These 5 women-led startups are offering eco-friendly alternatives to plastic
According to a June 2018 report by Down To Earth, which includes research by PlastIndia Foundation, India consumes an estimated 16.5 million tonnes of plastic annually. The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) further reports that a whopping 43 percent of this is manufactured for single-use packaging, and will most likely end up in landfills, drains, and the ocean, where animals ingest the plastic, soil quality is damaged, and humans nearby are at a heightened risk of falling ill.
While it’s true that large corporations have a huge role to play in plastic pollution around the world, doing our part starting at home is important too. Here are five startups, led by women, that offer eco-friendly and sustainable alternatives to plastic.
(L-R) Sudarshana Pai, Sahar Mansoor, Tanvi Johri, Veena Balakrishnan
Founded by Veena Balakrishnan and Sudarshana Pai in 2018, Everwards India offers eco-friendly alternatives for more than 40 everyday products, including pencils made from newspaper, bamboo toothbrushes, copper water bottles, silicone menstrual cups, and sanitary napkins made of cloth. The Chennai-based startup also offers sustainable body care products like handmade soap and powder shampoo.
In an interview with The New Indian Express, Veena said,
“We’ve always been driven towards using local materials, integrating local economies and reducing carbon footprint. Things used decades ago are coming back in trend. Through our company, we are also generating jobs for the physically challenged, people from the economically backward sections, and artisans.”
Everwards India also uses components like coffee grounds to make body scrubs, scrap fabric for bags, and coconut shells for teacups, cutlery, and soap dishes.
With a focus on affordability for the millennial population, the products are priced between Rs 69 to Rs 1,679.
Harini Sivakumar, Founder, Soapworks India
Founded in 2015 by Harini Sivakumar, Soapworks India manufactures safe skincare products, and claims to be nearly 100 percent plastic free.
Priced between Rs 118 and Rs 2,189, the Gurugram-based startup offers products like cold press soaps, scrubs, body butter, deodorants, facial oils and masks, shampoo bars, and lip balms. It also offers bamboo straws, menstrual cups, and coconut wood cutlery.
Customers are encouraged to return empty bottles so that they can be recycled responsibly, with an added cashback offer.
Harini initially experimented with making non-toxic body care products to cater to her son who was born with Down syndrome, and was at a heightened risk of infection because of harmful chemicals. She launched Soapworks India after realising the soaps she made at home became a huge hit among friends and family.
Soapworks also employs women from economically weaker backgrounds, and people with disabilities such as autism and Down syndrome.
Founded in 2016 by Sahar Mansoor, Bengaluru-based Bare Necessities manufactures eco-friendly products like organic bath salts, body scrubs, shampoos, toothpaste, facial cleansers, and lip balms. It also offers items like menstrual cups, laundry detergent, bamboo toothbrushes, and stainless steel straws.
The startup uses organic, local and fair trade ingredients, and its products are non-toxic, non-GMO, and cruelty-free. It also uses 100 percent recyclable packaging.
Sahar began her journey by conducting workshops in flea markets in the city, where she showed people how to make their own body care products, and educated them about the ingredients in the products they use. She has also been leading a zero-waste lifestyle for over five years.
In a previous interview with YourStory, Sahar said,
“The idea of conservation, such as taking our own bag when we go shopping, is rooted in our culture. It is a matter of being mindful and of returning to our roots.”
Products at Bare Necessities are priced between Rs 75 and Rs 2,000.
Alakshi Tomar and Shivangi Bagri, Co-founders, TruCup
Founded in 2018 by Alakshi Tomar and Shivangi Bagri, Delhi-based TruCup manufactures menstrual cups, an alternative to pads that contain high amounts of plastic. Menstrual cups by TruCup can be reused for 10 years with proper care, and prevent large amounts of plastic from ending up in landfills. The cups are available in two different sizes, and are priced at Rs 999.
Like most urban women, Alakshi and Shivangi both used sanitary napkins in the past. But when they started to use menstrual cups, their outlook completely changed.
In a previous interview with HerStory, Alakshi said,
“Sanitary pads contain synthetic fabrics, fragrances and chemical coatings, which can cause allergies and even cancer. Add to this, the environment is getting polluted with garbage accumulating over the years.”
The duo also conduct workshops to bust common myths about menstruation, and explain how menstrual cups work and why they are a better alternative to pads and tampons.
Co-founded by Tanvi Johri and Rikshav Bohra in 2017, Delhi-based Carmesi manufactures sanitary napkins made of bamboo and cornstarch, without any harmful chemicals or synthetic components. The pads come with eco-friendly wrappers and disposal bags as well. The startup also offers biodegradable panty liners and a safe intimate cleanser.
The pads are priced between Rs 249 for a box of 10, and Rs 2,499 for a box of 120. They are also available in two different sizes.
Regular plastic-based pads take between 500 and 800 years to fully decompose, and cause rashes and discomfort for many who use them. Co-founder Tanvi decided to launch Carmesi aiming to tackle this issue.
In a previous interview with YourStory, she said,
"I found myself facing the fact that it is not a mandate for sanitary pad brands to disclose the ingredients used in the pads. I felt a strange frustration that I had never cared to find what my sanitary pad contained ever before."
Tanvi also wanted customers to feel empowered while purchasing and using the pads, and made sure the packaging is bright and beautiful, unlike the black polythene bags that "scream shame and embarrassment."
Carmesi also offers customised delivery schedules tailored to a customer's period dates.
(Edited by Rekha Balakrishnan)