From ‘Holi Ka Dabba’ to Diwali ‘Beej Patakha’: Reinventing Indian festivals with sustainable practices like seed embedded paper

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March 11, 2021 2:38 PM

Inspired by Gandhian ideals of strengthening local commitment in sustainability efforts, the company also started educating corporates about making the much needed sustainability switch.

A cooler way to explain this is that you can grow plants from seed embedded paper! (Image: 21Fools)

Sustainability is a buzzword in 2021. But how do you reconcile it with the celebration of much loved and popular festive occasions? This is where the impactful reach of seed embedded paper paves the way for expanding the scope of sustainability among corporates.

What is seed embedded paper?

To understand the concept better, here is what this means: Plantable Seed Paper is paper made from Pre consumed cotton waste embedded with seeds. The paper as being made from cotton is 100% biodegradable. Simply put, when one sows the paper after it has been used and water it daily, the waste cotton starts decomposing into the soil and the seeds start germinating.

Seed embedded paper: Benefits

A cooler way to explain this is that you can grow plants from seed embedded paper!

Not only has a small Indian company rolled this out, but they also created an innovative festival product series with Seed Rakhis that can be planted and grown into a plant and for Holi, they launched A Holi ka Dabba that contains everything sustainable and herbal.

This is just a tip of the sustainability ‘iceberg’ so to speak.

Entrepreneurial journey towards Sustainability

The early beginnings of a customized greeting card company soon went on reinventing itself on realising how instead of being a solution to a problem, it was becoming a part of a greater problem.

So, what exactly was the problem?

“We were using paper whose source was wood pulp which is made by cutting really old and huge trees. On top of that, we were creating a good volume of paper wastage every month. These two things made us realize and rethink what we were doing and at that moment we shifted completely to using paper made from waste cotton and gradually moved into making Plantable Seed Paper,” said Divyanshu Asopa, founder of 21 Fools, which had introduced this paper to the Indian market in 2014 for the first time.

Inspired by Gandhian ideals of strengthening local commitment in sustainability efforts, the company also started educating corporates about making the much needed sustainability switch.

Convincing Corporates to Switch to Seed Paper

But the hurdles were plenty as Divyanshu Asopa tells FE Online, “It took us a few months to establish the authenticity of the paper. Many people didn’t believe in a paper growing into a plant. Our target market from metro cities usually adopt plants and don’t know how to grow a seed. So it became a challenge to educate them about the ways a seed has to be grown. Our vision is to establish the use of Seed Paper as a regular alternative to wood pulp paper and make people more aware of the purchasing choices they are making.”

A rational approach was to focus majorly on working with corporates who are keen to make a sustainable switch in their communication using seed paper.

Corporates that used Seed Paper

“Till now we have worked with over 400+ companies, From Google to BMW, Reliance to Maruti, Flipkart to Pepperfry, we have worked with wonderful organizations who have embraced the idea of using seed paper,” Divyanshu Asopa adds.

Seed Paper usage: What else is next?

From this year, the company has started making products for B2C customers who wish to use seed paper for their personal use & selling it through their eCommerce platform. The company is also creating a stationary product line that will include different sizes of sheets for direct use, blank and printed greeting cards, envelopes, diaries, bookmarks, bags, packaging paper, coasters, Wedding Cards, Wedding favors, and so on.

The biggest challenge that the company has faced while working with corporates is to establish seed paper as a sustainable/ regular replacement for paper and not a one-time marketing activity. Once a brand has used seed paper to publicize their commitment towards sustainability, they don’t use it again as a replacement for wood pulp paper.

Sustainability is increasingly becoming a key focus area for consumers and young Indians who are mindful about the same. How do you see the growth path scaling up ahead and what do you consider to be the challenges ahead?

We have been working with the craftspersons community to create products for the last 5 yrs and using only non-toxic and sustainable materials to do so. The idea was never to do so as it was going to be ‘in fashion’ but because we firmly believe in the Gandhian idea of sustainability. Recalliing Mahatma Gandhi’s wise words, “There is no beauty in the finest cloth if it makes hunger and unhappiness.”

Gladly for us, the young Indians are becoming aware of what they use, eat, wear – How the products are made, how much water it takes, the use of chemicals, and also who makes it, whether they are paid fairly or not. That’s why we are shifting our focus on creating products for the youth.

In the last year, we have launched a series of products focusing upon the Indian Festivals. For Rakhi, we created Seed Rakhis that can be planted and grown into a plant, For Diwali, we launched ‘Beej Patakha’ – Firecrackers look-alike which was made from waste paper and embedded with seeds. For Holi, we have launched ‘Phoolchand’, which is a Holi ka Dabba that contains everything sustainable and herbal. The audience for all these products is the youth who are breaking away from the shackles of the past and redefining the festival celebrations in a more meaningful way.

For the next few months, we are planning to make our Festival based products reach out to a wider audience and for that, we have started establishing a distribution channel across India. The challenge however is the time it takes to handcraft these products manually.

Given that the travel and hospitality segments in India are increasingly tapping into sustainability initiatives, how do you see this fitting well with these two segments?

The travel and hospitality industry uses a lot of products that are meant for ‘One-time use only. Packaging of such products is one of the segments we want to focus on. For example – Envelopes holding Toothbrushes, Pastes, Combs, and several such room accessories can be made from seed and handmade paper.

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