To help the planet and support rural women, Madhavi and Venu are bringing back the tradition of eating on leaves while playing an important role in the battle against single-use plastics.
The Woman Post | Catalina Mejía Pizano
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It all started when the couple made the decision to leave Silicon Valley and go back to India. They believed living in their country would allow their children to experience the real Indian culture that the United Stated could not offer them. It would also connect them with the childhood of their parents, Madhavi and Venugopal Vippulancha since they had grown there. This is why in 2003, they decided to leave their tech jobs to move back to Hyderabad.
Just when they were settling down in their new home, Madhavi found out she had breast cancer. This news deeply encouraged her to try to eliminate chemicals from her life. She and Venu planned for a new lifestyle that would involve growing their food to make sure it was high-quality and free from harmful chemicals. One day while taking a walk in Gandipet, Hyderabad, Madhavi, and her husband noticed a pile of disposable plates dumped on the street. The saddest part was that cows were feeding on the pile of waste. This scene inspired them to think of ways to replace plastic plates and to develop a healthier and more sustainable alternative.
With their idea in mind, they decided to make makes from banana leaves and Palash trees. They choose the name Vistaraku for their business. Their technique for making eco-friendly plates consists of stitching together dry leaves with thin dry twigs. To grow their production and revive the tradition of eating on leaves, they began organizing frequent trips to their farmhouse in Siddipet. It was on the farm, where they began to plant organic fruits. They also noticed that they had lots of Palash trees, and their leaves were anciently used for making plates. This motivated them to collect the dry leaves of Palash trees to stitch them and make small plates for snacks or small meals.
It is vital to remark that the couple made a research on why Indians traditionally eat food on leaves. The truth is that this tradition is supported by ecological, health, nutrition, and hygiene reasons. First of all, banana leaves contain polyphenols, which are natural antioxidants. Banana leaves also have anti-bacterial properties and since they are not re-used, they are very hygienic. The ecological reason also stands out. Banana leaves are biodegradable and can be rinsed and given to cows for feeding. On the other hand, Palash has insect-repellent properties.
Madhavi and Venu then decided to search for machines that could turn leaves into plates. After repairing the machinery they found and getting help from two girls from the village, Vistaraku then had a team of six members. They describe the process as being very simple. First, the stitched leaves are placed on hard-brown paper with a poly coat. Then they are placed on heated frames with the leaf facing upwards. Finally, pressure is applied for 15 seconds. The heat makes the hard-brown paper act as gum, making the leaf stitch to it. Vistaraku is currently sold in their Facebook account, on their website, and even on Amazon. So what are you waiting for, to dress up your table with their beautiful and ecological plates?
This is how they make plates from leaves: