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A coffee mug a day keeps the wildfires away

Vasshin Composites transforms pine needles into coffee mugs, preventing forest burns: an excellent example of sustainable innovation.

Every summer, the lands of the Himalayas forests get crowded with pine needles, which seasonally fall from pine trees. Unfortunately, these pine needles prevent the undergrowth of nature to flourish, so they represent an obstacle for plants to thrive. Especially with the arid summer weather, pine needles can set up many fire when they accumulate, due to their combustible nature.

Therefore, they cover the forest floor forming a thick carpet that allows the flames to spread more rapidly, when it contacts the fires. As a forest burns, smoke is released in the air and can get dispersed over long distances, bringing harmful effects to many localities. Indeed, wildfires produce an increased amount of carbon monoxide, which causes lungs and heart health problems. Besides, animals become endangered, and the ecosystem as a whole can suffer from dramatic changes.

Bhoomi Thakkar, together with Abhinav Talwar, took to heart this issue when they co-founded Vasshin Composites (@agrocomposites). Parallel to their love for the Himalayas lands, their concern about the wildfires threat to the ecosystem has also grown. Their mission is to transform the obsolete and flammable pine needles into plastic-free, innovative and eco-friendly products, to actively help to prevent wildfires in the Himalaya region.

Vasshin Composites is a sustainable business model that helps reduce forest fires, promotes local development and empowerment, fights plastic use, and raises awareness of the environmental impact of our actions.

The company describes its vision as: “Our aim is to drive a widespread adoption of economically efficient practices for consumption of Earth’s resources.”

Indeed, their vision bundles sustainable consciousness together with economical prices: they aspire that every customer can afford to buy their eco-friendly products. Indeed, accessibility is a key point of their strategy. They believe that sustainability must be inclusive to permit future generations to enjoy our planet and revert the climate change direction. They reckon it is important that everyone can afford to be part of the ecological transition.

Furthermore, they bring about a good answer to most of the sustainability sceptics: undertaking a green direction is not only a good choice in terms of benefits to the planet and local communities, but may also represent an efficient choice.

Still, their production line is fully sustainable. Having regard to the manpower, Vasshin runs a tribal empowerment program that trains local community members to collect the pine needles in compliance with the forest department guidelines, without harming the nature and habitat of many animals. This inclusive program supports and financially empowers rural workers who harvest the pine needles by hand, avoiding the extraction of insects or fungi. The team only harvests the top layer that falls during that season - as such, it takes a few months for a forest to grow on this top layer. Besides, the company collaborates with local merchants and forest management committees to procure the raw materials. Finally, their philosophy is to embrace slow commerce of the products created from the transformation of pine needles.

This is a good example of an ethical company that takes care of the production line from the beginning to the end of the process. Thus, it grants fair and safe workplaces to the Himalaya local community, and it supports a slow and respectful way of doing business.

From a technical point of view, Sustainability Champions wrote that the creation of the ecological mugs has been shrinking the total carbon dioxide emissions by over 788 grams and nitrous emissions by over 58 grams for every mug. Processing the pine needles removes their flammability and the processed version is then used to make different antiviral products such as mugs, toothbrushes, cutlery, plates, etc. which are ISO and JIS standard tested for 99.84% microbial abatement. These products become unbreakable and completely safe through the process, thanks to the antimicrobial nature of the pine needles. Exploiting the good features of nature, without trade on nature itself, gives rise to ecological innovation that definitively represents the new wave of sustainable technology.

This company brings us an excellent example of sustainability in the field of product creation and transformation from raw materials. Therefore, these products can be used in the everyday services offered to clients in hotels or restaurants. Being a sustainable company in the hospitality industry has never been so easy! It is from the little changes such as preferring an unbreakable and ecological mug instead of others, that any company can reduce its ecological footprint.

These conscious choices are important to create a strong brand reputation and to increase customers’ awareness. Indeed, clients are always keener on choosing the more sustainable business realities. In this sense, choosing sustainable supplies can attract more customers, especially the cluster of the most sensitive to the sustainability thematic. Hotels that make these choices can be early-adopters and definitively show a competitive advantage to aim at this niche. However, considering that the sustainability issue is engaging more and more people, choosing ecological products may bring even larger benefits and profits in the long run.

Since we are all requested to act now to impact an ecological change, offering daily services using sustainable products, e.g. in the catering services, is an important and relatively cheap step towards sustainability. Of course, structural changes may be needed at some point, but even with a low budget, these little but relevant details can truly make the difference.

Can you imagine how cool is serving breakfast while helping prevent wildfires? And how exciting can it be for clients to know they are drinking coffee from such an innovative and ecological product?

Don’t forget to write or tell your clients the impact of the product you are using, to make them conscious and curious about your business choices. Good and ecological products used in everyday services can communicate a lot about the sustainable mission of the firm, because they are tangible and highly used. Indeed, these products can be more straightforward and practical testimonies of the company’s effort to face sustainability challenges. Everyone will notice them!

In the end, companies working in the hospitality industries have to offer experiences, together with services. Indeed, the little routine gestures such as the one of drinking morning coffee can become a revolutionary experience to offer to clients, with a touch of sustainability and an interesting story behind it to tell.

I am sure breakfast will have a better taste from now on!

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