Indian farmer when growing organic goods. The investment into herbicides and pesticides can be extremely expensive and the use of these chemicals results in a “posioned land” – which not only affects the crops, but also the water and the adjacent land and villages.  On a positive note, the push for organic farming in the Indian community has lead to systems that are more sustainable and profitable.  The best part is they have learnt that you can rely on other methods for great crop production – pesticides are not the only answer. 
  4. What do you love most about dressing your daughter in organic clothes?
    I love that I am doing my part in helping Mother Earth. Aside from the sheer softness of organic clothes, by buying organic I know that I am supporting a eco-system that is sustainable! 
  5.  How do you encourage and educate your daughter about organic living?
    We do quite a lot, starting with recycling. She is finally at the age where she understands why we do certain things like limiting our water consumption when brushing our teeth and having a bath, turning off the lights when we are not using them, recycling paper for arts and crafts, and ensuring that all paper and plastic is recycled.  Actually, on recycling day she helps me sort items which is a great learning activity.

Thanks, Sonia, for this wealth of information!  And check My Little Pakora’s fantastic Thanksgiving sale here.


When I attended my cousin’s wedding in India about 10 years ago, I remember that the guests (all 1200 of us) dined on fresh banana leaves. Of course banana leaves were the norm back then at any function in India.  What a beautiful (and biodegradable) alternative to the plastic plates that fester in our landfills!

As I plan my daughter’s first birthday bash, I thought my choice of plates was limited to plastic (sturdy, but “no” on the eco) or paper (better, but most are still bleached).  That is, until I stumbled upon Bambu:  offering a sturdy and stylish Veneerware collection of 100% organic bamboo plates, trays and utensils.  They are marginally more expensive than their PartyCity counterparts (about 40-50 cents on average when bought in packs of 100) but oh so much better for Maata Bhumi (Mother Nature): they reportedly biodegrade in 4-6 months when composted.  And of course, what can beat bamboo – a high-yield renewable natural resource.  Check out the collection at

Probably as close to banana leaves as I will ever get.