What Anushka Sani Does is 'Pretty Composting'

"Waste" is a word we don't respond to positively. When someone says waste, we think of discard, we smell anticipatory rot, we visualise mountains of garbage at the edges of cities. Anushka Sani is a brand strategist changing how we perceive waste through her latest project, "Pretty Plated Waste" on Instagram. The concept is simple, she plates waste the same way one would plate a meal in a high-end restaurant, and posts visually striking images of each plate. It looks so good, our brains are tricked into thinking it's food.

We decided to ask Anushka about her brainchild and learn more about how social media, art and design thinking can inspire us to consciously change our lifestyles by enjoying the shift into better habits.

What sparked your newest personal project "Pretty Plated Waste"?

Sometimes ideas come to you - I chanced upon this one. I'm not much of a fruits-person but a prospective client in the business of fresh fruits and vegetables sent me a gorgeous hamper of fresh fruits. After eating some, I stared at the plate of leftover litchi peels, cherry stems and seeds - it looked like something worth taking a picture of. It was gorgeous. I posted this picture to my Instagram and a friend of mine commented saying he thought it was some exotic dessert I'd prepared.

Additionally, I'd recently started composting at home and this sparked the idea for doing a picture of a plate with some of the wet waste I was anyway collecting separately in a box.

Has this experiment made you more conscious of what you eat and how you cook?

I'm going to be very honest here - I don't cook at all. Perhaps this is what gets me super stoked about plating the waste. A friend was doing the cooking and I was picking out the waste. It definitely makes you mindful of what you're throwing away. In fact, I had someone message me that some stuff on my plate full of "waste", could have been used in another way. I think this is really fascinating.

When you're composting, you must be mindful of what you're adding to the compost.

The need for conscious decision making after you're done generating the waste is a game changer. You automatically want to plan your meals or what you're ordering in - in such a way that you're not adding too much non-veg waste into the bin to create the perfect balance for a viable compost.

This plate features: an old roti, some leftover tea, cranberries from an expired protein bar and some greens that were found stuck in the drain net.

Why is composting important? And how can we start doing it right?

This is a vast subject and I pose as an expert on the subject. Simply put - whatever you compost is not going to end up in a landfill. The basic principle here is that we generate 3 types of waste - wet, dry and sanitary.

This is the way I approach waste management:

Wet waste can be used for compost or repurposed. For instance, you can sprinkle used coffee grounds as a direct manure for your house plants. Citrus peels make for a great DIY cleaning solution!

Dry waste goes directly to the landfill, so I try to throw away as little as possible. For example. I'll reuse cartons for storage or take away dabbas as Tupperware. I think most Indian households do this. Channel your mother.

Sanitary waste (pads, tampons etc.) ends up in landfills. Ladies, I recommend shifting to the cup. When you think about rag pickers having to segregate your sanitary waste from usable / recyclable dry waste, you really don't want to use a pad/tampon anymore. If it's bad for the environment, it's bad for your body. I'd recommend https://www.trucup.co/ started by a friend of mine and doing some really good work in India.

How do you think regular people without your brilliant eye and patience can find their own ways to make things like composting and eating conscious fun

By learning more about it. Once you have the knowledge, it's hard to ignore the facts. There is a certain kind of satisfaction you get when you know you've made a positive change. What I've noticed (even with myself) that it's really hard to stick to 100%. I believe in more people doing things imperfectly than a few doing it perfectly.

This plate features: a few pieces of boiled egg whites (after having fallen on the floor), scraps from a burrito meal and some seeds stuck in the drain net.

What's the role of Instagram and aesthetic in making these conversations possible? What do next steps look like?

I truly believe people respond better when you take any subject (no matter how difficult) but add a positive spin on it. I often doom scroll past really gory or disturbing images on my Instagram feed. It doesn't give you any action point, makes you feel miserable about yourself and the world around you. We feel guilty constantly.

Instagram allows creators to channel these feelings positively. The visually appealing aesthetic is a gateway to a larger conversation.

For Pretty Plated Waste : I have a confession to make, I haven't thought that far. I don't like forcing an organic idea. I haven't been as consistent with it as I would have liked and there's a ton of guilt there. I'm not much of a cook and since I live alone - a dabba service seemed to be a less wasteful way of managing my meals as I ended up with a lot of spoilt ingredients by the end of the week. I barely generate enough wet waste to plate up on those days.

But the project has taught me to be more conscious about how I consume. Yes, the more positive our conversations and open our engagements are surrounding a challenging or even dismal problem, the more we have room for growth.