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The Second Life is an idea that is inspired from the interconnectivity of the three R’s ideology, reduce, reuse and recycle. In this materialistic economy we need to know how much do we need rather than want, which is the first thought ‘reduce’. When the population and it’s needs are growing at lightning speed, we need to rethink the materials we design, make and use. Looking at the paper part of a newspaper and the plastic part of a plastic bag, we can either choose to reuse them or recycle them as much as possible, considering the processes and outcome, which are energy efficient, environmentally conscious, economically viable and socially innovative.

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The Second Life design ideology and philosophy

The Second Life is a brand that stands on the foundations of holistic design philosophy. We see design as an integral thread that defines the interactions between human beings and the rest of the world with empathy at the core. We are rooted in the principles of environmental and social sustainability and this is reflected in every single process that is part of our organization and every single product that we make.

Born out of a need to reimagine what sustainability really looks and functions like, TSL works in tandem with the many global and local development goals for a better and fair world. Our very first product came from an organic process of recognizing the potential in what was seen as a ‘waste’ material. We took discarded newspapers and experimented with traditional block printing to create a simple yet stunning material that became not just a product but a symbol of possibility. Simply put, we saw the paper part of the newspapers instead of seeing them as discarded waste. The block-printing was done in collaboration with an NGO that supports livelihood for people who are differently-abled based in Hubli. To date, we have upcycled close to 1500 kg of newspapers and other paper waste.

Since then, we have continued to look at discarded, wasted or ignored materials, abandoned traditional livelihoods and related tools as resources and each product that we have made with these are conversation starters apart from being highly functional elements in everyday life. The products tell the story of how beautiful second chances can be, they become the focal point where functionality, livelihoods, and sustainability meet. 

Bringing together the causes of responsible waste management and revival of traditional crafts sets off a conscious chain of effects that touch upon many Sustainable Development Goals. Our business design processes are focussed on the integration and intersection of various SDGs. A brief account of this is given below.

Design for reusability 

Reusing ‘waste’ as a resource creates an impact by diverting the same from landfills, oceans, incinerators, and the resultant pollution. Further, it also reduces the footprint of energy and resources required to recycle the waste and establishes reusing as an effective systemic and structural solution.

The philosophy of reusing is deeply embedded in the products to the extent that the functionality of the products reflects the same. Every product is mindfully created with multipurpose and frequent use at the core. The block printed newspapers and multipurpose pouches made from upcycled tyre tubes stitched with VHS tape are examples of this.

Contribution towards United Nations SDGs // Directly towards 11th and 12th goals

Design for resource optimization + Design for affordability 

Sustainable products often come with expensive price tags and making it difficult for consumers across the economic strata to embrace the products and drive long-lasting change. Our processes are centred around maximizing the use of existing resources and consequently offering affordable solutions. For example, instead of creating new resources, we use existing tools that were part of crafts abandoned when factory production took over. We have used existing wooden blocks that have been lying idle for our block-printing instead of creating new ones. We look for ways to optimize our costs by sourcing waste material directly from points of generation. Ultimately, every single decision, big or small, makes a difference to the impact that a product creates, and this gets amplified when we reach a wider customer segment at affordable prices. 

Contribution towards United Nations SDGs // Directly towards 8th, 9th and indirectly towards 11th and 12th goals

Design for scalability

Despite reusing being recognized as a more sustainable option versus recycling, the issue of scale often becomes a deterrent in practice. We are creating an alternate path of maximizing reusability through design at TSL. We bring centralized and decentralized processes together to involve traditional crafts as part of innovative solutions to reuse at scale, supporting the growth of rural livelihoods and economies as well.

The paper-weaving handloom is a result of such innovation at TSL where an innovative product works within an integrated process innovation. This is a tool that we developed in-house based on traditional handloom weaving technology to weave strips of paper waste into a beautiful, versatile material. As a stand-alone tool, it can weave up to 2 meters of woven paper per day. However, as part of our process, we focus on weaving only discarded paper, rubber tubes, billboard flex materials, etc to create upcycled material. This can be used, instead of fresh material, to create solutions for small, medium, and large scale interior and architectural requirements. We are working towards setting up a pilot of two rural production clusters with 20 looms to consume 350-400 KG of the paper waste per month, saving it from recycling units and putting it to use as it is in the strip format, to create paper fabric.

