One of the biggest obstacles to the mass adoption of sustainable living practices is the lack of available and, in some cases, affordable solutions. If, for example, the spread of single-use plastic has to be contained, then what can replace it? What can be a durable, environment friendly, cost effective alternative to the omnipresent polythene bags in the market, or the toothbrushes present in every house?
The answer to this problem has not been straightforward, and the few solutions that have come up so far have either not been scalable or cost effective. For replacing polythene bags, we’ve tried different variations of paper bags, jute bags, recyclable plastic bags that were of at least a certain thickness, among other things. None has so far attained widespread acceptability.
With the recent surge in awareness, however, regarding climate change and the need to conserve the environment, governments have been drafting the necessary regulation and making it easy for businesses to invest in the sector. As a result, a number of companies have come up in the country that use raw materials such as bamboo, coir, cork and coconut shells, and make home care, personal care and travel products for the mass market. Nitika Sonkhiya, Founder, MyOnEarth in conversation with FE Online talks about future of environmentally sustainable products. Excerpt:
Briefly explain about your company and the products?
Here at MyOnearth, we are using Bamboo, Coir, Cork and Coconut Shells to create a variety of home and personal care products that will provide you with eco-friendly alternatives to single-use plastic products. Our vision is to be able to service all your sustainable lifestyle needs at one place.
When and what inspired you to start this venture?
While I was growing up my attention went over the immense amount of waste we generate in our daily lives, and I started doing something about it. i started recycling and reusing things around me which were considered waste into meaningful products for example jewellery, I started redesigning my old jewellery and give them a new life. I did it not just for myself but for many celebrities also like Nisha Rawal, Nauheed Cyrusi. And since then I have made small changes in my daily life which I feel anyone can make and we can have a bigger impact. I had used my 1st bamboo toothbrush 5 years back, After a while I figured out that not much was being done in this field across the country, and its such an unorganised market.
I figured the time to jump in was right.
What is your brand socially responsible for?
One aspect is the social responsibility of a business. Corporates everywhere are rising to the challenge and requirement of being more socially responsible, because quite frankly, it is not possible to build a sustainable long term business if you’re not going to give back to the society in one way or another. You must pay back, or pay forward, otherwise you will not find support in communities.
Second a lot of the raw materials for business are generated in far flung areas, where people work very hard to ensure quality. If people at this end of the supply chain are not taken care of, then the supply chain will not sustain. For us, for example, one of the unique aspects of many of our products is that they are hand crafted, thereby ensuring a personal touch to each unit that is sold. Somebody somewhere, not a machine, made what you are holding in your hands. Such uniqueness can only be sustained if our partners in the villages, the artisans, are happy.
Third is the emotional aspect of it. The women in the NGOs we work with are local rural women who are the primary source of income for the families and they were impacted by covid when they lost all the work, we gave them work during that time and they were really happy with that. When I see them empowered I feel great, and there is no way we are leaving them behind. These are the good wishes from these women and local artisans that we are growing and supporting them will always be key for us.
Your views on sustainability development and how is it going to affect the future? Explain how the concept of sustainability can be used to address the issue of environmental change.
Sustainability, environment friendliness is the future. Regardless of form. There is increasing awareness across the world of the harmful effects of single use plastic, the threats of climate change and the need to preserve whatever is left of our environment and planet. In light of that, I think the future is bright. We aim to bring a whole ecosystem of sustainability related products under one roof so that people can have all their needs met in one go.
Do you feel the pandemic has made people realise the importance of sustainable development?
You know that a subject has become important when politicians and big businesses start giving it their time of day. If recent headlines are anything to go by, sustainable development seems to have finally arrived. Coal is finally being recognized as dark. The concept of electric vehicles is no longer just drawings and equations on a white paper. The threat of climate change is not new. Yet, the conversation around it has assumed a degree of urgency over the past few years. Masses have begun to get involved.
At some point over the past few years, something shifted. Something made people care. What was it? Was it the wildfires in Australia and California? The hurricanes in Asia and South-Eastern United States? The permanently colored air in Beijing and Shanghai and New Delhi? The hottest summers ever around the world? Or was it COVID, that finally made us realize that we weren’t invincible after all; that nature, and our planet, still had the upper hand? That we took much more than we gave back, oblivious to the damage we were causing to the environment? Whatever be the case, Nature had had enough and it hit back. And now we’re listening.
How did you and your company tackle the pandemic challenges?
We started in the middle of the pandemic,we used the time to build the brand and strategies for the business. We saw a tremendous growth during the pandemic.
What are your expansion plans in terms of revenue for the year 2021?
We are very excited for 2021, Our brand is registered in USA and we are launching on Amazon USA, UK which is going to really drive our sales and give us a global platform. Besides, with the markets getting back to normal, we hope to see an explosion in demand locally too.
What according to you can be done to make sustainability development a norm?
-Incentivising big business to invest in environment friendly practices, by giving them tax benefits to make the environment a priority.
-Favourable govt regulations for green businesses.
-By putting into place penalties for any environment degrading activities by any institution/ person.