[Photo: Kanpur Flowercycling]
“We make religion sustainable,” says Ankit Agarwal, the 28-year-old cofounder of Indian startup Kanpur Flowercycling. Agarwal and his partner Karan Rastogi collect millions of tons of flowers left temples and mosques, then turn the waste into products like incense sticks, soaps, and eco-packaging, under the brand HelpUsGreen. In the process, they stop pesticide-infused roses and marigolds from polluting the already dirty Ganges river and provide jobs for lower-caste women who previously didn’t have them. It’s the winner of the consumer products category of Fast Company’s 2018 World Changing Ideas Awards.
The founders saw that flowers left at religious sites are a unique waste challenge. For sacred reasons, they can’t simply be thrown into landfills, so they end up in the river. Agarwal and Rastogi looked for second-uses that are respectful to the flowers’ original purpose, like incense sticks that can be used for worship.