Every fortnight or so Robin makes an unconventional bar-hopping trip to McLeod Ganj. He returns in the evening looking gleeful, carrying a spoil of empty pint bottles and bottles used for Peepal Farm’s own fermented drinks (which our customers return for a credit of 10 Rupees). I suspect his cheerfulness comes from knowing that the landfill has been relieved of that burden of waste sitting in the back of the jeep and his own conscience from being responsible for industrial production of yet more glass. “There is a perception,” Robin says, “among the left-minded that capitalism is something evil. But it doesn’t always have to be so. Waste is a natural resource in the 21st century.” His statement represents Peepal Farm’s ethic of looking at positive ways of benefiting others through activism rather than armchair bickering about systems. The used bottles are soaked overnight in water, so the stickers come off easily in the morning. They are then thoroughly cleaned from inside with a motor-driven brush (a customised invention at Peepal Farm) and finally baked to 130 degrees Celsius in a solar cooker — which saves gas and electricity — making the bottles sterile and ready to receive the good bacteria.
Kombucha is our most popular fermented drink, although we home-make and sell Kefir, Ginger Ale and Tamarindo as well. Kombucha, as is now common knowledge, is a naturally fizzy drink containing very little sugar — unlike most soft drinks — and is full of probiotics, enzymes and acids that help improve gut health and detoxify the liver, among other benefits. It is a natural, healthful and refreshing alternative to any sugar-infused and artificially carbonated soft drink available in the market. Each one of our bottles goes out with a ‘sticky thought’ sticker, a question or a statement provoking you think along unconventional lines, with the final aim of inspiring you into beneficial action. It also reminds you that your money is being utilised to provide timely and effective treatment for injured and abandoned animals and giving them a safe place for recovery, here at the Peepal Farm shelter in Dhanotu, Himachal Pradesh.
By re-using, or better put, upcycling empty beer bottles to sell our fermented drinks, the message we want to send out is clear: Peepal Farm promotes mindful consumption of a healthy drink, and for a good cause — to lessen the suffering and pain in animals we witness everywhere around us.