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Would you drink from a bottle made of wheat straw? Here’s why it makes perfect sense…

Irida Blog

We had the Wonderful Merril Diniz write a blog about our company..

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My friend Manisha recently asked her daughter Manasi a very important question.

“What do you think about drinking water from a bottle made of wheat straw?”

Manasi thought for a minute, and replied, “Cool!”

I loved her confidence. When I first came across this possibility, I had many questions…

Will the bottle disintegrate in my hands?!
Will it be reusable, or will it turn into pulp?!
Will it turn to pulp if I get drenched in the rain, on a trek?!

It’s great that 6-year-old Manasi is so open to possibilities, considering that her generation will be highly impacted by the choices we make, today.

As I researched more, I discovered that “wheat straw plastic” is fast becoming a biodegradable replacement for synthetic plastic. It is already being used in India and around the world, to create aesthetically designed products ranging from drinking bottles and lunchboxes, to cutlery and storage for condiments and snacks.

Complete tableware set by Irida Naturals

I was curious to know more, and reached out to dynamic brother-sister duo Sooraj and Sanjana, co-founders of Irida Naturals, who have launched a range of everyday tableware products made of wheat straw plastic.

What’s exciting is that Irida’s products are well-designed, look cool and inspire consumer delight. These elements are key to mass adaption of any new product. Hopefully the revolution in menstrual wellness products will be replicated here.

But first things first, what exactly is wheat straw?
How long do wheat straw products last?
Are wheat straw products biodegradable?


Sooraj patiently answered all my questions!

Wheat straw is a by-product from growing wheat grain. It is the dry stalk plant residue left behind after the harvest of the grain. Every year after the harvest tonnes of wheat straw is either left to decompose, which leads to the emission of greenhouse gases. Alternatively, if it is burnt, pollution levels shoot up instantly. Remember, Delhi’s pollution levels making headlines every year when neighbouring states burn wheat straw?
Read more about it here

According to Sooraj, wheat straw is now being used to make products with the help of various plant resins and polypropylene all around the world. “We saw the importance of giving life to something that is considered as a waste all around the world, making it reusable, while being recyclable,” shares Sooraj, whose company produces a range of tableware, at competitive prices, and these can be used for a good two to three years. It’s important to understand this nuance.

One of their bestsellers, is this funky looking water bottle that come in many colours.

(TESTIMONIAL BY A HAPPY IRIDA CUSTOMER)

“In a world full of clunky steel utensils and melamine, these products are a breath of fresh air. Albeit melamine is considered safe, I’m not one to take risks; eco-friendly just makes more sense to both body and the planet. The products are extremely light, colourful and add a bit of minimalism and class to any kitchen. The fact that these are microwaveable, recyclable just adds to the whole experience. So, thumbs up for nailing what the kitchen deserves”

The customer goes on to discuss the packaging, too. “Made from recycled paper, even the ink used on the print seems like something extracted from natural elements. And the thank you card inside adds a nice touch!” Inspiring customer delight is as important as the functional virtues of any brand, and I believe this builds a foundation for a new brands’ staying power.

“The change in the consumers lifestyle is also not very big. Yet it makes a very big impact environmentally. The products are incredibly durable if used, cleaned and stored in a proper manner. They have been tested to last for 2-3 years but with good care and love, we expect it to last much longer,” observes Sooraj. Irida’s bestsellers also include bowls and plates, which are microwave, dishwasher and freezer safe.

Sooraj informs me that the raw material is sourced in the form of pellets from different parts of South East and East Asia, where they are produced in abundance.

Let’s explore the case of Thailand, a producer of wheat straw pellets. Here women farmers now generate extra income by helping to turn the raw wheat straw into a mix, known as pellets. But the story has more parts to it.

For instance, Thai street food vendors seeking biodegradable serving options at the right price, are interested in shifting to wheat straw containers and plates.

