Eco-friendly Ideas from India!


When we talk about environmentalism, what comes to our mind – tree hugging activism that opposes all development or funky new innovative ideas that change the way we live? Thanks to ‘sustainable development’, we no more need to sacrifice the environment to ensure our development. It means there is a way to develop our economy through good ideas that can enable us to lead a better life without harming the environment. Fortunately, these eco-friendly ideas are not such a burden on your budget!

Despite all the talk about environmentally-friendly living, it seems like all the good ideas are originating from the West! We Indians always yearn for better ideas to emerge from our innovators that are affordable and adaptable our local needs. Thankfully, there is a growing list of simple yet innovative ideas that are not only eco-friendly, but also are economical. The great Indian Jugaad of eco-friendly ideas are capable of changing the world and are already doing it!

Eco-friendly Idea – Recycled Tetrapak roof sheets

Eco-friendly Ideas India - Recycled plastic furniture by Daman-Ganga
Recycled plastic furniture by Daman-Ganga

Problem – Piles of plastic waste generated in urban areas has become a humongous problem for both residents and civic authorities. Recycling of plastic material is beginning to happen in a large scale, but it is proceeding at a painfully slow pace. Particularly the recycling of Tetrapak food packets has been a bigger headache since they are made up of composite materials. Tetrapak is a patented food packaging material which consists of layers of polyethylene, aluminium and paper.

Solution – Gujarat-based Daman Ganga Paper Mills has innovated on a new technique to recycle Tetrapak into reusable building material such as roof sheets, furniture, etc. Shredded Tetrapak and plastic material are dried and cleaned. The shreds are then spread between two polythene sheets and laid on a hot press bed. Once the sheets emerge from the press, they are give a wave-form shape and left to dry. Daman Ganga’s Tuff Roof sheets actually better than the conventional fibrocement and corrugated G.l. sheets they replace. They are waterproof, rustproof, and absorb much less heat.

Eco-friendly Idea – Banana fibre paper

Eco-friendly Ideas India - Banana fibre lamp by Jenny Pinto
Banana fibre lamp by Jenny Pinto

Problem – India is the world’s largest cultivator of bananas producing 29.7 million tons in 2011. After the harvest of banana fruit, huge quantity of about 60-80 tons per hectare of waste biomass (pseudostem, leaves, suckers etc.) is generated. Presently, almost all of this biomass is discarded as waste.

Solution – The use of banana fibre for textile and other purposes is a new concept in India. Earlier the coarse fibre extracted from banana stems was used as ropes. However, after the banana fibre separator machine was innovated by the Tiruchirappalli Regional Engineering College’s Science & Technology Entrepreneurs Park, this humble fibre got a boost. This machine helps in extracting large quantities of banana fibre for commercial purposes. Innovators in South India have utilised this multi-purpose fibre for interesting uses. Utilising banana fibre as cloth, handicrafts, bags and fashion accessories has become the latest trend. The most dazzling use has been the banana fibre paper innovated by Jenny Pinto, an artist based in Bangalore. Check out her table lamps and stationery material. Now there are suggestions to produce high value paper for making currency notes as well!
Details –

Eco-friendly Idea – Bio-toilets for railways

Eco-friendly Ideas India - Bio-toilets developed by DRDO
Bio-toilets developed by DRDO

Problem – Indian Railways is one of the world’s largest railway network that carries 25 million passengers every day. However, maintaining cleanliness at railway stations and in trains is a major problem. Particularly, when train toilets unload human excreta and urine directly onto the tracks, the stench emanating from the filth is unbearable at times. Apart from the environmental problem posed by these toilets, corrosion of the railway tracks is another major issue. Cleaning the filth strewn at railway stations has been a messy job, which was highlighted on TV programs such as Satyamev Jayate as well.

Solution – The Indian Railways has at last joined hands with the Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) to develop ‘Bio-toilets’. Bio-toilet is a self-contained device that breaks down human waste with the help of anaerobic bacteria placed inside a tank filled with 125 litres of water, converting it into harmless and odourless gas and water. Estimated to cost about Rs.1 lakh each, these new age bio-toilets are manufactured at Kapurthala Coach Factory. Although, at present only 9 long-distance trains with 436 coaches are fitted with bio-toilets, the Railway Ministry has targeted installing 2,500 bio-toilets on trains during the 2012-13 Rail Budget.

Eco-friendly Idea – Biomass-based Husk Power Systems

Eco-friendly Ideas India - Husk Power Systems in Bihar
Husk Power Systems in Bihar

Problem – Lack of access to electricity is the biggest issue faced by rural households in India. The problem is chronic in states such as Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Orissa, where 80-90% of households are without electricity. Villagers rely on kerosene lanterns for household light and diesel generators for irrigation and commercial power. Both are expensive and destructive to health and the environment. Decentralised power that is easily accessible is the need of the hour to empower rural India.

Solution – Fortunately, biomass and biofuel-based power sources are abundantly available in rural areas. Utilising this resource, a company called ‘Husk Power Systems’ has provided reliable and affordable option for rural electrification. Husk Power utilises rice husk – a waste product in rice milling – to power a 40 kilowatt power plant, which provides electricity for 500 village households for around six to eight hours every day. At present, the company has installed more than 85 plants across different villages in Bihar. At Rs. 2.2 per watt, the company’s rates is cheaper than the subsidised power provided by the government electricity boards!

Eco-friendly Idea – Mitticool earthen refrigerator

Eco-friendly Ideas India - Mansukhlal's Mitticool refrigerator
Mansukhlal’s Mitticool refrigerator

Problem – A refrigerator is an essential appliance for households to preserve food and water during the heat of the summer. However, most Indian households are unable to afford a simple fridge that costs at least Rs.10,000. Even if you own a fridge, the frequent power cuts in rural areas render it useless. Petty shops and retail outlets that store soft drinks and ice-cream face a major issue.

Solution – Mitticool is a classic example of Indian jugaad innovation created by utilising local resources that provide the best solution. Innovated by Prajapati Mansukhlal Raghavji, the Mitticool refrigerator is a really cool replacement to the modern so called energy efficient fridges. At the top level of the Mitti Cool fridge, there is a storage chamber of 10 litres capacity, where water is poured in, which percolates down between the double-layered terracotta walls. During this process the water evaporates by convection and keeps the storage chambers cool. The bottom compartments hold 5-7 kg of vegetables, fruits and milk at 8-10°C below room temperature. In 2006, Prof Anil K Gupta from the National Innovation Foundation funded Mansukhlal with Rs 2 lakh to set a company, which has today sold over 7,500 refrigerators and has an annual turnover of around Rs.30 lakh!

Check out more Eco-friendly Ideas 

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  1. Most homes are not lacking in ways that may be healthier for family and friendly environment. On the one hand, the indoor air quality is a serious problem affecting millions of households. Studies show that indoor air can be more seriously polluted than outdoor air, even in the most industrialized cities.


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