Building the Future Of Zero Waste Living: Sahar Mansoor

Hi Sahar! Tell us a little bit about yourself and your story.

Sahar Mansoor: I am the Founder and CEO of Bare Necessities Zero Waste India Pvt Ltd When I came back to India after my studies, I felt overwhelmed with India’s trash problem. I was confronted by it every day- seeing piles of garbage on the streets and I spent time with local waste pickers and watched them sort through waste with their bare hands. I started to think of the environmental, health and social justices issues associated with our garbage problem. I wanted to stop being part of the problem. I had called myself an environmentalist for about six years at the time. I decided I needed to live a life fully congruent to my environmental and social justice values. I needed to walk the talk and I knew I had to start living a zero-waste lifestyle. In my zero-waste journey, I realized that it was impossible to find personal care and home care products that didn’t contain harmful chemicals and weren’t packaged in plastic. In response to this problem,I wanted to create a company that mirrored the values of zero waste, ethical consumption and sustainability. I wanted to make it easy for other people looking to consume more mindfully and to encourage others to produce less waste. And Bare Necessities was born in 2016! Using a people-centered and earth-centered approach, Bare Necessities (BN) addresses serious flaws in manufacturing, distribution, and consumption by innovating and providing sustainable solutions to waste, and identifying problems that more companies need to address if they want to be innovative and Socially-conscious.

What are you creating/building lately?

Sahar Mansoor: We are currently working on launching an online course. With this said, you can expect a lot of online presence from our brand in the upcoming months. In addition to our online course, we continue innovating more courses to increase what’s offered as part of our educational platform, and we recently launched an Easy DIY ideas to go zero waste e-book, Kids activity book (both of which we did solely during lockdown) and also a board game. One of the most exciting launches has also been this book I have authored - Bare Necessities: How to Live a Zero-Waste Life

What challenges did you face when you were first starting out?

Sahar Mansoor: I think being an entrepreneur is extremely rewarding, but the road is often filled with challenges. These are some of the challenges I faced. They told me with all my learning disabilities I wouldn’t be an academic success in the traditional sense of the word. They told me with your single mom, you would never be able to afford the education of your dreams at Cambridge. They told me you cannot start your own business in India without your Father’s money or VC money. But us humans, we are made from pretty resilient stuff. So let no one tell you what you can and cannot do. Be bold in your imagination and create the most vivid and beautiful life for yourself. After all, we are the authors of our stories. We can physically, emotionally, mentally heal from anything and defy all socially constructed notions of what our life should look like!

Name 3 things/activities that inspire you the most.

Sahar Mansoor: Penning down my gratitude journal at the end of the day reminds me of how much I am to be thankful for, workout sessions with this amazing group of women in an initiative called Sisters in Sweat and last but not the least, nothing beats spending time with nature, of course!

What are you reading/listening to these days?

Sahar Mansoor:I am currently listening to “How I built this Podcast “. Also love Business Wars, The Ellen Macarthur Foundation,  The Seen & The Unseen! Books I am currently reading Nelson Mandela's Long Walk to Freedom.

As an entrepreneur and creative, what are some lessons you are still learning?

Sahar Mansoor: As any entrepreneur or working professional would share, it has been quite a hectic process. Having to deal with legal entities, a currently underdeveloped ecosystem for zero-waste, and changing existing consumption habits poses to be quite stressful at times. There’s this old Chinese proverb that never fails to inspire me, "The best time was 20 years ago. The second best time is now." If you believe in something and its power to create an impact, just do it! The world needs social entrepreneurs like you. And while you’re at it, don’t forget to believe in yourself. Be authentic to yourself, your values and not compromise on your values. This journey is my passion so putting my all into it is just something I want to do, rather than a need to do! Having a team that is super supportive, knowledgeable, creative and as passionate as I am, helps this diversify the journey from MY journey to OUR journey!

What are some trends you are currently seeing in experiential design that you love and hate?

Sahar Mansoor: The growth of sustainable/circular packaging companies is a trend I am most excited by! The resurgence of the sharing economy is another one that makes me hopeful!

Are you looking to collaborate with creatives in a particular field? If yes, how do they reach out to you?

Sahar Mansoor: Yes! We are really excited to collaborate with creative individuals especially illustrators and graphic designers for conveying informative content on sustainability. Creatives usually reach out to us via our instagram and also through mail. I have connected with ethical fashion designers who have cloth scraps they want to donate to my enterprise Bare Necessities - to be used in packing our low waste products to be shipped across India. I have met illustrators and artists to collaborate with and also potential investors! We are currently on the lookout for perfect formulationist, software developers and UX designers for an upcoming project.

Where do you see the future of sustainability and circularity heading in the next few years?

Sahar Mansoor: Generation Z is becoming more mindful and asking manufacturers the right questions like, ”What’s in my products?” The emerging conscious millennial population want to align themselves to certain causes by virtue of their consumption choices. We have definitely seen this in the slow fashion movement too! “who made my clothes?” “how much did they make in the process?” to even ”What’s in my clothes?”. In India, our artisans and those employed in the textile industry make up the second-largest percentage of employed Indians, after agriculture. India is home to many amazing textiles, with each state having its own form of art. We have ikat, bandhani, khadi, and block print. At the same time, the number of thrift shops that have emerged online during the pandemic shows a positive shift towards people accepting circularity in clothes whether through upcycling or reusing it. We are definitely seeing millennials and Gen Z being aware, shopping less, shopping more mindfully, choosing to support the local economy and understanding the value behind long-term benefits versus short-term benefits. Millennials, especially, have been aligning their consumption patterns with values they want to be associated with. Our online course, Zero Waste in 30, has been seeing a lot of such individuals actively engaging and sharing ideas of their own as well. Additionally, our Trash talks and DIY workshops, which seek to spread awareness on the environmental, health and social justice issues associated with our waste problem have seen a lot of enthusiasm.