Simply preventing people from burning dry leaves was not the solution. Soon enough, there will be piles of dry leaving racked up and then what? What if, there was more that one could do with the dry leaves? As in was there a consumer friendly product that this can be transformed into such that a marketplace is created for brown leaves?
The Eureka Moment!
In places like Pune and Bangalore where there is a space crunch, owning a house with a garden is considered a luxury. So, people are looking towards terrace and balcony gardens to make the best use of the space that they have. The challenge then is to acquire soil for such practices. As has been the practice conventionally, plants are grown in soil usually acquired from third parties like nurseries. In doing so, not only is the source region being deprived of soil, this adds to the plantation cost. So, what can such small-scale gardeners do? The solution was then found in compost made of dry leaves and kitchen waste. Sometimes along with soil, if it is available and sometimes completely without soil. Like this, these gardeners are in constant need of dry leaves and there are people with dry leaves to offer. So, there was the answer- a demand-supply ecosystem for dry leaves. This may sound like fantasy but to Aditi, the Founder of Brown Leaf Forum, the pilot project yielded phenomenal response.
How does nature do it?
How humans should NOT do it?
How humans should do it?
Be it for flooring, furnishings, scaffolding, facade or decor, with the growing awareness about environmental conservation, people are looking into alternative choices for building materials. The closest and perhaps the strongest competitor is wood and given its slow rate of replenishment, people are looking towards eco-friendly alternatives. But, of all such choices, why bamboo? What is it that makes it so special that it is now gaining traction amongst the millenials?
Why choose bamboo over wood?
This question is best answered by pitting bamboo against wood and comparing them over a variety of factors as shown below.
|Tensile strength||Owing to longer fibres, bamboo is usually more tensile||Shorter fibres reduce the tensile strength|
|Seismic resistant construction||Higher capability to absorb seismic vibration and better bendability makes it ideal for seismic-resistant construction||Wood is generally less flexible compared to bamboo and hence less suitable for such constructions|
|Replenishment||Being a species of grass that grows rapidly, can be harvested annually. Some bamboo species can grow over 35 inches in a single day.||Much slower growth (a tree might grow that amount in a year)|
|Sustainability||Needs no replanting post harvesting||Once a tree is cut down, usually a new sapling needs to be planted for continued harvest|
|Geometry||Its circular and hollow nature makes it easier to manipulate and form into shapes suitable for a variety of construction needs||Its considerably rigid form makes it harder to manipulate and the end product is usually heavier|
|Maintenance||Low maintenance grass and owing to its natural surface color, most end-products do not require painting, scraping and polishing. Requires less capital as initial investment.||Considerably high maintenance and is capital intensive|
|Benefits for nature||Prevents surface run-off owing to extensive root network and protects surroundings during typhoons owing to large canopy. Also, reduces water contamination owing to high Nitrogen consumption.||Provides shade and habitat for wildlife|
|Ease of use||Owing to its high flexibility, it is very easy to make a variety of structural shapes out of bamboo. Often, to merge them together, only joints and terminals are needed as opposed to nails and glue.||Often sub-sections of the structure are fused together with nails and glue make it hard to recycle|
While the comparison above looks into bamboo vs wood for building material, a better part of it also extends to concrete and reinforced concrete primarily used for modern construction.
Is bamboo the undisputed answer to all our troubles for building materials?
Just like every coin has a flip side, even bamboo has certain misconceptions associated with it. Unless handled with due care, bamboo can very well be spoiled by bugs and insects and it is easy to conclude that wood have been a better choice. But nothing can be far from the truth.
Just like wood, once cut, bamboo can attract insects and bugs and hence, it must immediately be dried and immunized. Also, it is inflammable so, a fire resistant coating should be applied post treatment. Bamboo fibers shrink upon drying which impacts not only the diameter across various cross-sections along the length but also can have impact on construction. Thus, master artisans take such factors into account when designing structures made from bamboo.
In conclusion, if used properly, bamboo does come far ahead of wood and can be used for a variety of purposes be it flooring, walls, furniture, buildings or decor at a much cheaper cost and lower maintenance.
With the growing awareness about the rapid environmental degradation and the need to take preventive action, sustainable practices are now the talk of the hour. Companies are becoming increasingly aware of their carbon footprint are are taking corrective measures. Several consultancies have also surfaced that helps businesses compute their carbon footprint and compare theirs to that of the peers in the similar market segment. Whilst the Corporates are doing their parts, individuals are also becoming socially responsible and pay heed to proper recycling of products to help with the environmental conservation. However, often times, terms like “bio-degradable”, “compostable” and “recyclable” are used interchangeably. But, are they really synonymous? In short, NO. To know the details, read on..
What does bio-degradable mean?
Bio-degradable products are those that can be broken down into simpler, innocuous products like carbon dioxide (CO2), water, etc., by the actions of microbes in a reasonable time span. Unfortunately, there is no ticking clock that officially states what is a “reasonable” time span so one could argue that even plastic is bio-degradable as one fine day it will be broken down. But given that some of the plastics take up to 1000 years to break down, a “reasonable” time span would be anything less than that for a product to be considered as bio-degradable. So, next time you hear about bio-degradable plastic, you should take it with a grain of salt.
What does compostable mean?
Compostable products are those that can be broken down into simpler, innocuous in a much smaller time span (something of the order of 2-3 months). Thus, the major difference between “compostable” and “bio-degradable” products is the rate of degradation. This is similar to the rate of kitchen food waste composting that people do in their backyards. So, your kitchen waste is compostable and amidst that pile reside several millions of microbes that act upon the waste and convert it into compost which one could use as an organic fertilizer.
