Next time your child’s pencil is reduced to a stub, simply plant it a pot and watch it grow into a tomato, brinjal or tulsi plant. Magic? Not if it’s Jalebi, an eco-friendly brand started by Renuka Shah, a mom and entrepreneur. She uses stone paper, manufactured from mining waste and waste plastic bottles and wood-free biodegradable plantable seed paper, made from textile waste, to manufacture Grow Me plantable cards and pencils, besides bookmarks, coasters, bags, boxes and waterproof notebooks. The Goodwill Project caught up with Renuka Shah.
What prompted you to start Jalebi? What did you do before this?
Being an interior stylist by profession, making places look good is always on my mind. With growing concrete jungles and missing green pastures, our city seems to be losing its beauty. I asked myself what would happen if all the trees disappeared by the time my child grew up. At the same time, I also believe that designers have to be creative as well as smart. Everything that we design should be in a way that every bit can be utilised and given back to Mother Nature. During my research, I came across some beautiful resources like stone paper, plantable paper, etc, which called for creating some awareness. So here comes Jalebi.
Tell us something about the brand and its philosophy.
Most of the products that we make are eco-friendly and either made of natural resources or from recyclable resources. We wanted a name which would resonate with our idea of supporting nature. A “jalebi” is round in shape, similar to the meaning of the Sanskrit word “karma”, which means every cause has an effect. In simple words, if you do a good deed, it will come back to you… like planting a seed will give you something good in future.
Our products can be used not only by kids but by any age groups. Kids are much more aware of the environment than us adults. Kids do not have that ‘chalta hai’ (“anything goes”) attitude that adults normally do. They are more keen to understand how products work, what are the features, what plant it will grow into, how much time it takes to grow, why it’s eco-friendly, etc. Their questions are more challenging and they are more enthusiastic towards the environment.
Any anecdotes you can share from your own home or customers?
Well, for now, my house looks like a mini test lab, where we test every seed variety before it goes into making our products. Once we were to put up an exhibition and we had this client, who was very inquisitive about our plantable pencils; after understanding the whole concept, it was really hilarious when her first question, “The pencil would still grow, but what how would the writing material, lead, grow?”
Tell us about the process of planting the cards, any precautions to be followed, etc?
- Fill your pot 2/3 full with good potting soil. The paper can be planted indoors or outside, so you get to choose according to the temperature and conditions at the time of planting (we don’t recommend planting outside if it’s desert-hot!).
- Take your plantable paper and cover the soil in the prepared pot with the paper. Spread a 1/8 to 1/4 inch layer of soil over the plantable paper pieces and tamp down gently. After planting the paper in your pot, give it a good soak. You want the paper and the soil to be nicely damp. Keep the paper moist at all times, since the water is necessary for germination.
- Once sprouts appear, continue to keep the paper moist but be careful not to overwater. Once sturdy plants appear, water as needed.
What are the other products you’re working on?
Our research team is right now working various uses of eco-friendly fabric like milk and soya fabrics. We are also working on eco-friendly kitchen wares, wall-cladded storage options and packaging solutions.
(Jalebi products are available at stores across the country, such as Mumbai, Pune, Chennai, Bangalore, Trivandrum and online stores such as Amazon.com.)