The third piece is the export of the wheat straw mix. According to entrepreneur Jaruwan Khammuang, who is spearheading this mini revolution back in her village in Thailand, there is a major demand from India, for their wheat straw pellets. This part makes me proud, as I believe we as a country have the innovative bent of mind to find sustainable solutions that can keep future generations safe and thriving.

As we can see, the synergy between farmers, scientists, entrepreneurs and creators of food (like street vendors and restaurants, and retail consumers), connects so many dots!

Sooraj and Sanjana imprinted the need to make conscious consumer choices, early on. They were raised in a family where the terms “reduce, reuse and recycle” were ingrained in their consciousness at a young age.

Sanjana and Sooraj, Co-Founders of Irida Naturals

Sooraj attributes a lot to their school experience. “Having studied in a Krishnamurthy Foundation India (KFI) School broadened our understanding of the role of sustainability and giving back while taking from the nature,” shares Sooraj.

On looking it up, I learnt that the KFI school philosophy encourages children to learn and grow in “mindful relatedness – to people, things, ideas, nature and, above all, to one’s inner self”.

Obviously, this early seeding, translated into the building of a mindful business that was launched during the pandemic.

Though tonnes of wheat straw is available in our country, there is no one in the entirety of India who manufactures wheat straw pellets. However, the case for repurposing wheat straw is strong, and mission critical. If the culture of recycling them into usable pellets, is seeded in India, we shall we solving many problems at once. Plus it can generate jobs and business opportunities, within the country.  

Awareness about the shift to wheat straw products is low, shares Sooraj. Irida Naturals is focused on building a community of informed consumers who can understand how to adapt to sustainable lifestyles, in simple, realistic ways.

The risk of not making these shifts is that our oceans may contain more plastic than fish by 2050! (Hopefully this blog can make a small dent in their direction!)

Irida Naturals leverage their social media to educate consumers and make the journey exciting!

Having said that, I’d like to leave people with a quick disclaimer. When any authentic new innovation hits the market, some players, will produce inferior/ fraudulent products.

For example, not every company that says its product is bio-degradable can be believed.

I always advise consumers to do your own research, ask the tough questions, and try to know about the founders of the company.

I believe that personal integrity often translates into brand integrity, in the long-term.

Sooraj also leaves us with some common sense nuggets that can help us use discretion when making purchasing decisions:

  • Understand what the brand stands for. It may be sustainable in a certain way, but not in another. If your ideals match the ideals of the brand, then that’s good sign.
  • If you’re on a budget, affordability can be a guiding factor. Many people are under the misconception that all sustainable brands are expensive. That’s not true. Find something that falls within your expected price range.
  • Support friends and family. If the people around you have started small businesses that are sustainable in nature, buy products from them. It’s highly likely that they incorporate their personality in the brand. So essentially, if your friend is a good person and the brand has good ideals, it seems like a fitting place to start your sustainable journey.

 

About Merril Diniz

Merril Diniz

A Goan by birth and in spirit. Writer at heart. Loves spending time in nature, writing on issues and ideas I care about

Communications professional working to craft a safer, nicer planet.

Proud, loving SODA (Sibling of a deaf adult).

Member of the Capital City Minstrels and Paranjothi Academy Chorus, Mumbai. Travelled to Europe for a magical 40-day music tour. 

Striving to live a mindful, conscious, kind, zero-waste lifestyle. 

I started Labours of Love in 2014, to explore ways of living that were beneficial for us and the planet. The aha moment for me was when I was exposed to the ugly side of the beauty industry – animal testing in particular made me rethink my consumer trajectory in a seminal way. The products I use and the way I live looks very different from a decade back. Having absorbed many ideas, and understanding through my own personal research, I now hope to influence others to join me in this journey towards conscious, sustainable, responsible, joyful consumption. 

Credits- all of the credits to this blog goes to the lovely Merril Diniz and we are so grateful for your work you do.

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