Published: 03rd July 2019
This Bengaluru couple is helping us go plastic-free one pencil at a time. Here's how
Akshata Bhadranna took to being eco-friendly when she and her husband shifted back to India from Indonesia. She shares her journey of starting a paper pencil manufacturing unit
While most of us just talk about bringing about a big change in our surroundings to keep the environment clean, this couple from Bengaluru reasoned that change should begin at home. When Akshata Bhadranna and Rahul Pagad moved from Indonesia to India last year, they were trying to set up their house. That's when they developed an idea to avoid using plastic. Akshata says, "For almost 28 years, we have lived without thinking about nature and what we can do to ensure that we don't pollute it. Therefore, we decided that no matter what, we will replace all the plastic products in our house with alternatives like glass and steel. But it was not possible to achieve this all at once. We first replaced the soap dishes and kitchenware with either steel or glass. Later, we started recycling and composting leftover food. That's when we realised that being eco-friendly costs a lot of money and that we must come up with affordable products for people like us."
After brainstorming, Akshata and her husband decided to start their journey with Dopolgy in September 2018. Initially, they started with manufacturing pencils made from newspapers because every household, schools, colleges and so on need it. According to Akshata’s research, around six million trees are cut to make 15 million pencils every year which means that man is cutting down almost an entire forest. After paper pencils, they started importing bamboo brushes from Vietnam and sold them to their friends, family members and everyone else. She says, "My brother is a deresearchntist and we pestered him to recommend bamboo brushes to his clients for the good of the environment. But the cost of the bamboo brushes in the market was Rs 210 or even more. And people don't like to spend so much money. Hence, we started selling baby and adult bamboo brushes only for `80. All of them were sold out. Now, we are sourcing these brushes from China to lower the cost."
Choose your colour: Here are the colour pencils made from newspapers which will last long
The couple sourced pencils from manufacturers in Jaipur and were trying to work out the cost. But last year, Rahul set up a manufacturing unit for paper pencils in his hometown Dharwad. "Apart from being eco-friendly, we wanted to provide employment to people in Hubballi and Dharwad. While he takes care of the manufacturing unit, I take care of the orders we receive through social media and other online platforms. Our 2B paper pencils cost `9 each, but in the coming days, we will be reducing the cost by `5 to `7. We also manufacture colour pencils, but in a slightly bigger size. About 10 colour pencils cost `120 and last longer. Now we have started working with other companies to customise the packaging of products. We also provide a seed paper along with the parcel. These papers have marigold and jasmine seeds in them. These seed papers can be planted when one finishes using the paper. One can also make greeting cards and price tags out of them. Since we are a smaller business, we only take about 500 to 1,000 seed paper orders. One company manufactures eco-friendly soaps and beauty products and they wanted the packaging also to be on the same lines. Hence, we made the packaging from seed paper and price tags for them," says Akshata.
The major challenge for the couple was convincing non-eco-friendly crowds to buy eco-friendly products and finding a way to pack products in an eco-friendly manner. "We had to meet several vendors and convince them to initiate packaging which can be recycled. Finding a tape made of paper instead of plastic and finding carton boxes that can be decomposed easily was tough for us," Akshata explains.
Bamboo magic: Bamboo brushes are sourced from Vietnam and China
When we asked Akshata the reason behind naming their start-up Dopolgy, she says, "We wanted it to sound more like biology or ecology and it also became a way to start a conversation with people. They thought that we sold drugs (dope) and some thought we were dope (cool) for doing this job. Either way, it gave us a chance to start conversations about the environment."
Some statistics that Akshata shared about decomposing of plastics brushes and paper pencils
- It takes over 450 years for a plastic brush to decompose, this means it decomposes much after the person who used it has passed away
- The handle of the bamboo brushes is made of wood which can either be used for composting or decomposing. However, the bristles are made of nylon which takes time to decompose
- In the case of paper pencils, paper pencils decompose faster than pencils made of wood