Eco Entrepreneur Q&A: Vinita Baravkar
It’s the focal point of every bedroom and the place where we spend a third of our lives – our beds. Yet most of us don’t consider anything beyond the aesthetics of the bedding we choose to buy – colours, designs and maybe thread count are all that go into the buying decision process.
If you’ve chosen to live a sustainable lifestyle though, sourcing ethical, eco friendly products should be front of mind. Whether it’s organic food, fair trade fashion or low tox beauty products, hunting down businesses that share your own eco friendly values is paramount, and that extends to what type of bedding you choose.
I first discovered organic bedding company Bhumi last year while trying to hunt down chemical free, GOTS certified sheets. I immediately loved their simple, pared-back designs and colour scheme, as well as their commitment to sustainability.
Bhumi’s cofounder Vinita Baravkar started the socially minded enterprise with husband Dushyant Baravkar in 2015. After working in international public health and seeing first-hand the agricultural regions in India and Bangladesh devastated by traditional cotton growing, the self-described “gypsy spirit” committed to reshaping the textiles industry by encouraging consumers to make more informed and ethical choices.
I spoke with Vinita about why choosing GOTS certified textile products is so important, how consumers can avoid being taken in by greenwashing tactics, and Vinita also reveals some of her own favourite eco brands.
Your background is in health. What made you decide to start your own sustainable bedding and clothing company?
It was my time overseas that opened my eyes to the truth behind the textile industry. I spent a lot of time in regions seeing first-hand the devastating consequences of the use of toxic pesticides, fertilisers and dyes, and the adverse health conditions that results from their use. I also witnessed child labour and unfair working conditions.
All things we do not get to see or hear about in the mainstream media. It is a closed conversation. The fashion industry is a huge part of our world, where practices have remained the same but with unbelievable environmental and social consequences.
Why is choosing GOTS certified products so important?
GOTS is the gold standard when it comes to certifications. There are many certifications around but GOTS is the strictest as it really supports the natural environment as well as social justice issues.
They will only ever certify products that begin in their natural state and end in their natural state, which is wonderful, as the in-between for other products (such as bamboo) involves a lot of heavy chemical processing.
Within GOTS there are strict parameters for fair trade and humane working conditions with absolutely no child labour.
Most people don’t realise that conventionally made clothing poses a number of issues when it comes to the environment, as well as to our health. How can we raise awareness of this issue?
I think it is really important to talk. Dialogue allows for messages to be told and explained and for awareness to spread. Without communication we close up and the status quo remains. This cannot happen in the textile industry.
We cannot hide what is going on anymore. The wonderful thing is that people are also asking a lot of questions and want to know the story and the journey behind what textiles they use.
For me, it is really important to highlight that that goes beyond what we wear. It extends to what we sleep in every single day and what toxins we are breathing in as we sleep.
What should consumers keep in mind when sourcing environmentally friendly products to avoid being sucked in by clever greenwashing tactics?
It is important to ask questions and not be afraid to ask about certifications. Ask questions about how things are grown, where they are grown, what chemicals are being used, what the working conditions are, and if certifications are involved, understand what they mean and how strict they are.
Some are used globally and widely but still allow for significant use of chemicals and toxic dyes.
You recently wrote about why Bhumi avoids the use of so-called “environmentally friendly” fabrics like silk, wool and bamboo. Why are these fabrics problematic?
This is a personal choice as I do not like to use any animal products and as a business we are taking the route of providing textiles that do not use any animal products or harm animals in any way.
There is a rise in companies sourcing and using responsibly sourced wool and down, and making this available to those who choose to use those products.
This is wonderful, as transparency from seed to shelf is vital from an animal, environmental and social justice perspective.
Bamboo is problematic as a textile because even though it may be grown as organic bamboo, the chemicals and processing involved to get it from a beautiful sturdy hardwood to a soft smooth textile is very detrimental to the environment and waterways due to the spill off from the treatment and processing plants.
If we can use and work with products that do not use harsh chemicals and treatments I ask the question: Why wouldn't we?
What are some of your favourite eco brands?
I cannot live without my Inika eyeliner and foundation. I love Pottery For The Planet cups – I have them in the house, in the car and in the office! My mattress of choice is the incredible Fern Earth.
We have a plastic-free household so I have a variety of stainless steel containers and lunchboxes.