A calculator that runs on water, bookmarks that bloom into flowers, vinyl records that turn into clocks – some eco-friendly entrepreneurs have turned biodegradable waste into quirky, fashionable products. But their journey was not an easy one.
Did you know that each year, an average Mumbaiite emits 3.83 tonnes of carbon dioxide, which is the same as the emissions from a small petrol car making 76 round trips between Mumbai and Pune (a distance of 165km)? While our individual carbon footprints deserve some deliberation, the least we can do is think and buy everyday-products judiciously. A few bright minds have initiated the process.
Gadgets Go Green
Chirag Alreja, founder and owner of Hitplay, a mumbai-based gizmo start-up that sells gadgets and other products, has introduced a new range of bio-degradable and organic creations that are environment friendly. “Our sunflower bookmarks, fold-and-play recycled speakers, twig pencil and pens, water powered calculators, bird feeders etc help you make a healthy decision for yourself and the Earth,” says Alreja.
When asked about the decision to launch this range of products, pat comes Alreja’s reply, “At a hospital in the U.S some time ago, I was offered a paper bag that was bio-degradable. That got me thinking.” With one product designer on board, Alreja crowd-sourced some of the other designs and with the help of a suitable manufacturer, created a range of biodegradable products.
The Hitplay range boasts of a unique bookmark that has sunflower seeds embedded in it. “After use, this bookmark can be planted and with time it flowers;” smiles Alreja, “The bookmarks are suited to most climates and are handmade from recycled, biodegradable fibers. They must be sown in 1/8-inch-deep fine soil. You may plant it indoors, in a pot or in a garden – with proper care it will flower.
The most impressive creation is a water-powered calculator. With less than a sip of water, this calculator can work for two months! How much water would it need to run for a year… well, you do the math.
Fold and Play recycled speakers, another smart innovation, will appeal to a lot of music aficionados. Made out of recycled paper, these ultra-light speakers prove to be easy on the wallet as well as the environment. And guess what? They don’t need any batteries or external power outlets to run on. Just plug and play; they work with most audio devices.
Last is a bird-feeder that works more like a quick attachment kit. It is made out of recycled empty plastic bottles. All you have to do is attach the device to the empty bottle by punching two holes in. Insert the hanger (see pic), turn the feeder over, remove the plug and fill the bottle with seeds. Replace the plug and the feeder is ready to use. The bird-feeder is completely eco-friendly as it is made of Polylactic acid (PLA) and the string is made with recyclable bamboo.
Turning a New Leaf
While a lot of young people are exploring ways to make biodegradable waste useful – a trend that is gaining popularity – not everyone in this business has had it easy. Entrepreneur sisters Madhvi and Radhika Khaitan from Jaipur, have been creating innovative décor products out of industrial waste and discarded items.
They have had a lot of success “upcycling” (recycling while adding creative value to something) waste. But their struggle to give peoples’ mindsets a makeover is a never-ending one. Laments Madhvi, “Changing the notion that ‘eco-friendly means earthy colors and dull concepts’ is the primary challenge and propagating the idea that factory and household waste is more than just dirt or ‘kachra’, a hard task.”
You ask how the Khaitan sisters have overcome such hurdles and Madhvi says, “Now our target market are the people who have a green conscience. Being in this business for two and a half years, we have been able to determine that customers between the age group of 20-35 have been our top buyers. Today’s youth have developed a strong green conscience and have become front-runners in India’s ‘green’ movement.”
Though in theory green, WorkshopQ’s range boasts of vibrant hues. The color-blocked aluminium range of trays, photo frames and clocks is a quirky mix of waste aluminium composite panels, procured from a factory site. “This range is simply pieces of aluminium cased in wooden frames made of salvaged wood.”
Industrial waste isn’t all that has come handy; the sisters have played around with junk stashed up in forgotten corners of their home too. “The vinyl record clocks have been made out of actual vinyl records that were stashed in the attic of my grandmother’s house,” quips Madhvi. The steel mirror range has been handcrafted and made out of hardened steel strips (with no tensile strength), all by hand. Speaking about the mirror, Madhvi adds, “The owners of the factory site from where we procured these steel strips could not recognize that these mirrors were made from their own factory waste material.”
The sense of ownership that Madhvi and Radhika feel towards their products stems from their actual proximity to them. “We hope to increase awareness concerning both ecological and social responsibilities through our products by employing only handmade processes,” concludes Madhvi, with an added twist, “WorkshopQ simply means a Workshop for ‘Q’uirky products.”