Celebrating Nanma Sahaya Samithi’s first birthday in Mattancherry

Nanma Shaya Samithi bursars and their families (c) credit Ea Marzarte - Raxa CollectiveOne of the projects we are currently working on is renovating a heritage building in the historical neighborhood of Mattancherry in Cochin. We hope that Spice Harbour will encourage other entrepreneurs to tackle these beautiful yet challenging buildings before they disappear into the night. But a neighborhood is not all about old stones.

Crist and Amie of Raxa Collective on the panel of Nanma Sahaya Samithi (c) Ea Marzarte

The people of Mattancherry form a tight-knit community and a year ago a group of young enthusiastic locals created a neighborhood association “Nanma Sahaya Samithi”. Nanma Sahaya Samithi focuses on harmonious living and  works on making healthcare and education accessible to everyone in the neighborhood. We were invited to donate notebooks and pens to children and to meet with other actors of the community. Continue reading

Navigating the Backwaters of Kerala

Have you ever felt like you were in a book ?

 Traveling on a houseboat  in the Backwaters was a desire of mine for quite a while, and I had been told the monsoon was the ideal period to take a trip on the Backwaters. The boats are fewer on the waterways, you can see locals compete in spectacular snake-boat races, the rice-paddies fill-up with rainwater, everybody gets around by canoe or ferry. It’s as different to my everyday life as can be. Continue reading

Annual Champakulam Moolam boat race

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On Sunday, we joined our River Escapes colleagues and went to the annual Champakulam Moolam Boat Race. Champakkulam is a serene village in the district of Alleppey and this boat race is one of the most ancient in Kerala. During our lunch on board of the Pallanayar, a River Escapes houseboat, we saw, flocking on the river Pamba, numerous vallam (boats) including the famous chundan :the snake boat. Continue reading

Cochin : exploring Mattancherry

Wandering around Mattancherry  : the vibrant murals covering the walls of Mattancherry Palace as well as each and every street; Dockers carrying sacks of produce urging you to move out of the way; Those boats that look more like works of art…not to mention the art installations on the docks… The streets that surround Spice Harbour, a development Raxa Collective is currently working on, are full of colours, spices and, yes goats… Continue reading

Training session at the newspaper bag unit

Our newspaper bag unit is a permanent, exciting work-in-progress. Using upcycled newspapers provides us with an alternative  to plastic bags in our two shops at Cardamom County– the Raxa Collective store and the via kerala shop. It is also a way to work with more people in our community. We have been working at making this unit a sustainable entreprise with many collaborators since the beginnings of Raxa Collective in 2011.

Newspaper bag training unit - Raxa Collective Continue reading

Growing up on a plantation

a house in spring valley credit ea marzarte -Raxa collective

A house on a coffee plantation in Spring Valley, Kumily, Kerala

My mother and her ten brothers and sisters were raised on a sugar cane plantation. I always wondered what it was like, growing up in a lush and remote environment. Hiking to the school bus in the early morning and being rocked to sleep by the astounding noise of nightly creatures. Playing hide and seek on a neverending playground. Continue reading

Sanskrit poetry: “If my absent bride were but a pond”

Sanskrit lyric poetry is often noted for its sexual nature and flourished in the eleventh century where it was compiled by Vidyakara under the title “The Treasury of Well-Turned Verse”. Vidyakara, was a poet and a scholar of the XIth century.  Although he is thought to have been a buddhist monk, his “Treasury” is well versed on the matters of heart . This anthology of sanskrit court poetry addresses themes such as sex, love, and heroes, peace and nature.

