16 May 2020: As mentioned recently we received a Nest COVID-19 grant to produce masks for our local community. At The Colours of Nature we do believe that the mask is important. We have observed that saliva drops are very much emitted whilst people speak and know that we can count on particles being carried by the air. This grant not only supports us in paying salaries but will also protect people from the coronavirus.
Nest proposed that we use left-over pieces of our eco-friendly naturally dyed woven organic cotton fabrics, but we suggested another approach. Not only do we already upcycle most fabric pieces left over from production – one of our main customers, Story Mfg. (https://www.storymfg.com), cleverly designs beautiful patchwork, which helps ensure that there are not many cut-offs – but we also found that woven fabrics are not the best choice.
The only non-woven fabric suitable for the manufacture of masks, that we could find, was synthetic. Obviously, it is not an ideal choice, considering the micro-plastics applied tend to end up in our oceans. But in this case, the type of cotton we had in mind not being available, we had to put the immediate health of people first.
As we guess many people have experienced lately, now is not a time to be dogmatic, but we do hope that there will be some advances made towards developing biodegradable non-woven fabrics, and making them available in South India.
Once the Nest agreement and the fabric were in place it only took us three days to stitch the agreed upon 1500 masks. Clarity on the number of workers depending on The Colours of Nature was important. The project was never about doing business, but about trying to support the survival of the unit. This in turn is of huge importance to the people employed by us.
To us it made particular sense to, supported by Nest, gift these masks to Village Action because their outreach work covers the villages that The Colours of Nature staff tend to live in.
When the lockdown started, from one day to the next, some 70 people could not come to work on our premises. Soon, however, we obtained permission to have 2-3 people come every few days in order to maintain the fermented indigo pots.
Whilst we had managed to complete some of the work before the lockdown, the bulk of it happened once some easing was coming into play. Having received the needed permissions from the Auroville authorities, who liaise with the Indian government, we managed to complete our delivery to AVAG by May 9th.