greenBUG is helping us to take care of the environment in a unique way
Mother Nature takes care of us in every way, but how much do we reciprocate? Rather, we are polluting Her every day and damaging our natural resources and the environment. It is high time that we start realizing the dangerous consequences of our lifestyle and its impact on Mother Nature. If we have to survive tomorrow, we need to take actions today to save our environment.
As we are approaching the Environment Day on June 5, we spoke to some of the emerging start-ups who are doing a great job in taking care of our environment and ensuring we also take care of it.
greenBUG is one such start-up from Bangalore, who are creating eco-friendly dustbin liners and also ensuring a secure mode of earning for rural women around Bangalore. These women can make the products at home while doing other household works. Let us know more about how greenBUG functions and how they are making a difference.
BV: How was greenBUG conceptualized?
gB: greenBUG was not a planned social initiative; it just happened. When waste segregation was implemented in our apartment complex, we were asked to stop using plastic liners for our kitchen. Keeping dustbins liner-free was not feasible with both of us working long hours and not having access to house-help most of the time. This meant coming back home to a smelly unhygienic kitchen. Plain newspaper sheets or newspaper shopping bags, if not handled carefully, ended up in leaky messy bins.
A frustrating search for alternatives to black plastic garbage liners ended with Arun sitting and designing newspaper liners for dustbins. After a few misses, he hit upon a design which was strong and flexible enough for the kitchen dustbin. All that was used was the old newspaper and starch glue.
We used that liner. Then, family and friends used it. And more people started asking for it. Soon, the idea to get it produced by homebound women was explored. And greenBUG was born!
BV: How are greenBUG products different from other environment-friendly options available in the market?
gB: There are many newspaper covers or shopping bags in the market but they are inappropriately shaped and too weak at the base to be used as a dustbin liner, especially for kitchen waste. Kraft paper bags which are designed mainly for dry waste might be strong enough to be used in kitchens but would be very expensive as, in India, we dispose our kitchen waste almost on a daily basis.
When we looked around, we came across many compostable and bio-degradable plastics in a retail store. On reading further, we realized that almost all are compostable only in controlled conditions, which means that more likely than not, they would again end up in a landfill. Bio-degradable plastics degrade and break into finer pieces but continue to stay as plastic in the environment, which could make them far more polluting and dangerous than conventional plastic bags.
If people can go liner-free and adopt composting for organic waste, that is a good practice. It is not always convenient, however, under current city-living circumstances. Exposure to messy organic and biowaste can also create a health issue. The discomfort of coming back home to smelly messy dustbins makes many people use plastic for convenience. For such people, the greenBUG liner is a definite environment-positive step that is convenient as well.
BV: How do you market greenBUG products?
gB: greenBUG packs are available in some of the leading organic stores in Bangalore. These stores also have an online presence but they typically cater only to specific areas. Towness.com and our online store (gogreenbug.com ) allow us to reach out to customers in all parts of Bangalore. Since December 2017, we have been listed on Amazon Saheli, a specialized Amazon store for women artisans. greenBUG liners are 100% handmade by poor women who have been trained and supported by greenBUG team. Amazon Saheli (www.amazon.in/saheli) enabled us to reach a much wider market all across India.
We also have had many green evangelists not just use greenBUG, but actively introduce us to more communities, businesses, and customers.
BV: Tell us more about the collaboration with Amazon Saheli and how it has helped.
gB: In early October 2017, we were introduced to Amazon Saheli by NSRCEL, IIMB. The Amazon Saheli team were looking for relevant partners to add to their specialized storefront, which was to be launched during Global Entrepreneur Summit, 2017. Initially, we were apprehensive – many issues emerged due to which being on an online platform for entire India seemed a tough idea. Mainly, our almost nil margins and steep shipping costs!! The Saheli team supported and guided us in ironing out some of the major issues. We got listed by end-Nov 2017.
Once the Saheli store was announced at GES 2017, we went live. It has been a wonderful association so far. Almost 50% of our monthly sales happens through Amazon. But more than that, it just feels wonderful to know that it’s not just people from major cities who are interested in our product. We have customers from places like Ranikhet, Ambernath, Jammu, Madurai, VascoDaGama etc.
BV: greenBUG is supporting so many women with their livelihood. How did you reach out to them and involve them in the endeavor?
gB: This has been the toughest part of our journey so far, yet, the most fulfilling. This part of greenBUG has become far more meaningful to our team than the eco-friendly product itself. We started out with the idea of reaching out to nearby villages and training homebound women. Our friends helped us and we went to villages near Madanpalle, Chitradurga, and Kanakapura. The women were very keen and started doing a good job. But due to a lack of logistic support from their menfolk, the economics of the engagement was not viable for the women as well as greenBUG team. In 4-5 months, we had to shift our focus to setting up teams in Bengaluru clusters. We approached APSA, an NGO working for underprivileged women, and began training groups of women in several areas of Bengaluru. Since then, with the help of APSA and other NGOs, we have reached out to over 200 women and trained them. In the past two years, we have learned that no matter how good or successful the women in this social strata may be, a small trigger can throw them out of the workforce. It could be something as trivial as the husband’s mood or serious health issues of children or elders in the family. A neighbor’s comment or a macroeconomic disruption like demonetization could derail their flow; a pep talk can be as powerful as an unexpected freebie. Every woman has had a different story to tell and greenBUG has continued to learn and grow along with them.
From time to time, we would experiment with incentives – to produce a certain volume, for zero errors, for training other women. When we look back, our engagement model has constantly evolved. The aim has been to keep exploring new ways to make the women more independent, more productive and get a chance at a better quality of life for themselves and their children.
BV: Will greenBUG launch more products or start more campaigns in the near future?
gB: greenBUG certainly intends to introduce new products, but not immediately. We have recently opened up to the market outside Bangalore. We would like to stabilize that first. greenBUG may be a social enterprise but the admin and operation costs remain the same as a typical for-profit retail venture, such as packaging, warehousing, shipping, taxes, salaries, professional service, etc. Between meeting costs and serving a social purpose, it is a tightrope walk. Nonetheless, we do hope to continue innovating and bringing many more convenient ways to live more eco-responsible lives.
Check out the wonderful work they are doing and a short message from them:
We appreciate and applaud their endeavor which is not only helping us to take care of the environment but also empowering women in rural India to support their families.