Shouldering the non-conformist tag, courtesy of a distinguished body of work, Kalki Koechlin has long been a passionate advocate for environmental sustainability and related initiatives. With a conscious upbringing serving as a lighting spark to what would later become a cause she so fervently champions, it was imperative that we award her with the ELLE Sustainable Mould-Breaker Award at our very own sustainability awards held earlier in April.
Having participated in countless tree plantations alongside lending support to recycling-based initiatives, it’s refreshing to see stars walk the talk, minus the frills. She’s candid, she’s real. She subverts stereotypes and does so while delivering critically acclaimed hits. We had a moment to catch up with Koechlin to discuss how she actually does her bit for the environment, and here’s what the Gully Boy actress had to say.
ELLE: Describe what sustainability is for you in three words.
Kalki Koechlin (KK): Saving your home.ELLE: Tell us about a few habits you’ve picked up from your childhood that run congruent to the ethos of sustainable living.KK: Growing up in a place like Auroville (Puducherry), where it’s all a big community that requires everyone’s contribution in some way or the other, played a big part in how sustainable living works. It’s about thinking local, looking around you and utilising those resources, and that has always been ingrained in my system. It’s not you trying to adapt your environment to you but rather, you adapting to the environment around you. Living close to nature, I consider myself lucky as we ate directly from the forest, were given hand-me-downs and did a lot of gardening and trekking to spend time.
ELLE: In what ways have you pivoted to a more conscious philosophy whilst building your wardrobe?
KK: The information on the fashion industry has now become much more accessible in terms of knowing where our clothes actually come from. When you look at fast fashion, you see that a lot of the time, the processes involved are not the best. The working conditions of the people making the clothes is unfortunate. When I’m visiting some place, I try to find the local, artisanal stuff and even tribal products rather than heading into a big mall which will anyways sell the same clothes you find all over the world. Following a few conscious, sustainable brands on social media also helps in terms of propagating awareness. Buying vintage and second-hand clothing yields huge benefits, as do clothing swaps, which I indulge in along with my girlfriends.
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ELLE: What’s your most memorable sustainable purchase that has significantly impacted your life?
KK: Cycles, for sure. That was like a really big deal in the pan-demic for us–just to be able to move around in Mumbai whilst being in lockdown with a newborn baby and a dog was great. It gave us a feeling of freedom and also the fact that the roads were free and the pollution levels were significantly lower made it memorable. Cycling has now also become a part of family time for us.
ELLE: How can film sets and the industry as a whole incorporate the sustainability mandate into their day-to-day workings?
KK: I think we’re lacking here, big time. The first step is educating everyone on set about it. When you gather your crew and explain that you’re all in someone else’s environment for a day or two, you have to clean up after yourselves. I also think that catering is a big part of pollution from our end, courtesy of the food and beverages utilised on set, which are usually packed in plastic or other non-biodegradable stuff. The minute you enter a specific locality, it should be a priority to find local caterers so as to cut down on waste from that aspect at least. You could be eating off banana leaves or even terra cotta, for that matter. Crew members must get labelled steel water bottles that can be refilled from one source. These tiny steps can go a long way.
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