It's only been a month since the United Nations Environment Assembly, where countries pledged to "significantly reduce" single-use plastics by the year 2030. India is part of this group, one that features more than 170 countries. A research by Plastindia Foundation, an apex body of major associations and institutions connected with plastics, stated that "Indians consumed 16.5 million tonnes of plastic in 2017-18 alone". These are shocking numbers, and are enough to raise an alarm.
It is important that the government and other bodies make a conscious effort in building India into an eco-friendly nation. But today, we'd like to focus on women who are already making this dream a reality, one product at a time. Mail Today spoke to five entrepreneurs whose ideas are helping people switch to an ecoconscious lifestyle. Read on
WEALTH FROM WASTE
"When I moved to India from the UK in 2009, I was appalled at the amount of plastic everyone was using, and how there was no formal waste management. This inspired me to create a much-needed solution that was both healthy for the environment and us," says Rhea Singhal, founder of Ecoware. The Delhi-based company is "India's first and largest sustainable food packaging company, one that uses the waste of locally-sourced agricultural crops to convert it into disposable tableware and packaging for food and industrial packaging".
A green venture that's definitely creating a buzz, Ecoware products are designed to convert natural resources (plant biomass, water, air) into commercially viable consumer goods, thus contributing in bringing the same resources back into earth at the end of their useful life. Singhal, who is also this year's Nari Shakti Puraskar recipient, aims to "replace all single-use plastics with plant-based equivalents".
TIP TO GO GREEN: Reduce your waste footprint, not just plastic footprint. Think twice before using microplastics. For instance, try going plastic-free when working on crafts for kids' school projects. Use pistachio shells or egg trays instead of glitter.
GAMES TURN NON-TOXIC
Imagine how much less plastic we'd consume if kids gave up games that are made of this toxic material. When Pallavi Agarwal along with her sister Prachi Agarwal founded Chalk & Chuckles in 2013, they wanted to "create educational developmental games that bridge the gap between academic material and the ones found in the retail market." But in doing so, they consciously said 'no' to using plastic.
Pallavi mentions, "We are well aware of what we use in the products we create, in terms of certification and procurement. Not only do we steer clear from using any plastic, the ink we use is soya ink [not petroleum based]. Even the paper used for these board games are FSC [Forest Stewardship Council]-certified [the zones where this paper comes from are reforested], and cardboard is made of pulp." With their headquarters in Delhi and factory in Haryana, Pallavi believes "going green is a conscious effort."
TIP TO GO GREEN: Parents should make their kids aware, and teach them to reuse. Things like pencil boxes, bottles, or bags can be used for two to three years rather than bought as a fad.
HOMING IN ON NATURE
Did you know that wet wipes top the list of environmentally-harmful products that find their way to contaminate the ocean? Imagine how convenient it would be if you could switch to bath and baby wipes that are created out of natural materials, such as bamboo fibre? Delhi-based Kolan, founded by Manisha Agarwal, provides just that solution, among many others.
After her daughter was born, Agarwal decided she "wanted to create and build a brand, which was for the future." She realised that the need of the hour was to come up with a green and customer-friendly basket, one that would have organic, bio-degradable and responsible consumer products at one place.
Thus, she founded Kolan, a website that offers eco-friendly products that are 100 per cent biodegradable and sustainable. What is Kolan's aim? Agarwal states, "We intend to create a basket of products in personal and home care, cleanliness, and hygiene with a minimum carbon footprint. The emphasis is on quality and responsible consumption." Ask Agarwal if India is taking enough steps to tackle the problem of plastic consumption on a day-to-day basis and she mentions, "Surely not, but the reason is simple. We need to innovate and find solutions. I believe that once we have alternatives, plastic will die a natural death especially in the one-time use category."
TIP TO GO GREEN: Carry a jute bag for your shopping; you can keep a couple of them handy in the car.
SLASH THE USE OF PLASTIC
A former sales and marketing executive, city-based entrepreneur Richa Malik started The Happy Turtle (THL) in 2017 and "aims to be the world leader for driving a plastic-free lifestyle". Malik left her city job to become a scuba diving instructor in Indonesia, but later came back to India to work towards reducing plastic consumption, "During one of my dives, I saw a turtle swimming away from a reef towards a plastic bag. While I was able to get the bag and felt that on that particular day, that turtle got to live, close to 1,00,000 turtles die each year due to plastic ingestion."
THL has a 100 per cent plastic-free supply chain, which makes reusable, sustainable, biodegradable, chemical-free alternatives to plastic. With their plastic footprint calculator, they consult companies on plastic consumption and help businesses turn plastic-free in a cost-effective manner.
TIP TO GO GREEN: Use newspaper bin liners for wet waste and no liners for dry waste.
ECO ROUTE TO HYGIENE
While most of us are concerned about the plastic problem, only few lead by example. Priyanka Jain, founder of SochGreen, is proof. In 2006, Jain replaced her sanitary napkins with menstrual cups and period panty. A former interior design project manager, Jain decided to quit her job "to do something more meaningful and satisfying."
Along with her husband, Pranav, she started 'Hygiene and You' - an information platform where people can learn about reusable menstrual hygiene products. Jain says, "Once we started promoting these products from various brands, I received endless feedback from women, and features they were looking for. When I couldn't find these in the market, we [Pranav and she] decided to launch our own brand SochGreen, a brand that provides menstrual cups, cloth pads, period panty and labia pads." Jain adds, "We need more people to start avoiding one-time use products. We also need to reduce, reuse and refuse."
TIP TO GO GREEN: Replace your sanitary napkin with menstrual cups or try using cloth pads.