Ponds in the woods of Thekkady

If my absent bride were but a pond, Continue reading

Sleek, sustainable alternatives to disposable tableware

Single-use tableware create increasing, massive amounts of waste. We eat out more than our parents ever did and our lunches are more and more wasteful. The best way to minimize lunch waste is to pack a lunch and pack only what you can eat, and to keep the restaurant option for that special occasion. The bento-box for lunch is a huge trend right now in Europe, mine is a shiny round box. When I happened to eat at my company’s canteen I noticed the invasion of the shelves by disposable packaging. And when my colleagues and I ate out at any of the pricey parisian eateries, it was more and more difficult to find non-disposable tableware. Here in rural South India, I never once had to say “I’d rather have a real cup please”.  When I go to the staff cafeteria, I pick up my large steel tray and my steel cup from the drainer wash it, fill them up and afterwards I wash ’em put ’em back, so someone else can do the same. Easy peasy. Nothing worth adding to the landfill about.   Continue reading

Robusta, Liberian, Arabica: a visit to a coffee plantation in the Western Ghats

Coffee plantation - Spring Valley, Kerala credit Ea Marzarte - Raxa Collective

Coffee plantation – Spring Valley, Kerala

Evan’s research on agroforestry in Ecuador  inspired me to learn more about coffee in India.  No coffee seed sprouted outside Africa or Arabia before the 17th century. Legend has it this all changed when a pilgrim named Baba Budan smuggled fertile coffee beans out of Mecca strapped to his stomach. Returning to his native India, he successfully cultivated the beans near Mysore.Commercial cultivation began in 1840 when the British rule established Arabica coffee plantations throughout the mountains of Southern India. Till today much of the production comes from the Western Ghats. Initially Arabica was widespread, but Continue reading

“The Upcycle”, the sequel to “Cradle to cradle”

If you’ve read “Cradle to Cradle” and you come here regularly, chances are you’ll be as excited as I am to learn about the sequel : ‘The Upcycle”.

10 years ago William McDonough and Michael Braungart published one of the most important environmental manifestos of our time.

Based on biomimetics, Cradle to Cradle design is an approach to the design of products and systems. It models human industry on nature’s processes viewing materials as nutrients circulating in healthy, safe metabolisms. The book states that:

“All products can be designed for continuous recovery and reutilization”.

Every product can and should be conceived with the reuse of its materials in mind and every material can and should be conceived to be used again. Just like in nature, nothing goes to waste.

If you have not read it, McDonough’s TED talk Cradle to Cradle design will probably make you want to give it a go.

In their newest book  The Upcycle: Beyond Sustainability – Designing for Abundance,  McDonough and Braungart go further than ‘Cradle to cradle’ saying that we should be ambitious about our role on this planet.

“Industry can do better than “do no harm”: it can actively improve everything with which it comes into contact.” Continue reading

Are you doing a Big Year?


I was working from the internet café during a windy day last week-end when I thought I was squinting again. “Did you see that bird? It has two tails!” my colleague Martin exclaimed entering the room a little later. I checked out the sighting: a racket-tailed drongo. The most surprising, graceful creature I have ever seen. Actually, I didn’t know much about birding before I got here. Since then, I’ve learned about the fallouts following a storm, the threats to bird migration and the ethics of the birder. As of yesterday, thanks to India’s cable tv, I’ve learnt from a Hollywood movie that birding can also be a competition. Continue reading

The Wild5Five collection : drawing from Nature

via kerala‘s Wild 5 Five collection was designed to raise awareness about the fauna of the Periyar forest by setting forth 5 wildlife ambassadors. To decide which 5, the team of designers at Thought Factory carried out thorough research on the fauna of the Periyar Tiger Reserve in online journals and books, blogs and libraries. Continue reading

“3 idiots”: a Bollywood must-see

3 idiots

One of the most memorable weeks of my childhood was during a summer holiday in Mauritius spent with my brother and cousins with no adult available to take us to the beach. We kept going back and forth to the video store because all there was on television were Bollywood movies with no subtitles. Since then I’ve been pretty biased against Bollywood movies, there’s only so much Shannen Doherty direct-to-video one can take, you know? So when I met friends from Bombay, I asked them for an outstanding Bollywood movie. They said: “You’ve got to see 3 idiots“. That same night a friend from Tanzania wrote on his Facebook wall: “Make your passion your profession.! #The 3 Idiots.” So it was written in the stars, I had to see this movie.

