Our needs are endless! There is no limit to what we want and what we can create. In this race of constant creation, we have come far. But in our quest to create, have we missed the link to create with nature?
Look closely, and you will realize that nature has given us everything we need. But we have grown blind to it. This is especially true when we look round the North-eastern states of India. With endless potential, even the natives hardly realize the plant power this land holds. They don't see the underutilized plants in their midst. And no, we aren't just talking about medicinal plants! In Meghalaya, there are hundreds of underutilized plants.
One Zizira team goal is to find underutilized plants or plant waste and turn them into useable products. That's what is happening at Zizira's Innovation Campus. Let me tell you about our top 3 underutilized plant products:
1. Hand-made Bamboo Cups
Bamboo is one of the most sustainable and versatile plants. It grows really fast and can be used for infinite purposes. Bamboo is the fastest growing plant on earth. Hence, it is a sustainable building material and can be used for all known wood applications.
Moreover, bamboo continuously grows after harvest without having to re-plant it. Did you know that Bamboo converts about 35% more CO2 into oxygen than a regular tree? 35%!!!
In the earlier days, Bamboo was used for storing. It was used as a container. And of course, Bamboo is used as a cup for drinking beverages such as tea or coffee. That's why we decided to make reusable bamboo cups. It gives the user a good way to be close to nature in our expanding concrete world.
Here at our Zizira Innovation Campus, we didn't stop with creating Bamboo cups. We are trying ways to implement creative uses of Bamboo. We are building model drying structures and prototypes for farmers to engage with before constructing them.
2. Soapnuts – Another Underutilized Plant
Soapnut or Reetha is a berry that contains a substance called Saponin. It is a natural cleanser that can be used for washing delicate fabric. This can also be used for cleaning jewellery such as a gold ring or necklace. The best thing about soapnuts is that it is 100% natural and they do not pollute rivers.
They grow on wild trees and are often cut down because their value is not known. We wondered, how can we introduce people to this 100% natural soapnut product? That directly connected to another natural product we were experimenting with.
3. Turmeric Tie-Dyed Artisan Bandanas
Zizira’s most popular product is Lakadong Turmeric Powder. It is common to use turmeric for food, but our high curcumin turmeric has become a health-watchers favourite because of the medicinal properties in the high curcumin content. We thought, why not make our turmeric known as a natural dye as well!
Giving it 3 in 1 uses:
- Turmeric for culinary use
- Turmeric for medicinal use
- Turmeric for natural colour use
These uses, though common for locals, are unknown to people for whom this piece of information can make a difference. Like Bah Shadap, a Jaintia farmer with whom we are processing and sourcing the World's best Turmeric excitedly said,
Show me this turmeric tye-dying process. I want to teach my son and daughters so that they can make products with the bright natural colour in Lakadong Turmeric.
Bha Shadap observed the Zizira team using purple onion peel and black Sohiong fruit and was motivated by the market potential – dying fabric using local plants found in Meghalaya.
From 3 Underutilized Plants Zizira Quickly Created:
Zizira Bamdana was one of our products for a while. The Zizira Artisan Bamdana (Bamboo+Bandana) is a handcrafted bamboo cup with a cotton hand tie-dyed Lakadong Turmeric Bandana inserted inside. To surprise our buyers, Zizira had inserted a Soapnut ball inside the Bamdana so that each person was introduced to this amazing underutilized plant!
Creating 3 Underutilized Plant Products lead to Baby Steps Toward a Sustainable Engine
At Zizira, we are trying ways to go natural. We are always looking for sustainable ways of manufacturing as well as packaging. We are still not completely sustainable however, we have started our journey towards it. We envision our customers experiencing a little bit of Meghalaya each time they purchase a product.
We want to be known for taking care of our plant treasures and inspire people to join us by thinking for nature first. Meanwhile, the innovation team will continue to experiment with natural dyes and new products so that we create products our customers love.
We want our customers to benefit from the many natural things in pristine Meghalaya. We are exploring and creating so that more people in the country can have access to things that were unavailable to them before.
Our plan for is to find more farmers in the remote villages, train them and set them up as "farmer-prenueurs" or "entrepreneurs" who can grow, harvest, make and create unique natural products that we offer to the world.