[For original pdf, click here Friends of Earth]
Featured in Masala Lite, February, 2013
Eco-conscious Indians tell us about the difficulties of leading a green lifestyle and starting a green business in Bangkok.
Let’s face it: we’re far from the most environmentally conscious people. And living in Bangkok doesn’t make it any easier for the rare eco-minded few to lead the lifestyle they want. But we found a few among us who not only go the extra mile to be good to the planet in their day-to-day activities, they are also committed to making others more informed and providing easier access to greener living. They share with us their experience of becoming green and the struggles of running green businesses.
Sunshine on Sukhumvit
Active since March of 2012, Sunshine Market is a little-known health food shop run by Prem Srichawla and her nieces Natasha and Mandy Srichawla. The store not only carries food items, but also eco-friendly skincare and baby products, 70 percent of which are certified organic. There is also a bakery with goodies made of mainly gluten-free and certified-organic ingredients. Although most of the items in the store are imported, Sunshine Market hosts a farmers market for a group of local farmers, Raktham, which practises organic and rotational farming. The family has plans to open a cafe serving organic coffee and tea in the near future. —REENA KARIM
Tell us how it all began.
Prem: We thought that Thailand needed a health food store. I had been into this area of health and finding good food for about 15 years. We screen everything that comes in. We research it before ordering.
How did you find your suppliers?
Prem: It was the most difficult thing, especially for the bakery. We went out hunting; we went to pharmacies, Chinese medicine shops, Lemon Farm, and the organic fair as well. And of course, online. And many of them even walked through the door.
What are the difficulties of running this kind of business?
Prem: Many. Government [officials] don’t know about these things. Some of them know, but they don’t want you to think they know. The biggest hurdle here is that they make everything look difficult, and they make everything difficult for you.
Natasha: To get the products passed by the FDA, we had to go to the health department, all the time pitching, finding someone who knows someone, anthings like that.
How has your experience been?
Prem: I kind of expected it to be slow. I have seen a lot of difference from the start to now. I want this to be a place you come and shop first before you go to the supermarket. Our prices are the same as the supermarket.
Natasha: When we first opened, I did not think that I had to be at the store all day, but there has to be someone here to help customers pick the right things. You have to know your products very well. At first I didn’t know all of the products very well, but I realised that I have to educate myself in order to help others.
Who are some of your customers?
Natasha Earlier, there were many Indians, about 50 percent, and the rest were expats and Thais. Now the pattern is less Indian and more expats and Thais.
What is the Indian attitude towards eco-living?
Mandy Most of us live by convenience because we are so busy. We tend to eat on the go or have our maids cook. Our lifestyle makes us not eat at home much during the week. It’s hard to change Indian people. But when you know you have to, you will change. That usually includes medical situations.
Find out more at sunshinemarket.co.th
ECO TIPS: Cleaning & Grooming
GET CRAFTY Make your own cleaning products from stuff that you already have in the kitchen, like lime, salt, baking soda. There are an abundance of recipes online.
RETHINK YOUR TOILETRIES Cut down on the superfluous items. If you spend a lot on skincare products to begin with, why not go for only the necessary and eco-friendly ones?
DO A BIT OF RESEARCH If you ever want to know how toxic or safe your household products are, visit goodguide.com, which rates products’ social, environmental, and health impacts.