Reimagining Elections

The start of a new academic year brings a lot of things, new friends, new classes, an atmosphere of excitement. For the 11th and 12 graders at my school, it also brings along election frenzy. This year was my first time running for elections, and the process made me think about sustainability in a whole new way. It all started when I stood in front of the collection of stickers in my room, stuck to the side of my bedside cabinet. There were about 30 of them, all obtained from last year’s campaigning, creative, colorful and shiny. But it made me think- if every kid from sixth to twelfth grade had roughly the same amount, how much paper would have gotten wasted? The stickers were single-use, stuck on clothes, then peeled off at the end of the day to be thrown in dustbins, and later hauled off to landfills. No matter how hard I tried to forget the image, it stayed to haunt me.

With the concept of reusability planted firmly in my mind and less than a month to go before elections, I met with Ms. Devika Krishnan, the founder of Joy@Work to discuss some of the options for how to make my campaign as eco-friendly as possible. To say I was surprised would be an understatement. I had no clue about the breadth of materials that I could use, from jeans to CDs, saris and Tetra Paks. I made notes frantically as I listened to her, trying to imagine everything coming together.

It did come together, but first, there was a lot of hard work. I visited the Joy@Work workshop twice, taking in the assortment of fabrics and materials I could work with. I placed an order for Tetra Paks to be cut into 3 by 3-inch squares so that they could function as reusable badges. Additional triangles were cut by the ladies at the workshop for me to make into wristbands, using ribbon. And then there were the jeans. Devyani aunty, who runs ReStore in Whitefield, set aside a few pairs for me. With the help of my friend Akriti, these were cut up into massive cloth posters. In order to make them as eye-catching as possible, I came up with puns to highlight the material and simultaneously promote my campaign, and stuck them on to the fabric in bold, neon letters.

Badges ready to be used for the campaign. Pic: Sanjana Shahane

Creating everything for the campaign took several stress-filled nights, but by the end, I was so happy and proud of the way everything had turned out. Equal parts bold and classy, the elements of zero waste had really incorporated themselves into the design. The best part, of course, was that absolutely no paper was wasted. From jean fabric to old CDs and even a faded blue sari, we had used a number of different materials to convey the message of my campaign.

The response at school was also equally heartwarming. So many people came up to me to ask about how I’d made the posters, or what the purpose was behind them. The best part was the other candidates, who loved the idea of reusable badges so much, they decided to create their own. It was really rewarding to see how the reception towards excessive amounts of paper and plastic had changed. Sustainability had become a word that even the 6th graders knew when they came up to talk to me.

Reimagined CDs used for the election campaign. Pic: Sanjana Sahane

It’s really important to stress though, this campaign was the brainchild of so many people who saw potential in my far fetched ideas and decided to pitch in. From Devika Aunty to Devyani Aunty, Akriti, Shobha Aunty and the entire team at Joy@Work, it really wouldn’t have been possible without you. The best feeling is the knowledge that next year, other people- maybe even from other schools and cities, can build upon this idea to ensure that we all do our bit to help our planet out.

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