From roofing houses to making brooms and toothpicks; coconut leaves as raw material have multiple applications. These leaves are widely used to make sustainable and biodegradable products. However, a professor from Bangalore raised the game and turned this raw material into straws.
Saji Varghese, a professor at Christ University, Bangalore tripped upon the idea of making straws from coconut leaves when he glanced upon coconut leaves lying on the campus grounds.
Saji mentioned, “Each year a coconut tree naturally loses up to six of its leaves. From the results of a study I carried on the same subject, I found out that in many rural areas in our country, these leaves are simply burnt due to the difficulty in its disposal. That’s when I decided to create an eco-friendly product out of it in 2017.”
Story Behind the Coconut Leaves Straws
He initially bought out a single layer straw as a sample and eventually gathered a team of engineers who helped develop in-house machinery for large scale production. Saji conducted extensive research and developed straws from coconut leaves that cost Rs. 3 – 10 which varies depending on the size (4-8 inches). The straws have been rigorously tested on all kinds of beverages-hot and cold with a shelf life of six months which makes them a sustainable option.
On steaming the coconut leaves, the wax-like residue secreted is used to make the straws hydrophobic, anti-fungal and long-lasting. The straws are also bound by a food-grade adhesive which makes it free of chemicals.
Concerning the current COVID situation, this initiative has positively impacted the rural women and opened doors for employment for them.
“One of the key visions of the company was to support rural communities and since we primarily source our raw materials from rural coastal areas, we decided to provide employment opportunities to the women in these areas. As part of this initiative, we set up production units in Madurai, Kasargod and Tuticorin and currently have around 18 women who are employed under the company,” he says.
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The Making of Sunbird Straws
This significant project named as the Sunbird Straws has been funded by Accenture and HCL in association with the Ahmedabad-based Entrepreneurship Development Institute of India.
A team member states, “We entered the Climate Launchpad Award in the Netherlands and won the award for Best Innovation for Social Impact against 45 competing countries. This automatically pushed us into the international market and soon we started receiving orders from countries like Malaysia, the USA, UK, Germany, Australia, and the Philippines.”
The promising initiative has now received over 20 million orders worth Rs. 6 crores and also provides employment in rural areas. As the world has declared a climate change emergency, we need to acknowledge such inventions that help sustain our environment for future generations.
Science and innovation can bring in great changes to the world. Just like this professor who solved a real-world problem by making coconut leaves straws, you can also innovate and grow. Get in touch with Leverage Edu experts to find courses and universities which support new ideas and push students to make the real change!