Have you ever wondered what our ancestors used to do for cooking or drinking tea? What shampoo they used? Did they even washed their hair? I know at some point we stumble upon some questions… Harappan civilization suggests the use of clay pots. For taking bath they used herbs, plants, flowers, fruits or seeds. I remember my grandmother making shampoo for me using hibiscus flower and some herbs in hot water. We humans have tendency to create habits around our needs. Some are basic while others we take it to luxurious experience.
Let’s get back to topic, what can replace plastic? A super plastic with recyclable qualities? Or sometime replacing it is better option. Plastic is so convenient for use, non leaky, tearable -non tearable, easy to stack and pack, keeps product safe. What we used before plastics?
We overlooked that material because plastic was easy. Now with use of plastics we realize its disposal problems. And with such a huge demand and disposal of plastics human is not far from self destruction. Especially places, overly populated like India. That means the disposal and consumption both are at huge amount. For example imagine one man drinks tea twice a day, that makes to nearly 60 plastic cups. Maybe solution lies in our past.
In India, ceramic cups known as Kulhar for chai using locally sourced red clay for thousands of years. Baked at low temperatures they were an economical way of ensuring there was no contamination between the various users. We would not prefer using same cup used by stranger or other person. There were Societial norms like caste heiarchy too. The chai seller serves his customer the sweet, spicy brew ladled into a small ceramic cup, the flavour mixing with the earthy taste of the terracotta vessel. After drinking, one will dispose of in soil nearby. It will mix with soil easily. They cost 2-5 INR or less then a dollar.
These fast disappearing vessels not only embody an alternative view on consumption culture but are also beautiful and functional objects on their own. They can be produced in industry at large level and can be hand made and individual which are more beautiful.
It is not just material but a earthy aroma tea experience. People in India connect to their past or childhood memories seeing Kulhar. It is also about emotional attachment to product and healthier option as plastic is not in direct contact with body. Have you ever tried Kulhar tea or ice-cream ?
It also have it's disadvatange like disconcerting tendency to soak the contents for example, normally, one unit have 150 ml of tea. When poured into the kulhar, it shrinks to only about 100 ml because of the clay properties. Properties of clay can be altered by glazing. Imagining number of users it may need to soil erosion, though it's going back to soil.
Few years back, Australian artist and designer Sian Pascale, suggested the idea of kulhar with seed embedded, this idea of giving back to nature is brilliant to reduce soil erosion with the help re-planation. May be we need to get deeper in design of kulhar and introduce this earthy material again. Going back to roots, giving back to nature.