Manu Karki lives a zero-waste life. When moving into her current home, she spent weeks hunting through different shops to find a metal dustbin rather than go for the easily available plastic ones. She is a vegetarian who is slowly transitioning to veganism. Most of the things she uses are non-plastic, she would rather thrift her clothes than buy new ones and she is willing to do everything in her power to be an environmentally conscious person.
Karki is also the brains behind Eco Sathi, a brand that educates people about green-living and sells eco-friendly products in the Nepali market.
A full-time dentist by profession, Karki also became a zero-waste activist and ecopreneur because of a simple bamboo toothbrush.
Prior to Karki and her husband’s trip to Taiwan a few years back, Karki wasn’t even aware of the concept of zero-waste life. In Taiwan, their hosts lived a zero-waste life which is when and where she says she was educated about this way of life. When she came back, she had been hugely inspired by their way of living, she decided to emulate it in her own life as well.
Karki started small. She started resuing bottles and empty containers, opting for shampoo bars, etc. She also started carrying her own grocery bag and tried her best to minimize plastic-use in her life. Then one day, she ordered a bamboo toothbrush from an online shop in Nepal.
“What was ironic was that the bamboo toothbrush arrived in a heavily wrapped plastic packaging which I felt like went against the whole purpose of me buying the bamboo toothbrush in the first place,” she says adding that she wasn’t that satisfied with the quality of the toothbrush either.
As Karki is also a dentist, she was already aware of the negative effects of plastic toothbrushes on the environment as well as the health of a person. So, she took it upon herself to look for a quality bamboo toothbrush with softs bristle and a sturdy bamboo handle. And so, around six months ago, she finally got in touch with a vendor in Vietnam who was more than willing to send her the toothbrushes without any unnecessary plastic use.
By that time, she had already decided that she would document her zero-waste transition via social media—mainly Instagram—to inspire and motivate other people to follow suit. When the toothbrushed arrived, she decided to sell them to her followers as she felt the lack of proper goods that were necessary to live a zero-waste life in the Nepali market. “In the Nepali market, it’s actually quite difficult to find affordable and easy to use products that support green-living,” she says. “It was around that time that Eco Sathi was born.”
As the toothbrush she was selling was well received in the market, Karki decided it was time to shift to other eco-friendly, sustainable products. She came up with the signature Eco Sathi travel kit, a pouch made up of hemp that comes with a bamboo toothbrush, a pair of wooden spoon and fork, a bamboo straw and a straw cleaner.
Karki says that she loves cakes and sweets. But every time she would order a takeout or go eat sweets somewhere, she would invariably be given a single-use plastic spoon or fork. “That’s when I decided I needed to come up with an alternative,” she adds. Luckily, she got in touch with a company called “Mustang” which specialized in making wooden cutlery—mainly spoons and forks. “I sent them the design for the spoon and fork and then together we came up with the final product,” she says.
Karki claims she has been overwhelmed by the response she has received for the travel kit and she’s glad to see that a lot of people, especially youngsters, are willing to really go all the way to live as sustainably as possible. “The people who contact us don’t just blindly buy our products because it’s tagged as eco-friendly—they are conscious consumers who inquire about where and how we get/manufacture our products,” she says. This, she feels, is extremely important if one wants to live a truly eco-friendly and zero-waste life.
Eco Sathi also sells indoor plants, bamboo hairbrushes, and bamboo hangers. You can visit their Instagram page (@ecosathinepal) or website or reach out to them on Facebook. You can also find their products at Maya ko Chino in Jhamsikhel, Lalitpur, and Upcycling Nepal in Dokhadol Marg, Lalitpur.
Moreover, Eco Sathi has plans to expand its product range by adding other items like chopsticks, copper/steel bottles, shampoo bars, compartment bags for grocery shopping and menstrual cups.
But, along with running a green business and providing ecofriendly products, Karki also wishes to educate people about the on-going climate crisis and our role in protecting the environment and the planet.
“Start small but start now. Carry a steel bottle to school or work, invest in a bamboo straw, and try to thrift clothes and other things you might need. Doing small things like these can make a great difference,” she concludes.