Could you be your own “dabaowala”? (June 19)

The very first café is on board! Café Saladier is a small café with a big vision to be the nutritional brand of the future with people who have heart and a conscience. Its chef/general manager certainly embodied that vision when we sat down to talk about the project (and much, much more – including our personal everyday battles trying to (lovingly and compassionately, of course) get people to wake up their idea about health, sustainability, freedom of choice, etc.). Be sure to like their page if you like what they stand for! Here’s to more conversations like today’s with other passionate pioneers.

While Googling various waste management solutions in urban settings, I came across Mumbai’s mind-bogglingly efficient dabbawala system. The 5000 dabbawala workers collect freshly-cooked lunches in lunch boxes (most commonly, tiffin carriers) from nearly 200,000 homes across Mumbai in the morning, and deliver them by lunch time to the designated offices and schools of their owners! The dabbawalas typically use hand-drawn carts, bicycles, and Mumbai’s local trains as they cart the dabbas (“boxes”) to and from their destinations.


We could learn so much from zero-waste practices like this! I’m not saying this particular lunch delivery system is perfect (I don’t know enough about what working conditions are like for the dabbawalas, or what relationships this system reinforces (i.e. who stays home to make the lunches and who gets served their lunch?), but it’s certainly an alternative to the quick-and-easy-fix culture of heading out to lunch from the office, taking away from some restaurant or food centre, parking back down in front of the computer to catch up on extra emails during lunch hour while scarfing down food from a Styrofoam box.

What do you say? Would a “dabaowala” system work in Singapore?


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