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Sunset yellow and soap suds in your milk
- Tips on everyday eco-living

“Whether our cricket team can bring home the cup or not, our mosquitoes are world champs”.

Resistant to “80 different pesticides”, this pest knows how to guard its crease. But these words, coming from environmental activist Ardhendu Chatterjee, were spoken more in warning than as criticism of Team India. The message: Spray what you want, all you want, but the stingers aren’t likely to give up any time soon.

To shed light on the ills of a chemical-happy world, the Earth Vision Festival is on at Classic Books, Middleton Street. Organised by Earthcare Books and Development Research Communication & Services Centre — known as Service Centre — the festival, which kicked off on March 28, presented a range of eco-friendly alternatives for day-to-day life.

Apart from discussions and workshops, an exhibition of organically-grown produce and processed food is on display. Cereals and vegetables grown without chemical pesticides or fertilisers were showcased, as well as samples of “vermicompost”, along with tips on how to make compost at home.

Stalls on how to detect adulterated food and the presence of banned dyes featured in live demonstrations. Representatives of Octave, an NGO based in South 24 Parganas, showed how a drop of muriatic acid on yellow foods — for example, a ladoo — can reveal if it contains banned colours or the acceptable Sunset Yellow. If the dye turns a deep red, on contact with the acid, it is not safe for human consumption.

Similarly, a few drops of tinctured iodine will show if milk has been tampered with or not. If the liquid turns a blackish-red, it has been mixed with water, while pure milk will turn yellowish. Debashish Dey of Octave also warns of milkmen mixing detergent to create the suds many consumers look for in milk. There are similar easy-to-do tips to test the authenticity of a number of everyday products.

The Service Centre project for popularising organic farming has spread to 242 villages. Though farmers have to contend with a short-term dip in volume, the long-run financial benefits are certain, according to the organisation, and farmers have also begun to realise this.

There are not many consumers who insist on organically-grown produce, but for those who are interested, Service Centre has also set up a network by which they can place their orders with the south Calcutta-headquartered NGO and the vegetables will be supplied.

In a series of interactive workshops, both children and adults tried their hand at puppetry, and its use in advocacy, and recycling waste materials for crafts. Bowls and sculptures can be made from papier mache, but they can also be crafted from the pulp of egg trays.

“Children are very excited that the things they see around them every day can take on different identities and uses,” explains artist Raju Bose, who conducted the crafts sessions.

Talks on environmental activism, nature-derived pest-repellents and mothering and natural healthcare are also part of the agenda till April 6.

Earthcare Books, the publishing and distribution house headed by Vinita and Bharat Mansata, who also own Classic Books, have released a directory of 400 titles relating to environmental and developmental issues for the festival.

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