People Like Us: Zainab Tambawala on unpacking life

An illustrator of children’s books, and mom of two, Zainab Tambawala believes sustainability starts from a need to look at one’s own life.

An illustrator of children’s books, mom of two and a conscious consumer, Zainab Tambawala’s tryst with sustainability starts from a need to look at one’s own life before pointing fingers at the Government or others. Tambawala sources 70 to 80% of her organic produce from a farm, composts all her waste, recycles most of her things and is a conscious consumer who avoids packaging in her products as much as she can.


We catch up with her to know more about her journey in to her sustainable lifestyle.

Making the switch

Worsening of health is what opened Tambawala to alternative ways of living. She notes, “In 2009 I suffered from tiredness and fatigue which refused to go, in spite of numerous rounds to the doctor and my focus on losing weight. When I realized that I had a thyroid related problem, I started seeking answers, which put me across to people and organizations who inspired me to be a conscious consumer.”

And sticking to it!

The switch to create something better and embrace a productive lifestyle did not happen overnight.


She started by chucking out chemical laden cosmetics that were not good on skin. She substituted it with safer alternatives. She started sourcing sustainably grown food from an organic farm, Naturally Grown. At about the same time she also attended the Health Awareness Centre (THAC) in Mumbai that talked about how self-care is health care is earth care, and came away inspired. She adds here that for her, all these chance encounters with people and workshops, were like little dots connecting with each other, to inspire her towards a more nature friendly lifestyle, that did not saddle the earth with garbage dumps and toxicity.

Her rendezvous with composting took a serious turn here. She says, “As I changed my food habits and concentrated more on fresh, seasonal produce, my kitchen waste accumulated to about 20 kg in a week. I had no other option but to compost.” Though she started out with the Daily Dump containers for segregation and composting, she moved to the smart bins of GreenTech Life that made composting easier without smell or the maggots.

Tambawala now generates about 55 kgs of compost every month!

“It is difficult to explain to people that I am okay with no gifts!”

Zainab recounts that most of her challenges stem from outside. “I and my family don’t know what to do with a box of chocolates as we feel that buying these simply adds to our pile of stuff, and we are better off not owning it.” Her family is very supportive of her sustainable practices and she seems to be leaving a powerful legacy for her kids as well, who seem to have gotten involved in this recycling journey.


Kids enable the family to stay on track

When she sees her kids physically active, filled with enthusiasm and vitality she feels that is motivation enough for her to continue on this journey. She feels that she has contributed something of value as she has taught her children the merits of living sustainably. Her family relishes eating seasonal and local food. Here she adds that companies like GreenTech Life who support composting efforts online and provide stress free bins have also made her remain motivated towards composting.

Zainab Tambawala’s easy-peasy guide to earth-friendly living

What’s good for earth is good for you

Zainab believes that if something is not good for the earth it is definitely not going to be good for us as well. She asks, “If we rush to buy something that only adds toxins to soil, then how is it going to enrich or add value in to our life?” Instead look around and you will find alternative and natural solutions that are good for you and the planet.

Shift to safer cosmetics

She is also vehement about usage of unsafe cosmetics. She says that there are lot of solutions that are home-made, free of preservatives and chemicals and use natural ingredients that are great for your skin.

Segregate waste at source

People do have reservations regarding composting due to the mess and the stink it causes. “But the rewards are worth it”, says Zainab, “Especially when you hold the rich earthy smell of the compost in your hands.”

Go organic

Zainab vouches for the benefits of going organic. She says that initially people might feel organic produce is difficult to get. But any situation acts on the supply versus demand principle and so if you ask for what you want, you will definitely get it.

Opt for seasonal and local food

She mentions that eating seasonal foods when nature produces them, is an integral part for health and emotional wellbeing. “Once you get the hang of it, you will definitely carve for more,” asserts Zainab.

This June, The Alternative brings to you sprigs of hope – People Like Us – a series on everyday folks who do a darned awesome job of living sustainably in their everyday lives and inspire us to take practical steps towards a better future, one day at a time.

Usha Hariprasad is an Editorial Intern with The Alternative. The Alternative editorial internship is a chance for students and working professionals across the globe to work with the magazine’s editors in creating real-time content, photo and video stories and more while exploring the fascinating world of sustainability and social impact as it unfurls around us. Write to if you are interested in exploring an internship.

Usha Hariprasad is a freelance writer. She is fond of travelling, discovering new places and writes about travel related destinations around Bangalore at Citizen Matters. more


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Usha Hariprasad is a freelance writer. She is fond of travelling, discovering new places and writes about travel related destinations around Bangalore at Citizen Matters. more

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