The collective consciousness of the world is rising, and people are realising the importance of switching to more sustainable and recycled products. When it comes to paper consumption, digitisation has helped. But is it possible to go totally digital—to live in a world without paper?
Bluecat Paper, founded by Kavya Madappa, offers a solution for guilt-free paper consumption. In the quest to find a cleaner source of paper to prepare brochures for her sustainable resort, Kavya embarked on a journey to make paper without trees. Launched in 2018, her venture uses cotton rags, flax, lemongrass, mulberry branches, rice stubble, coffee husks, banana stumps, coconut husk, and even elephant poo to make tree-free paper! She wants to prove that we don’t need to cut trees for paper; rather, we can get it from the waste we already generate. We know that paper is made from wood pulp, and the paper industry is responsible for clearing around 3.3 hectares of forest lands every year. “Paper isn’t a big deal,” says Kavya, “It is use-and-throw. You don’t even think you are wasting paper because it is cheap. But it comes at a price for Planet Earth.”
Kavya’s handmade upcycled papers are not only ethical but also take care of three major environmental concerns: deforestation, water crisis, and waste management. One only needs two things – pulp and water – to make paper. The secondary agro and industrial waste that Bluecat uses has over 68 per cent cellulose, which is perfect for making paper and additionally helps save 30 tonnes of wood per month and 55,000 litres of water a day!
From her research, Kavya found that most of the machinery in the market was tree-centric, that is, they could only process wood to make paper. She said, “I realised that even after so many years, the paper-making industry had not progressed and that the technology in use was redundant.” Setting up her own factory after developing the right machinery and sourcing the waste material from farmers, which they are paid for, Kavya’s Bluecat can now make 5,000 to 6,000 sheets of paper a day.
The most interesting part is that they don’t use any dyes. Instead, they sort the rags they receive into different colours, which gives the paper its unique colour. The papers are as resilient and crisp like wood pulp papers. Furthermore, they also customise their products for boxes, folders, photo frames, table mats, and also wedding invitations with incorporated seeds that one can tear and sow in the soil to regrow a plant. Kavya wants to share her knowledge and hopes to make tree-free paper consumption mainstream.
The urban population enjoys electricity at the flick of a switch. However, there is a vast majority of the population living in rural and secluded areas where, even a ray of light is considered as a luxury. It is very difficult for the people living over there to live a routine life without any access to electricity, and day-to-day activities are cumbersome.
Keeping this in mind, an innovative initiative known as ‘Liter of Light’ decided to make bulbs out of plastic bottles. Started by Mr. Illac Diaz in the Philippines, the NGO is a global grassroots movement that uses inexpensive and readily available materials to provide high-quality solar lighting to people with limited or no access to electricity. The Indian division of the NGO is managed by Mr. Pankaj Dixit and Ms. Tripti Aggarwal, who are running its office in Bengaluru. “Though I was always socially inclined, I had no plans of starting something of my own like this, especially when I am doing a full-time job. But something made me take this up, and when I see the happiness in the eyes of people, it is all worth it,” says Mr. Dixit.
The procedure of making bulbs out of plastic bottles to illuminate a whole room or even a house is very simple. A small hole is cut in the roof of a house and then a transparent plastic bottle with clear water is fitted in. During the day, as the sunlight reaches the bottle, the light is refracted and spreads in the entire room. It utilises a very simple circuit, open-source technology, and parts that maybe sourced locally. The bottle is fitted with a lithium phosphate battery which gives 12-16 hours of light every day. A solar-powered bulb automatically lights up at nightfall and comes with an on/off switch.
Liter of Light has already installed more than 3,50,000 bottle lights in more than 15 countries and plans to further install these eco-friendly bulbs in a lot more places where access to electricity is limited or none, which includes tribal villages, slums, and schools across India. The USP of this unique bulb is that it is low-cost and made from waste and locally sourced materials. Also, it can be easily made and maintained by local communities.
Imagine how this eco-friendly bulb can help thousands of children who can now study at home after dusk. Moreover, the bulb can be highly beneficial in disaster-affected areas. Not only can the bulb be useful in secluded and rural regions with limited access to electricity but can also serve as a means of sustainability in big towns and cities. It can be used as a replacement to high-watt bulbs in places where the latter is not required and can help us in curbing the use of electricity and receiving a bill which would burn a hole in our pockets!
Pits of money!
Water scarcity has been a matter of deep concern for decades. Only three percent of the world’s water is freshwater, of which two-thirds is unavailable for use. Millions of people around the globe face a water crisis due to factors such as overconsumption of water by various industries and factories, water pollution, increasing demand for water, groundwater depletion, and climate change leading to droughts and floods. There seems to be no end to this problem.
Considering the grave situation, a certain colony of Vizag in Andhra Pradesh decided to be change-makers. They have managed to preserve and provide safe, usable drinking water to its 1,500 residents for the last 27 years without costing them a single penny! The 15 pits built by the responsible residents of the Jagannadharaju Nagar (JRN) Colony have not only exponentially recharged the groundwater levels of their vicinity but also their neighbouring ones, conserving lakhs of litres of rainwater. And the best part is, each pit costs no more than Rs. seven thousand!
Foreseeing how the water crisis was only going to worsen in the future due to scanty rainfall and depleting groundwater reserves in the city, Mr KSR Murthy, President of the Resident’s Welfare Association along with other members of the RWA, decided to take matters into their own hands. Around the same time, the Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation was urging all apartment buildings to construct water-harvesting pits. Taking that as motivation, the RWA members initiated rainwater harvesting, a project that went on to win a cash prize of one lakh rupees from the Union Ministry of Water Resources in 2019. Many abandoned wells were converted into water harvesting pits by the apartment buildings and connected directly to the terrace via pipes in order to collect monsoon water properly. The RWA also came up with a long-term solution to water scarcity in the form of roadside water harvesting. “The motive was to replenish the groundwater tables so that the city does not run out of water. Through this, we wanted to promote the concepts of arresting rainwater and avoiding water stagnation,” adds Murthy.
A scientist by profession, Mr Murthy recently came up with a short booklet on how individuals, housing societies, and apartments can learn from traditional water-saving techniques and follow simple measures to bring about change. “From installing a low-cost nozzle on taps, replacing showers with buckets, checking leaks in pipes, to closing the faucet while brushing, many simple methods can be adopted. Needs are rising, and the resources are diminishing. Hence, every citizen should act and make efforts to conserve and manage resources. We need to fully understand the impending water doom and act on it now,” he concludes.
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