Wouldn’t it be nice if we left the planet in a better condition than when we found it for those who follow us? DENISE KAUR is the founder of rugs, furniture and homeware store Living DNA, and she practices a philosophy of mindful living; she also aims to help to change the world by buying one sustainable, artisanal product at a time.
Why is it important we live more sustainably?
Since I’ve had children, my view of the world has totally changed. Now, I really feel we have a responsibility to consciously help future generations have the luxury of clean water, plentiful food and fresh air to breathe. If we can save resources, consume more carefully and be good examples to our children, we can ensure the world they live in will thrive.
Sustainable products – and by that I mean those made using traditional methods with minimum impact on the environment – are key to the success of the next generation. Even though the small artisan workshops and mass production factories are far from us, we are more connected than we think. The effect they have on their local environment will eventually make its way to ours. Goods made by artisans have a story and are made with heart and soul, as well as their obvious aesthetics. They are truly beautiful, well-made products, which can be on display proudly in your home. We also tend to hold on to them for longer because we feel a connection to them, which in turn reduces waste.
How will buying sustainable products change the lives of those who create them?
By bridging the gap to the artisan, we can promote sustainable living practices and protect their livelihood. Recently, we commissioned a stunning cabinet from the Philippines containing multiple different panels, all of which required weaving. The artisan who we engaged to do this sourced help from his uncle, grandfather and cousins, as they’re all skilled craftspeople in their own right. They each worked on their panels at home then came together to assemble the finished product. Hearing about their renewed bond and shared experience was a very special moment that I’ll always remember. Thoughtful purchases help you feel connected to other cultures and locations – the products are more meaningful and have a story.
How do you ensure your products are sustainable?
I have the luxury of being able to travel to the locations where the products are created, expose myself to the culture there, and see first-hand the impact my purchase has on the community. Caring for their customs and traditions, and forging a human connection during these visits, allows me to understand the needs of the people and how I can continue to support them. There are also reliable certifications of sustainability; I look out for products that are Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance and GoodWeave.
I’ve also seen a rug-dying system where the vast amount of water needed was purified and recycled. These examples fill my heart with hope for the future. Still, I also have to understand the needs of the consumer, which is why I work with the artisans to tweak their products to infuse more modern trends and fit the needs of today. We need to create functional products if we’re to make handmade the way forward.
How can we support these artisans?
As consumers, we can educate ourselves on fair trade, lessen our consumption of mass-made goods and respect traditional methods. Handmade goods are not perfect; they have imperfections unique to the maker. By supporting and encouraging their skills, we can have an appreciation for the time it takes to make these products. They are as individual as the artisans themselves.
Other than purchasing sustainable and mindfully sourced goods, what else can we do?
Care for your things! Mindfully made items last longer, but it’s also up to us to use them less harshly. I try to use all our consumable goods before we buy more. (It can make for some very interesting meals at home!) In Singapore last year, we threw away 800,000 tonnes of food waste and we are all responsible for helping to reduce this. Asking yourself “How can I live and buy more mindfully?” will help you to question your wastage and any unnecessary purchasing. I also like to surround myself with people who share our philosophy. Giving time or using up-cycled items as gifts, using and reusing items between us, and sharing sustainable living tips; it all helps.
Visit the Living DNA flagship store at Space@Tampines, #01-10B, 18 Tampines Industrial Crescent.
8511 3584 | livingdna.sg
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