Indian Startup Fights Pollution By Upcycling Rotting Temple Flowers
Collecting the discarded religious flower petals, Help Us Green intends to curb river pollution by using the plants to make incense
In India, flowers are the gifts the Gods deserve. But leftover petals pose a problem: Many of these rotting flowers end up in India’s rivers, taking with them the toxic pesticides and fertilizers farmers used on them. Startup Help Us Green is turning this flower pollution on its head, however, by collecting the used petals to make brand new products.
In India, it is wrong to throw flower offerings in landfills, so what Help Us Green does is upcycle the blooms, turning them into incense with prices ranging from Rs 200-250 ($3-3.80). This process additionally retains the religious purpose of the flowers, as the burning of incense is a ubiquitous practice during prayers or puja.
This simple solution has major impacts on the local community: To collect the flowers, the company has hired over 1,200 women who otherwise would be jobless, and now earn more money than their husbands, the founders told Fast Company.
According to the company’s website, 335,000 kilograms of flowers have been salvaged from temples and upcycled into Help Us Green’s incense. This means almost 1,000 kilograms of arsenic, lead and cadmium have been prevented from entering important bodies of water such as the River Ganges.
Aside from incense, the company also creates Mitti, a 100% natural fertilizer created by vermicompost. Specific strains of nematodes, pesticides and harmful chemicals in the flowers are broken down into benign nutrients for new plants. The fertilizer is priced at $3.80 for a kilo and is marketed primarily for use in flowering plants.
The ingenuity doesn’t stop there. Help Us Green is also developing a better way of packing products. In India, packaging often contains religious imagery, making it inappropriate to throw in the trash. Many people resort to throwing packaging in rivers or below trees. As a solution to this waste, Help Us Green has developed packaging you can plant.
The paper container of their Yagyan Bamboo-less “Havaan” Incense isn’t only 100% biodegradable, but is also embedded with seeds of the Tulsi plant. After use, the packaging can be directly planted in the ground.
Lead image via Facebook