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Christmas decorations now turn ecofriendly

The Times of India, 20 Dec 2008

TOI Christmas 2008 PUNE: With Christmas round the corner, it's a time to celebrate. While doing so, we can always spare a thought about the environment. This is what the organisation, Ecoexist, has been promoting, especially about using Christmas decorations. Founded by Manisha Gutman in 2006, the organisation works on a non-profit basis with various NGOs on various environmental initiatives. As part of these initiatives, Ecoexist has been making eco-friendly Christmas decorations with the help of the women from the slum areas of Wadgaon Sheri and Pune-Ahmednagar road.

"The use plastic and thermocole in Christmas decorations pose an environmental hazard. Thermocole is not biodegradable and when burnt at low temperatures, it releases toxic gases into the atmosphere. The material is also a fire-hazard," says Gutman.

Though Ecoexist works around the year through initiatives like promoting paper bags and so on, it's during the festivals that their initiatives take a prominent approach. "Be it natural colours for Holi or eco-friendly idols during Ganeshotsav, we encourage people to do their bit by using eco-friendly stuff," says Abida Khan, a member of the organisation.

Ecoexist designs Christmas decorations from recycled materials such as cardboard, scraps of silk and cotton. "Though designed by me, these decorations are made by women of the DISHA Mahila Vikas Sahakari Seva Society. DISHA offers training to women in various art and craft skills, such as sewing and embroidery, to empower them to become entrepreneurs," says Khan. About 5 to 6 women from the slum areas are involved in the project. "Our organisation also works with the women in the Yerawada
prison," she adds.

While the outer covering of these decorations are silk or cotton, the inner filling is either recycled cardboard or natural cotton. "A sachet has six decorations in it and it makes a beautiful gift, and fits a Christmas tree perfectly. They can also be used after the Christmas to brighten up the children's rooms as they are safe for children to play with," says Gutman.

Read this article on the Times of India website

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