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A lesson I learnt about Sustainability by spending 200 Rupees

Welcome to day number 19 of this blogging challenge. Today is a Saturday, and our theme is Sustainability. I wanted to share a recent incident that taught me the value of repairing a pair of footwear. Today’s post is about a pair of Bata sandals that was purchased from Amazon a few months ago. After several months of heavy use, the soles needed to be replaced. While I did end up getting them repaired, what I learned from this whole experience and helped me to throw away another pair that could have been repaired. Does it sound paradoxical, and confusing? Read on to learn the lesson I learnt recently.

Repair and Reuse: Not easy as it seems

Let not the heading give you the wrong idea: I am usually a big believer in sustainable lifestyle. I practice and promote recycling, reusing, repairing, and upcycling. But a recent incident has made me re evaluate the “repair and recycle at any cost” approach.

This learning is courtesy a pair of sandals from Bata.

A few months ago I purchased a pair of Bata sandals from amazon. It was (and is) a nice pair, comfortable, and easy to maintain. I used them throughout the monsoons while taking Buddy for a walk three times a day. Being a heavyset person, I do walk with a heavy foot which means that the bottom soles of most of my footwear wears away in a few months’ time. Sometimes, it literally creates a hole in the bottom in the footwear. The pair of Bata sandals I purchased was no exception.

Repair and Reuse old items and devices. Blog of Amar Vyas

Repair and Reuse old items and devices

Repairs ? What repairs?

I tried to get the sandals repaired at a couple of local shops here in Bengaluru, including the showroom for Bata. They simply refused because the sandals were cheap- probably worth 400 or 500 Rupees. I had purchased the for casual use, and a walk around our neighborhood did not require anything more heavy duty.

Nobody wanted to fix such a cheap pair- no shop. showroom or cobbler’s shop.

In fact, many cobblers offered to make a new pair of footwear for me, if I were to throw this pair away. Everyone was trying to either upsell or they refused to repair. This left me with four options: 

Option Number one, keep things as they are – a sandal with a hole. the rest of the footwear was fine. No broken straps, or ripped or torn parts. The hole indeed  made for an uncomfortable walk.

Option Number two, get a new pair. I was trying to avoid this because it was the easiest option, but one entirely against my beliefs.

Option number three, try and repair it myself, and an option I did not want to consider just yet.

Option Number Four while traveling to a different (smaller) travel to a different city, carry the sandals with me. The hypothesis was that cobblers in smaller towns would be much more able to fix them.

All I need is a sole (but not a soul was offering it)

I wanted to test out the last option, fortunately, in December and January, I visited Amritsar, Coastal Karnataka and Gujarat. The first two places turned out to be duds. The main purpose there was tourism, and while visiting the places of interest, I was wearing shoes. Carrying the sandals around would have seemed like a desperate act.

New year = A New Hope

Screenshot of A new Hope. Blog of Amar Vysa

I finally took the sandals to Vadodara when I had to travel because of a family emergency. I saw a small kiosk of an old cobbler, and promptly asked him if he would replace toe soles of the sandals. He agreed to do it for 200 Rupees. I did not negotiate with him. The reason was twofold. Firstly, the neighborhood was just coming out of COVID induced lockdown,. If the cobbler could earn some extra money, it might benefit him and his family. I thought it was a good thing to do. Secondly, he was willing to do exactly what I was looking for – add a new sole to an otherwise perfectly good pair. He did not try to upsell, talk me down, or mock me for even thinking of repairs.

There was a third reason as well .A new pair would have cost me atleast 500 Rupees, or more than twice the cost of repairs. My login was that if I could spend 200 Rupees and save 500 in the process, I could always buy a new pair five or six months down the line. Instead of a rushed purchase.

I left the pair of footwear with the old cobbler in the morning, and collected the repaired sandals in the evening. he had applied a coat of polish and done some cleaning also. I though tit was a job well done.

Except it wasn’t a job well done

A few weeks of use and the sole began to open up. Maybe the glue he had applied wasn’t strong enough. Maybe he should have stitched it instead of applying adhesive. Anyways, I was back in Bengaluru by now, and to fix this new problem, I purchased a do it yourself shoe repair kit from a local store. The kit cost another 40 Rupees, so the total cost of repairs comes to 240 rupees. But that is not the only math to consider. 

I had carried the pair of sandals to two different trips, and travel adds emissions to the environment, generates other wastes also .If I were to estimate the CO2 emissions, cost of carrying them around for days, and the cost of non-use (i.e not able to use them because they needed repairs), then a new pair probably proves to be cheaper. 


Lessons learnt : Sustainable Lifestyle comes at a cost

The cost includes cost of inconvenience,  and economic cost of course. But then the important question remains:

Is everything worth repairing, reusing or upcycling?

In my opinion, this experience was a good lesson learned for sustainability. Sometimes it’s just more practical or even sustainable to replace the old with the new. This is a lesson I learned from a 200 240 Rupee repair to my footwear.