With the growing trends of using recycled products, are we walking towards a pollution-free environment, asks Pritha Banerjee
The past few years have seen a fair amount of eco-movement. Political leaders and environmentalists have come together to make some serious changes in our lifestyle. It’s not a secret anymore that plastic bags take a hundred years to degrade and are still harmful to the environment. We know how hazardous some wastes can be for the eco-system and many cities have either banned them or charge heavy fine. There are a lot of businesses which are encouraging the customers to use jute or paper bags. While some are recycling waste to make fuel or electricity, there are few who are creating wonders by just recycling day-to-day waste. There are few simple steps that they have followed to achieve their goal.
Most of us are aware of how recycling can reduce pollution at various level. Only a few are actually doing anything about it. Help Us Green is recycling flower to reduce pollution caused by the flower waste generated by the temples. Ankit Agarwal, co-founder of the company, says “I grew up in Kanpur and the bank of River Ganga is one of the few places where you can go if you are visiting the city. It really bothered me how people were drinking, and taking bath in the water which was so dirty. After a bit of research, I found that every year 80,00,000 metric tonne of waste flowers are dumped into the Ganga and no one was doing anything about it.”
Shoes, on the other hand, are one of the most discarded products that remain in the landfill for ages. We all own more than just one or two pairs of shoes. It was found that every year roughly more than 300 million pairs of shoes are discarded and we all have been a part of that. Now think, what if you could donate these shoes instead of throwing it away? Shriyans Bhandari and Ramesh Dhami at Greensole are recycling these old shoes. Being professional athlete themselves, they found shoes become unfit for running very quickly even though the soles were in good condition.
Once the problem is identified, it is not that difficult to address it and find a solution. It took Ankit about seven months to get a partner and start Help Us Green in 2014. The company started collecting floral waste from the temples of Uttar Pradesh. Then, recycle them into incense sticks and organic fertilisers. “These incense sticks are hand-rolled by women who were manual scavengers before. Thus, we are also providing employment opportunities with a hope to revive the Ganges,” adds Ankit.
Shriyans and Ramesh started their venture while experimenting with their old shoes. Greensole was founded with the cash prizes that they won at a business plan competition at the IIT Mumbai Eureka competition. Shriyans says, “Though the idea initially was to make footwear for personal use, soon it grew into a business venture and we started helping the underprivileged children by providing them recycled shoes. We prevent the old shoes to reach the landfills by recycling them and reduce the carbon emission to nil.
Founders of both the company came up with innovative ideas to address two serious problems. However, nothing can work out if the business is not making a profit. “Help Us Green which started with only Rs72,000 is now making Rs2.3 crore revenue roughly every year,” says Ankit. Meanwhile, Greensole claims to have recycled over 1 lakh shoes by last year.
These facts show that the recycling trend is not only increasing and people are more conscious to buy products that are beneficial to the environment. Anil K, one of the customers of recycled products, says, “When I buy a product that is recycled, I am not only making sure that the waste doesn’t reach the landfill but also feel proud to take a step for the benefit of the environment.”
From shoes to clothes, people are choosing recycled and organic over any other products. So, why not organic incense sticks as well? Ankit believes in good quality products, he says, “Just recycling is not enough. A customer will buy a product that is recycled only once. But he/she will come back to buy it again if you provide them good quality. Almost 60% of our customers come back to us because of the quality of products we offer.” Help Us Green is currently looking to change the packaging and reduce the price to Rs150 per box of incense sticks. “The new package will have the whole recycle procedure on the side of the pack.”
Greensole, on the other hand, believes in donating walks. The website encourages people to buy new or donate their old shoes. Other than donating shoes to the school-going children in the villages, they also take part in CSR (corporate social responsibility) activities with other companies.
Both the companies are growing their business by launching new products and cater to as many people as possible. While Help Us Green is looking forward to introduce new flavours of incense sticks, Greensole is introducing products like recycled bags.
Help Us Green is creative with their packaging, the incense sticks come in a box which when sowed grows into a tulsi plant. They are also offering DIY kits to make your own incense sticks at home. Ankit avers, “We will provide the customer with the raw materials and our recipe to make their own incense sticks.” Soon, they will be launching floral soaps, which are 100% synthetic free, natural vegan soaps in flavors of coffee, cinnamon, orange, papaya, coconut, peppermint, neem etc.