New Delhi: ‘Like most individuals, we were living a life of ignorance. We used to do things for ourselves and ignore the way we used to harm the planet. It was in 2018, when we realised the consequences of human actions on the planet. That was the beginning of our green journey,” says the 30-year-old Bengaluru couple Akshata Bhadranna, who along with her husband Rahul Pagad started ‘Dopolgy’ in the same year, an eco-friendly venture providing greener alternatives to people. That year while moving from Indonesia to Bengaluru, the couple saw the extent of plastic being used by them be it in terms of home décor items, utensils, to name a few. Moreover, all of this was transported in plastic packaging.
When the couple saw the amount of plastic waste being dumped by them into the dustbin, it kind of spurred them into action. Around the same time period, the couple saw a distressing viral video of a male turtle that had a 10-12 cm plastic straw stuck in its left nostril. These series of events were enough to push the couple to adopt the green path. They started reading and watching videos on plastic pollution and decided to set up their new house in Bengaluru in a plastic-free and eco-friendly way. Speaking to NDTV, Akshata Bhadranna, who has done engineering and has seven-plus years of marketing experience in some of the leading firms, said,
We started by giving up the use of plastic cutlery. We replaced it with the traditional steel cutlery. Slowly, we switched to a bamboo toothbrush and gave up our traditional plastic one. We also replaced our home décor items and started composting wet garbage at home. We also started shopping mindfully, all items that had plastic packaging or were made of plastic, were a strict no-no at our house. Doing just this, we reduced our waste by 80 per cent within a months’ time.
From Making A Plastic Free Home To Starting Their Own Business
When the couple was making the green switch at home, it is when they realised going eco-friendly is a luxury in India. Green or eco-friendly products available at the market were very costly compared to the conventional ones.
One normal plastic toothbrush is priced at Rs 15 or Rs 20 whereas an eco-friendly alternative, a bamboo brush cost Rs 200. We wanted to bridge this gap and make eco-friendly items a common man’s product. That is when we both decided to come up with ‘Dopolgy’. We put all our savings to start this in September 2018, adds Akshata Bhadranna.
For the initial marketing test and to gauge the consumer response, the couple decided to tap people they knew. They bought affordable bamboo toothbrushes and took it with them to a society function. Akshata Bhadranna says that within two hours the eco-friendly brushes were sold off. She adds,
We bought it for Rs 38 and sold it for Rs 50 at the society function; moreover we encouraged and taught people on why they need to make this green switch. The response we got was phenomenal and that kind of gave us the boost.
Then Akshata and Rahul started sourcing eco-friendly products from other small manufactures and started selling on their platform. During this process, the couple came across pencils made using recycled paper. The duo was so inspired by this product that they decided to manufacture eco-friendly pencils on their own.
Talking about the switch from being an online platform that provides eco-friendly products to manufactures of pencils, Akshata said,
We narrowed down on making eco-friendly pencils for two reasons – one wooden pencil is made using trees and facts states that nearly eight million trees are cut every year to make 20 billion pencils worldwide. Secondly, pencil is one common item that is used by every age-group, by just replacing pencils, we thought we will be able to make an impactful green change in the society.
Towards 2019, Akshata and Rahul bought a pencil making machine from China and started manufacturing eco-friendly pencils on their own.
The Process Of Making Eco-friendly Pencils
Explaining the process of making the green pencils, Akshata adds,
We cut the newspaper into 18*18 cm and then manually roll down the lead. The paper with lead is then comes in contact with the machine which helps in the rolling process. We let the pencils dry naturally for 30 minutes and then bake these for 1 hour. Last and final step is to polish the pencil for a smoother finish.
The pencils are being sold currently on Akshata and Rahul’s site Dopolgy at a cost of Rs 50 (pack of 6) and Rs 120 (pack of 10 colourful pencils). One can also make a purchase by placing order on their social media platforms.
Moreover, the duo is also manufacturing seed pencils in which along with lead, onion, and coriander seeds are embedded so that after it is disposed of, it can grow into a tree when planted.
Till now, the couple has sold over 20,000 eco-friendly pencils thereby recycling 6,000 old newspapers. Along with the pencils they are also manufacturing recycled seed paper with marigold and Jasmine flower seeds and making invitation cards.
They also plan to expand their operations by manufacturing other stationery items. Currently, the couple is in the process of making sharpeners from waste tetra paks and rulers from recycled plastic. The duo signs off by saying,
Going eco-friendly is no more an option, it is a necessity. We realised much later on how our actions have harmed the planet, now by making eco-friendly alternatives for the public and motivating people to make this green switch, we are kind of rectifying our past mistakes. Hope more and more people will come forward and adopt greener practices.
NDTV – Dettol Banega Swachh India campaign lends support to the Government of India’s Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM). Helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan, the campaign aims to spread awareness about hygiene and sanitation, the importance of building toilets and making India open defecation free (ODF) by October 2019, a target set by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, when he launched Swachh Bharat Abhiyan in 2014. Over the years, the campaign has widened its scope to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and menstrual hygiene. The campaign has also focused extensively on marine pollution, clean Ganga Project and rejuvenation of Yamuna, two of India’s major river bodies.