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Delhi. Photo by ADITYA PRAKASH on Unsplash

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8 million reasons why you’ll love this student-run social enterprise

Students at Aryabhatta College, Delhi University are behind innovative social entrepreneurship organisation, Enactus Aryabhatta, which runs projects focused on building a community that is socially, economically and environmentally sustainable. I caught up with the Enactus Aryabhatta team to learn more about three of these projects. And first up they told me about Project Palaash and how it is tackling pollution caused by the fast-fashion industry.

This innovative project has the potential to make a substantial impact within and beyond India.

Who are Enactus Aryabhatta?

Enactus Aryabhatta came into existence in 2016 when a group of ingenious young minds decided to take entrepreneurial action to help their community and become a part of the global network. Students at enactus Aryabhatta have been demonstrating that business has the power to inspire hope, create opportunities where little existed and ultimately improve lives and strengthen communities.

What is Project Palaash?

8 million tonnes of floral waste is disposed of unethically every year, accounting for one-third of the total solid waste. Project Palaash is an innovative initiative that seeks to address the issue of floral waste and the pollution caused by the fast-fashion industry. The hitherto discarded flowers are typically deposited into water bodies, resulting in environmental pollution that adversely affects marine life. To address this problem, Project Palaash utilises floral waste to produce natural dyes for clothing and compost. Furthermore, the project has diversified into manufacturing incense and attar from waste. By repurposing floral waste in this manner, Project Palaash not only reduces pollution but also provides new channels for revenue and business opportunities. This innovative project offers a promising solution to the challenge of floral waste and has the potential to make a substantial impact within and beyond India.

Why the focus on fashion?

Project Palaash’s focus on fashion is driven by a vision to promote slow fashion while shifting the focus from fast fashion which is detrimental to the environment. Fast fashion is a significant contributor to environmental degradation, accounting for a staggering 35% of microplastics in our oceans, while also having adverse impacts on the labor force.

To tackle the environmental pollution caused by the fast-fashion industry, Project Palaash promotes sustainable and slow fashion by utilising floral waste such as marigolds to produce natural dyes. Slow fashion brings several advantages to the fashion industry and consumers alike. Promoting responsible sourcing of materials, reducing waste through recycling and upcycling, and minimising carbon footprint, slow fashion helps protect the planet and preserve natural resources by promoting conscious consumerism. Additionally, slow fashion prioritises ethical production practices, along with safe and dignified working conditions. Furthermore, slow fashion emphasises quality, durability, and self-expression, embracing unique designs and customization options. This innovative approach to sustainable fashion addresses the problem of inadequate floral waste management while promoting the use of natural and sustainable materials. By creating sustainable fashion through the use of natural dyes, Palaash is promoting a wave of conscious consumerism that emphasizes ethical and sustainable fashion.

How does it help women?

Project Palaash also undertakes the cause of empowering women survivors of human trafficking. The project has synergized with the STOP NGO to furnish these women beneficiaries with gainful employment opportunities intending to generate employment, uplift them, and change society’s perception towards them. Project Palaash has endeavoured to provide these women with training and employment in works that are familiar to every Indian household woman. This not only provides them with a livelihood but also dignifies their being. Indeed, the initiative promotes sustainable development by making these women breadwinners as opposed to the norms of the existing patriarchal society and promoting gender equality. Moreover, by providing these women with this platform to showcase their skills and talents, Project Palaash aims to enhance their self-esteem and confidence. Thus, empowering them to lead a self-sufficient life.

What has the project achieved?

With its groundbreaking solution, PALAASH received recognition as an innovative remedy to address the pressing issue of ocean pollution through its comprehensive approach, securing a place in the Top 4 of the 1 Race 4 Oceans competition. The project’s achievements have garnered significant attention from reputable media outlets such as Down To Earth, Impakter, and Times of India. PALAASH’s success extends beyond media recognition, as it achieved the distinction of being a finalist in the highly competitive MIT Solve Challenge for two consecutive years. Amongst a staggering pool of 1800 teams hailing from 128 countries, Enactus Aryabhatta’s project stood out for its ingenuity and impact, while also receiving funding in the challenge.  Enactus Aryabhatta’s commitment to ethical business practices has also borne fruit with their qualification for the distinguished KPMG Business Ethics Grant. As a global sponsor for Enactus, KPMG actively promotes and supports various initiatives, including Project PALAASH, with the overarching goal of integrating ethical principles into all their social endeavors. With these achievements pushing members each day, Palaash strives to move forward, envisioning greater success.

What’s next for Project Palaash?

Project Palaash envisions a promising trajectory by strategically expanding its array of offerings and incorporating vibrant hues into its products. To propel our vision forward, we intend to amplify the magnitude of our impact. By steadfastly striving to broaden our reach and influence, Project Palaash aims to raise awareness regarding the advantages of conscientiously procured and environmentally friendly alternatives. Recognising the indispensability of attar and incense sticks in Indian households, our mission revolves around presenting the market with ethically sourced and organically derived alternatives, surpassing the options currently available.

We plan to expand across different states and countries. Embarking on the establishment of NGOs or forging partnerships with existing entities in diverse regions, Project Palaash seeks to extend its operational footprint to enable it to penetrate untapped markets, reaching a broader audience with its ethically sourced product range. Palaash is looking forward to implementing temple-based composting centers, by setting up composting facilities within temples to curtail the need for transportation to facilitate the conversion of organic waste generated into valuable compost and dyes.

By vigilantly monitoring evolving trends in street fashion, Project Palaash aims to seamlessly integrate its ethically sourced product range into this dynamic realm and help to embrace forthcoming street fashion trends.

In the next posts in this series on Enactus Aryabhatta we will look at projects focussed on tackling food waste and climate change.

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Written By

Susan is the co-founder of Innovators Magazine and a consultant for OnePoint5Media. Susan is also a member of the UNFCCC-led Resilience Frontiers Nexus group and the Chair of the APOPO Foundation UK board.

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