Contribution towards United Nations SDGs // Directly towards 8th, 9th and indirectly towards 11th and 12th goals

Design for cultural integration 

We identify the inherently sustainable ethos in most of Indian traditional arts and crafts. We take inspiration from these and reimagine the crafts for today’s context. It is with this approach that we created the paper loom (as mentioned in one of the points above) that is inspired by the traditional handloom. We use this to create a workable material upcycled from discarded paper through a unique process of collections, segregation and weaving. Similarly, our production processes such as working with tyre tubes are also aligned with the skills of traditional craft for which our artisans are given training. All the products at TSL are part of a progressive cultural integration that brings together relevant traditional craftsmanship and modern functionality.

Contribution towards United Nations SDGs // Directly towards 5th, 8th and indirectly towards 9th and 11th goals

Design for sustainable livelihoods

We strongly believe that for any society to grow in a meaningful direction, sustainable livelihoods must be at the core. TSL is as much about creating second chances for skilled craftsmen and artisans as much as it is for wasted materials. Our philosophy is aligned with the ethical, respectful utilization of tangible as well as intangible resources. The kind of skills, arts, and techniques that were integral parts of a thriving community in India before industrialization are now dormant treasures waiting to be utilized and built upon to tell stories in the modern context. At TSL, we put these skills at the forefront of our design, and in that sense, our products are intersections of stories from the past, present, and future. The embroidered travelogue and paper lanterns are examples of how amazing the output can be. 

Contribution towards United Nations SDGs // Directly towards 5th, 8th, 11th and 12th goals

Design for inclusivity

Inclusivity is not an exception for us, it is a given. We focus on keeping this as a very important criterion while designing our products, processes, and business operations. Various elements of TSL inspire, facilitate, and incorporate inclusivity intrinsically. We work with organizations that need support in creating livelihood for people with disabilities, domestic issues, or are disadvantaged in any way. We have been associated with Hubli Hospital for Handicapped(HHH) since the beginning. HHH supports, rehabilitates, trains, and provides livelihood opportunities for people who are physically differently-abled. Diya Foundation and Sandesh Foundation are also two organizations that we partner with, that support people with different intellectual abilities by creating in-house employment and supporting systems for them.

When it comes to production, we are keen on ensuring that our processes are non-discriminatory and create a levelled playing field. Our paper mache lights are an example. The production of these lights is aligned with a schedule that people with intellectual disabilities are most comfortable with. Further, the entire process becomes like art therapy for the people as it brings their focus to one point, calms them, and lets them express creativity.

Contribution towards United Nations SDGs // Directly towards 5th, 10th, 12th goals and indirectly towards 8th 

Design for human energy

Human energy is the most untapped form of sustainable energy that can power our lifestyles responsibly while also creating livelihoods and bringing much-needed balance to society. We believe that mindful human energy is the solution to the chaos created by the mindless, uncontrolled production of factories powered by other forms of artificial energy. As a principal, we maximize the use of human energy in as many processes as possible and resort to mechanical energy only when absolutely necessary. For example, when processing rescued paper waste, we found craftsmen who use processes with minimal electricity or fossil-energy usage and cut paper using hand-operated mechanical tools. From the hand-cut paper, our amazing range of notebooks and lighting elements were born. Such processes with human-energy at the core help us reinforce the fact that production has to be as conscious as consumption for sustainability to truly take root. 

Contribution towards United Nations SDGs // Directly towards 8th, 11th, 12th goals and indirectly towards 5th

On the whole, we identify with sustainability at every micro and macro level of the organization. We constantly measure our progress across the various ecological, economical, cultural and social Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As a business, we hold a certain power and we believe that it is our responsibility to consciously contribute towards positive impact in every area that this power gives us access to.

To know more about our journey, read all about it on our previous blog here. See you again with more insights, updates and news soon!

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