World Environment Day: This entrepreneur duo is promoting sustainability, one box at a time
The call for adoption of sustainable development has been happening since the late 1990s. Since the United Nations’ call for a cut in global carbon emissions and adoption of Sustainable Development Goals, the increased awareness of climate change and plastic pollution have led to the creation of conscious consumption. However, it is still insignificant compared to mass consumerist culture that is being practised by a major part of the world’s population.
Eco-conscious consumers are increasingly making the shift from mass produced to eco-friendly goods in order to reduce the harm caused to the environment. However, anyone who has tried to make a switch to a more sustainable lifestyle has often hit the ‘affordability’ roadblock.
Sustainable products are often priced higher than mass produced goods due to various reasons that include the quality of ingredients, production standards and quantity of production.
Shreya Kothari and Renata Millett, co-founders of Verth, were actively pursuing a sustainable lifestyle when they realised that affordability was stopping many people from making the switch.
“During our journey of switching to a more sustainable lifestyle we realised that there were many things we could do in our homes itself and that it doesn’t have to start from buying eco-friendly products. There are small steps that you can take to save the planet and be more conscious in your daily lifestyle. But for people who really wanted to switch their products, the options were limited,” says Shreya.
Switching to a sustainable lifestyle
Shreya and Renata, both 27 years old, became friends at university in Mumbai and had worked together early in their careers at a PR firm. After Renata moved to Jaipur, the two remained connected through social media and last year, a conversation about sustainable lifestyle sparked a common desire to start their own business in this sector.
Renata had been using organic products and has consciously reduced her plastic consumption for nearly three years and Shreya was passionate about reducing plastic usage and adopting sustainability. Over several months of discussion, the two quit their jobs and Shreya moved to Jaipur to start Verth - that derives its name from ‘We are Earth’.
Verth offers consumers a subscription-based box that enables them to adopt sustainable practices without burning a hole in their pockets. The founder’s claim that the ‘Verth Box’ is India's first eco-friendly and zero plastic subscription box. It is a bi-monthly delivered subscription box curated with five-six handpicked eco-conscious products from sustainable brands and homegrown artisans.
“Through Verth, we hope to make a sustainable lifestyle, accessible, and affordable. With products ranging from daily essentials to accessories, our aim is to embed sustainable products into the lives of men and women, supporting their efforts to build a better, more prosperous, and eco-conscious tomorrow,” says the duo.
Solving the problem of affordability, the boxes are priced at Rs 699 inclusive of shipping with further discounts for half-yearly and yearly subscriptions.
To help reduce single-use plastic, the brand ensures that the packaging and the products in the box are zero-plastic and 100 percent biodegradable.
Box of “green” surprises
The two-person team of Shreya and Renata handle all the operations of the bootstrapped brand with help from friends and family.
After starting operations in February 2020, the duo has sold over 200 boxes to their first subscription batch. The first box was to help consumers quickly make a switch from their daily plastic and toxin-based essentials and included a bamboo toothbrush, metal straws, shampoo bars, a tote bag and an organic body butter.
It is carefully curated, and the products are used by Shreya and Renata before they make their way into the box. The duo has a strict checklist to ensure the products and brands are eco-friendly, plastic-free, cruelty-free, economical, paraben and toxin-free and adhere to safety and fair trade practices.
The brand also customises boxes for gifting to individuals, corporates and as wedding gifts and favours.
Though the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent lockdown has affected their business, the duo are even more determined to help the cause of sustainability. Even during the pandemic, they have made reversible cotton masks with scraps collected from local tailoring units in Jaipur to help sustain the business.
“Over the years, I have actually seen the first-hand impact after I switched to organic and sustainable choices. I am not hoarding plastic, and there are no toxins going into my body. We need to look at the larger picture. In just a year we have seen so many effects of climate change. We need to start small, and take small steps that go a long way to help the planet,” Renata says.
Edited by Rekha Balakrishnan