Recycling is Not Enough, Go for Upcycling


Sruti Harihara Subramaniam could put reduce, reuse and recycle enthusiasts to shame. Her products, made from waste material, are better than the original. Check them out at her Goli Soda store in Chennai

Goli Soda is an unlikely name for a retail store dedicated to selling upcyled merchandise. It brings back memories of the fizzy drink of yester- years where the “Goli” (marble) locks in the fizz in a soda bottle. It was our very first symbol of re-use.

The goli soda bottles would go back to get refilled at a factory. The Goli Soda Store in Besant Nagar, Chennai is all about innovation, creativity and conscious living. True to its name, the store focuses on up-cycling and re-use. The year-old store is a retail space that brings together inventors, designers, evangelists and people who want to make a change for the better. The store features products that are up-cycled, organic, environment- friendly, locally sourced and more importantly, are aimed at making lives better and safer.

Sruti Harihara Subramaniam, the young and sprightly founder of Goli Soda, believes that if people are given options, they do opt for more eco-friendly choices. “There are a lot of stores selling organic food but none selling up-cycled merchandise. I wanted to offer people a choice of high quality, well-designed products that will compete with regular products and also be eco-friendly.

What is Up-cycling?

Up-cycling is the process of converting waste materials or useless products into new materials or products of better quality or for better environmental value. Up-cycling is the opposite of down-cycling, which is the other half of the recycling process. Down-cycling involves converting materials and products into new materials of lesser quality. Most recycling involves converting or extracting useful materials from a product and creating a different product or material.

Up-cycling has shown significant growth across the United States. For example, the number of products on ‘Etsy’ (an e-commerce website focused on handmade or vintage items tagged with the word “up-cycled” increased from about 7,900 in January 2010 to nearly 30,000 a year later—an increase of 275%. As of April 2013, that number stood at 263,685, an additional increase of 879%!

The Goli Soda Store

Goli Soda stocks unique and innovative merchandise made completely from up-cycled material. You could walk in and find wallets up-cycled from old tyres by ‘Green the Gap’, jewellery made from PET bottle plastic by ‘The Silver Nut Tree’ which could make you do a double take because they look more like glass than plastic! Interesting bags made from discarded vinyl advertisement, billboards by the NGO ‘Baladarshan’ and waste cloth by ‘Stitched to Save 9’. The shelves also boast coasters made from juice tetrapaks and milk covers and Gramophone LP record clocks made by ‘Workshop Q’. Beautiful wooden pin-up boards made from reclaimed wood and wasted fabric by ‘Enthucutlets’ can brighten up any room.

The Goli Soda Store is itself made completely from recycled wood and fruit crates. The shelves and racks sport a rustic look. The store stocks all-natural home-cleaning products like detergents, floor cleaners, mosquito sprays and dish wash powder. There is also an eclectic range of organic cotton clothes from ‘Bhoosathva’ and ‘Paruthi’ that are made with completely natural dyes. There are also some natural seed jewellery and some elephant poo products like coasters, notebooks and photo frames from ‘Haathi Chaap’.

“We have to think beyond the three Rs (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle). Instead of buying regular gifts, why not buy up-cycled gifts? They are equally beautiful and help save the Planet too,” says Sruti. Goli Soda also stocks Khambas from ‘Daily Dump’, vermicompost, panchakavyam and cocopeat.

“We have consciously kept the pricing low at Goli Soda to promote re-use. The idea is to make it accessible, available and affordable to more people” says Sruti. The way forward for Goli Soda is to have more physical stores in other cities. “The next leap will be when we get on to an online store” avers Sruti. “In our first year of operation, we were focused on getting the right merchandise into the store, now is the time to think of growth and other possibilities.

Design plays a huge role in making Goli Soda truly a one of a kind store. Every single product sold at the store was created with a purpose beyond its immediate usage. The various featured innovators and designers have thought about everything from the material used and their long- term impact on the environment.


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