Zero Plastic, Zero Toxins: This Student Designed Smart Eco-Friendly Air Fresheners Using Waste
Looking for ecofriendly air fresheners? Jamshedpur's Rajiv Sharma innovated ALVE smart air fresheners by recycling 1500 kgs of temple flower waste.
When COVID-19 struck the country, numerous households, including the Sharma family in Jamshedpur, Jharkhand, turned to air fresheners and sanitisers. Placed in their living room, the automatic air freshener effectively masked odours, but the family remained unaware of what else it might be emitting.
A report in ScienceDirect states that air fresheners emit over 100 different chemicals, including volatile organic compounds. It adds that air freshener exposures, even at the lowest level, can cause many adverse health effects — including migraine headaches, asthma attacks, breathing difficulties, respiratory difficulties, mucosal symptoms, dermatitis, infant diarrhoea and earache, and neurological problems.
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In 2022, Rajiv Kumar Sharma fell seriously ill, experiencing severe vomiting, nausea, and headaches, which led to a two-day hospitalisation. Following his discharge, he meticulously investigated the causes of his sudden illness. Rajiv attributed his health deterioration to the air fresheners recently introduced in his home.
An innovator with a background in carpentry, Rajiv resolved to craft his own air freshener using wood and tools available at home. Gathering flower waste from a nearby temple, he ingeniously created a natural fragrance for his homemade air freshener.
When his college professors at the National Institute of Design, Andhra Pradesh, heard of his innovation, they decided to help him perfect the product and make it ready for a larger audience. After eight months and 20 prototypes, the ALVE air fresheners were born.
The USP of ALVE, according to the founder, is that it’s made of natural ingredients, has a sustainable design (can be composted post-use), and includes smart technology.
Rajiv currently runs his startup from his kitchen with his mother, Sonidevi. Together, they have sold over 850 air fresheners in the past five months, earning over Rs 2 lakh.
A hospital visit that sowed the seeds of entrepreneurship
Since his younger years, Rajiv has been creating various products. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, he constructed a comfortable PPE kit suitable for extended wear. As a member of the Jharkhand Animal Welfare Society, he also developed over 50 wheelchairs for injured or paralysed dogs.
“My family practised carpentry till a few years ago, and I’m adept at tools and electrical design due to my course too,” he tells The Better India.
When he found the harmful effects of air fresheners and couldn’t find anything truly eco-friendly, his passion for creation pushed him to build one using natural ingredients.
“There are many poisonous chemicals in air fresheners. All you need to do is read the ingredient list behind any air freshener. It’s not safe for children (mentioned in the packaging) and animals to inhale. I wanted to make a freshener which was safe for the environment as well as humans and animals,” he adds.
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Initially, Rajiv focused on creating natural fragrances using flower waste. He collected jasmine and roses from a nearby temple, air-dried the petals, ground them into powder using a mixer, and combined them with coconut husk waste. After allowing the mixture to air dry for a few days, the fragrance was prepared. Rajiv then placed this fragrance into a glass bottle and crafted an outer cover using wood, resulting in his homemade, eco-friendly fragrance.
Though it may seem straightforward, creating the final product involved numerous trials and combinations for Rajiv. With support from his mother, who is the co-founder of ALVE Green Solutions, he worked diligently for over eight months. It took more than 20 prototypes before achieving the ideal result, he informs.
“When my professors saw this, they were amazed. They said that this needs to be given to a bigger audience and is the need of the hour. They helped me perfect it with the help of machines in the college,” adds Rajiv.
A smart, zero-plastic air freshener
The air freshener is available in three variants for homes, offices, and cars, offering a choice of 15 fragrances. Each unit is equipped with smart sensors that automatically activate and deactivate based on the detection of an individual’s presence. Additionally, it is compatible with Google Assistant.
The air freshener features a biodegradable body that can be composted after use, and its refills are organic — crafted from temple flower waste.
“We use nature’s intelligence in retaining the fragrances. Chemical fresheners use LPG to retain the fragrance. We use natural ingredients for that with no chemicals. We do not use any heat, water vapour or chemicals to diffuse our fragrances. We use our own Air Diffusion Technology with sensors to diffuse aroma evenly in the surroundings,” says the designer.
Rajiv has partnered with more than 30 temples in Jamshedpur to obtain floral waste. Every day, he collects a minimum of 3 kg of floral waste from each temple. To date, he has recycled 1,500 kg of temple waste.
Another noteworthy aspect is that this freshener is safe for animals also. Working in the Jharkhand Animal Welfare Society since 2018, Rajiv was shocked by the effects of human behaviour on animals.
“We used to rescue cows and bulls. When they were operated upon, veterinarians found plastic in their stomachs, which they were not able to digest. I have been against plastic use since that day. Our fresheners too don’t have any plastic in them. Just put our device in your garden after use and it will get composted,” he shares.
Running the startup from his home currently, Rajiv hopes to expand soon. ALVE Green Solutions has collaborated with the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore, where five college students will be working with the startup to develop the product. The air fresheners are currently being sold offline, at events, and through their website.
“ALVE is derived from the word Alveoli — a tiny sac-like structure present in our lungs — which is responsible for the exchange of carbon dioxide and oxygen. Without this organ, the body fails to survive, thus making it a most important part of our body,” explains Rajiv.
Similarly, he explains that he wants ALVE to be an important part of each home for healthier living. “I want to create products that not only meet human needs but also leave a positive imprint on our planet. Our vision at ALVE is to inspire a world where fresh, clean air is not a luxury but a sustainable standard,” he shares.
Edited by Pranita Bhat
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