Continue reading

Endangered species : Nilgiri Langur

Two centuries ago, under the British rule, much of the Western Ghats forests were cut down to be replaced by tea plantations. In 1895, the damming of the Periyar river plunged 26 square km of pristine forests into what is now called the Periyar Lake. The 925 km2 of dense hilly forest that form the Periyar Wildlife sanctuary may seem huge, but it is actually a limited territory for the endemic species. Continue reading

More love for the cicadas

After our post yesterday on the 17-year emergence of periodical cicadas, here is a fantastic body of work on  one of nature’s most intriguing creatures by Samuel Orr. A natural history filmmaker and time-lapse photographer he has been following and filming the various broods of periodical cicadas since 2007 (multiple broods that come out in different years across the eastern part of the United States). After filming some  200 hours of footage, and he is now working towards an hour documentary that focuses on the 17-year periodical cicadas for which he just started a Kickstarter campaign. Continue reading

WED 2013 : Taste the waste… of water

WED 2013 - Raxa Collective

On June 5, we’ll celebrate World Environment Day. This year UNEP focuses on the theme Food waste/Food Loss. At Raxa Collective we’ll be carrying out actions and sharing experience and ideas. Come and join us with your ideas and tips to preserve foods, preserve resources and preserve our planet.


 Most part of the world water consumption depends on food production. Every year 30% of it is wasted. We can reduce the wastage of water reducing the food waste. The Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) has released a short documentary titled ‘Taste the Waste of Water’ Continue reading

WED 2013 : Chef Nitin Padwal offers a case study in food waste reduction

WED 2013 - Raxa Collective

On June 5, we’ll celebrate World Environment Day. This year UNEP focuses on the theme Food waste/Food Loss. At Raxa Collective we’ll be carrying out actions and sharing experience and ideas. Come and join us with your ideas and tips to preserve foods, preserve resources and preserve our planet.


Here in India, food waste reduction is considered as mere common sense and rarely even mentioned, that’s why chef Nitin Padwal taking the time to explain his work for a restaurant kitchen with “0% sent to landfill” is precious and we’ll also deliver a case study on our own work here at AllSpice in Cardamom County. Nitin Padwal  used to work at the Taj Hotel in Nashik and the Renaissance Marriot in Mumbai before  he became Head Chef at Petrichor at The Cavendish London. Since his arrival there in 2010, Nitin Padwal championed the idea of a sustainable restaurant, and has made substantial improvements in that area. Watch the interview… Continue reading

WED 2013: Europe dumps fish dumping

WED 2013 - Raxa Collective

On June 5, we’ll celebrate World Environment Day. This year UNEP focuses on the theme Food waste/Food Loss. At Raxa Collective we’ll be carrying out actions and sharing experience and ideas. Come and join us with your ideas and tips to preserve foods, preserve resources and preserve our planet.


…and about 80 per cent of Mediterranean stocks and 47 per cent of Atlantic stocks are overfished. It may seem rather odd but the European Union’s policy to avoid overfishing consists in tossing dead fish back in the sea if a fleet exceeds its quota.

For decades industrial fleets have been subsidised to plunder the European waters working under the rules of the  Common Fisheries Policy devised in the 1970s. And the rule of ‘discards’ has been let’s say counter-productive in reviving the fish stock. The practice allows fleets to net quantities of fish exceeding their quota, then simply throw any unwanted dead fish overboard.

Continue reading

This object will self-destruct in… Shouldn’t the life span of a product be on the package ?

The adaptor for my very sleek, efficient and trendy computer broke down and I am a thousands of kilometers away from the brand store. It was a second-hand computer, I’m a vintage kind of gal you see, so I was not exactly shocked that after 4 years the computer may need care. I  soon realized though that the local resellers did not have a replacement for the plug, only a newer bigger version for a computer no one has yet. So I tried to have the adaptor fixed. It turned out the white well-rounded adaptor was not made to be fixed.

That’s what planned obsolescence is about : designing objects for the bin, if you want to know more about this industrial method you should watch The Story of Stuff.

Are there solutions to shift to a less wasteful consumption ? Governments, France and the European Union included, are currently at work on laws to implement longer guarantee periods, to encourage companies to offer replacement parts for 10 years after manufacture and to inform consumers on the expected longevity of the product.

And the corporate sector ? A growing number is getting organized in a circular economy :