What does recyclable mean?
In most developed countries, there are several categories in which the local authorities urge their residents to segregate waste. One such example is the city of Kamikatsu in Japan which has followed this process to go near zero waste. Materials like metals, glass, paper, cardboard, electronics can all be recycled i.e., treated and processed to be reused. In an ideal world, all materials could be used, reused and/or recycled before being composted eventually thereby generating zero waste. But, there are some items that cannot be recycled like the single-use plastic. For such items, the best bet is to convert waste-to-energy which provides clean energy by incineration of the waste that can then be used to power the households.
So, the next time you grab a meal to-go and are faced with the box that says compostable, the sauce container that says recyclable and the cutlery that says it’s biodegradable, you know how to act.
We like to clean our homes daily. Toilets, floors, tables, kitchen tiles, the dishes we use, the clothes we wear. We use chemical cleaners, soaps, detergents, fresheners, whatnot to have our homes feel nicer and smell sweeter. After all, hygiene is important. These products keep away the dirt, grime, harmful germs and bacteria. And that’s all we expect the cleaners to do- CLEAN. But that’s really not all. There’s a lot more happening when we use and flush them out of our homes.
Let’s start with the effect of chemical cleaners on our homes, and families. Most cleaners in the market today contain toxic chemicals. Go ahead and read the ingredients of some of the cleaners you use at home. To name a few of them- hydrochloric acid, butyl oleylamine, hydroxyethyl. These tough to pronounce chemicals are pretty tough on our health.
It is these chemical cleaners that are the biggest contributors to indoor air pollution. They release toxic fumes that can prove to be as bad to our lungs as smoking 10-20 cigarettes every day for 10-20 years. Harsh as it may sound, this is the result of a scientific study published by the American Thoracic Society’s Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. And not just our lungs, these toxic chemicals also harm our skin, cause irritability, headaches, and eye tearing. Over time, these side effects become unnoticeable to us as we find other solutions such as pills and drops.
Things get worse when these chemicals go down the drains at our homes. Let’s take a step back and look at the condition of sewage treatment in India. A huge 78 percent of sewage generated in India remains untreated. Seventy-eight percent. There aren’t sufficient sewage treatment plants (STPs). The ones that are, are heavily loaded or dysfunctional.
Coming back to the toxic chemicals in our cleaners. How do they worsen the sewage treatment problem? When these cleaners are flushed out of our homes, they combine with the rest of the sewage. The chemicals in these cleaners make the degradation of sewage even more difficult. They increase the scale build-up. Chemical degradation is even tougher than sewage degradation itself.
So where does all this untreated sewage go? In our precious water bodies. The same waterbodies we source the water we use from. In fact, the damage to rivers is now tangible, looking at the foam in lakes and rivers. It also brings significant damage to marine life. In India, 50 species of fish fauna are under the threatened, and 45 under the near-threatened category.
We understand the impact of the toxic chemicals in our cleaners now. On our homes, family, and our cities. Is there anything we can do to make this better? The answer lies in nature.
Looking back at 20-30 years from now, were these toxic chemical cleaners so prominent? Not really. Families used natural cleaning solutions made of ingredients like reetha, amla, shikakai, lemon, orange peels, so on. These kept toxic chemicals away from our homes and didn’t make sewage degradation difficult.
The reality today is that we do not have the time to make these different cleaners for all the different reasons we need them for. And we need something more powerful too, given the extent of pollution. We need something that reduces the scale build up in our Sewage Treatment Plants. This is the problem my team and I set out to solve.
The answer was found in bio enzymes. Cleaners made of active bio enzymes, bacteria, fruit extracts, and vinegar can solve the problems we face with toxic chemical cleaners. Fruit peels and extracts offer an excellent culture to help produce more cleaning enzymes as time goes on. Naturally-produced enzymes from food sources break down molecules into smaller pieces. This becomes food for a surrounding bacterial culture that in turn produces more enzymes.
All of this with no compromise in cleaning capacity. Yes! To our pleasant surprise, we realized that biological cleaners clean just as well as the cleaners that we’ve been using all this while. More importantly, when flushed down the drain, biological cleaners continue to act on sewage they find in the drain lines. This reduces the scale build-up and makes the degradation of sewage easier, helping the rivers and lakes of our cities.
We named these cleaners, CARE cleaners. Cleaners that CARE for your home, family, and the planet. More than 3000 families have adopted CARE for their homes as I write this. The amount of good that it does for the city’s waste management systems – I can almost feel it in my bones. Customers wrote back to us about how they feel being able to clean their homes naturally, and helping save the rivers and lakes.
To further our cause of helping clean our cities, we launched a ‘Clean Your City’ subscription of all-natural cleaners. If subscribed, a customer essentially commits to keep her city clean for the course of six to eight months. For an amount of Rs. 6000, the customer gets 6 kits of 6 cleaners each. We send them the first one ourselves. Next kit onwards, customers can make their own kits with the products they need. And all this while, we offer a money-back guarantee on the remaining kits.
Clean Your City subscription is a for the conscious citizens among us. Citizens who choose to CARE for their homes, family, and the planet- all at the same time. We anyway spend ~Rs. 6000 on cleaners in a year anyway. The Clean Your City subscription is a smarter choice if this money can help improve the city’s waste management systems as well.
In fact, you can actually say that you’re cleaning your city and the city’s water bodies when you use CARE cleaners.