Circle of Cleaner Production

It was 1987. Stephen Paulus who worked at the New Delhi office of Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) had commissioned a project to me and Professor P Khanna at IIT Bombay. The project was to investigate Innovative Strength of Indian Industry – Case of  Environmental Technologies . This project was my first exposure to “Environmental (Low or Non Waste Technologies), and it gave me an opportunity to outreach a huge cross section of Indian industry. In 1988, we brought out a report that was released by FES. The report was sent across to several institutions in India as well as overseas.

[Stephen lived in Jorbagh in Delhi in an apartment and used to play box guitar. I remember spending with him late nights savoring chicken tikka with German beer, listening to his music and soft voice and taking a late night taxi to IIT Delhi Guest House. Today, Dr Stephen Paulus heads the Department Environment and Climate Change, GIZ, Germany]

Perhaps our publication with FES reached the office of UNEP DTIE (Division of Technology, Industry and Economics) in Paris. Dr Fritz Balkau who was then Senior Programme Officer visited me at IIT Bombay while he was at the Hindustan Organic Chemicals Ltd (HOCL) for a project. At that time, UNEP DTIE was actively considering to develop a program on the basis of win-win between industry and environment. Perhaps in this context, my work became of interest to DTIE. Fritz invited me for a two day workshop that was to take place in Paris. I remember that I received a two page long telex invitation from Jacqueline Aloisi de Larderel, Director UNEP DTIE. An express Visa was granted to me based on this telex invitation by the French Consulate in Mumbai. Getting a French Visa was otherwise not easy in a short time.

Dr Fritz Balkau

This meeting at DTIE was a turning point for my career. Everyone needs one such turning point. And I will thank both Stephen and Fritz for opening the doors.

In this workshop, the term Cleaner Production was coined after a marathon discussion. Later I got involved and spent next 20 years working with UNEP DTIE as a consultant. I got opportunity to work in several countries advising and implementing Cleaner Production. Cleaner Production in many ways is the “grandfather” of the term “Circular Economy” – a buzz word we use today.

[Fritz retired as Deputy Director and is still active organizing schools on Life Cycle Thinking and Management in Europe connecting with the concept of Circular Economy. We are in touch]

The lesson I learnt was that in your young age work on projects that make an impact not necessarily money. Produce good quality outputs and Publish. If you do a good job, people will find you!

In the Paris workshop, I met Donald Huisingh, an American Professor who was teaching at the Lund University. Later, Don became the founder editor of the well-known Journal of Cleaner Production. When he relinquished his position few years ago as the Chief Editor, a World Conference on Cleaner Production was held in Sitges near Barcelona. Don invited me to speak reminiscing Cleaner Production.

Prof Donald Huisingh

I met several other stalwarts like Thomas Lindquist (perhaps one of the first researchers on the subject of Extended Producer Responsibility), Prof Sam El Kholy, VC of Cairo University and Robert Glaser who was Queens Inspector at the Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning in the Netherlands. I also met interesting personalities such as Olav Nedenes from Norway, Prof Novak who was passionate about the NIF/NOT program on capacity building in Poland and Czech republic, David Pounder from Department of Environment, UK, Dr Ralph (Skip) Lueken, UNIDO, Jim Gallup of US AID and of course Director Jacqueline Aloisi de Larderel.

I became a frequent visitor to Paris and used to be at DTIE once in four months for a week for several years. I used to stay nearby at Hotel Alize Grennel and walk to Tour Mirabeau where UNEP DTIE’s office was located. Norah, girl at the registration desk of Alize Grennel took liking for me (and perhaps for my loyalty) and introduced me to some of the street musicians who played at subways of Gare Montparnasse metro station. The deal was that she learns conversational English from me and I pick up some basic French. But I could never learn any French. Who would learn, if you are walking with a beautiful French girl on the street of Montparnasse?

Hotel Alize Grennel

A Street Musician in a Subway of Gare Montparnasse

The office of UNEP DTIE was located on a higher floor in a tall building overlooking river Seine. It was a wonderful office with a great view and sporting a sunshine in the summer. Later, the office was shifted to cut down the costs, but it lost its original charm and inspiration.

Montparnasse Tower 

Jaqueline was a visionary. To promote Cleaner Production, she partnered with several Governments to hold bi-annual High Level meetings. The first such event was held in Canterbury, UK followed by Paris, Warsaw, Melbourne etc. There were also side events in places such as Lisbon and Mauritius. I used to be a speaker in all these events. This enriched my learning, experience and networking.

Jacqueline Aloisi de Larderel

I did several publications and developed products for UNEP DTIE and UNIDO. This included Global Status Report on Cleaner Production, Web version of the International Cleaner Production Information Clearinghouse, A multimedia CD-ROM – called Cleaner Production Companion and Guidance Manuals for National Cleaner Production Centers. Working with the team at DTIE was always a pleasure. We often exceeded the agreed Terms of Reference! Today, most of the team members on Cleaner Production (now called as division of Sustainable Consumption and Production) have left and the only person I know there is Garrette Clark. A wonderful person to work with.

Garrette Clark

During my stay in Paris, I never missed to spend an evening on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées. Our Cleaner Production “gang” used to assemble there for some cool beers with chips and a baguette ham sandwich. On this crowded but still romantic and mesmerizing avenue, the discussions used to be so  lively ending late in the evening.

Restaurent on Avenue des Champs-Élysées

But a must was to go to the Jazz at Duc Lombards located on 42 Rue des Lombards. This Jazz club is not big but is designed for very premium sound quality effect and stage and ceilings that make audience feel like sitting in small opera house. You sit so close to the stage in a cosy atmosphere watching the artists performing. The club has a great menu and a friendly service – and of course all at a price! I have been to Duc Lombards more than a dozen times and each visit has been an unforgettable experience.

Duc Lombards

Jacqueline after her retirement moved to Italy where she runs with her husband Corso, a Hotel resort called Villa Le Barone. Villa Le Barone lies in the heart of the Chianti hills, thought by many as the loveliest countryside in Italy.  I have been in touch with Jacqueline and visiting Villa Le Barone is on my bucket list! May be that will be a turning point in my life once again!!

Villa Le Barone

In my email communications, I once wrote to Jacqueline about Jazz at Duc Lombards. “Oh Prasad, I did not know that you love Jazz so much” she responded.

And then She wrote. “You may not know but I hold some stake there”.

Wow, I said to myself. What a  great place to invest. I wish I had the money to do so.

Everything then fell in place and connected the dots.

I thought with connect to Duc Lombards I completed my Circle of Cleaner Production in Paris.

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  1. Dear Modak…. interesting to read this blog… good old memories.. thanks a lot for introducing me to CP field and guiding me for the past 30 years.. Thanks a lot for helping to shape my professional life from 1991.

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