BENGALURU: Picture this: you’re running late to work, and you’ve hurriedly packed yourself a sandwich. You pull out clingfilm and tuck your meal into your bag. Once you finish the food, the clingfilm somehow makes it way to a dumpyard, and stays in the ground for years to come. This is a common scenario in our lives, and single-use plastic is an inseparable part of many kitchens.
But what if there was an alternative to this? Beeswax wraps, a product introduced by Hoopoe On A Hill (HoH) eight months ago, is a natural alternative to food storage. It is made of cloth lined with beeswax and can be used for up to 100 washes. “Beeswax also contains anti-bacterial properties, which keep the food you’ve stored fresh for a longer time. Plus, the wraps come in fun designs, as opposed to transparent cling wrap,” said Priyashri Mani, who co-founded HoH with Nishita Vasanth.
The wrap is now the company’s most popular product, and is a hit with Bengalureans as well. Of the total 4,000 orders received so far, the city accounts for half, said Vasanth, adding that they work with a team of 50 gatherers and four local women from Kodaikanal, who help them process the products. A set of three wraps retail for Rs 399 and the honey (available in 300gm and 500gm jars) costs between Rs 290-440; orders can be placed on Hoopoe On A Hill ’s website: www. hoopoekodaikanal.com.
The women, originally from Bengaluru, moved to Kodaikanal in 2015, when they were working with an organisation that recorded the oral history of adivasi communities. During their time there, they came across the Paliyans, a hunter-gather community, who asked the women if they’d be interested in buying honey from them. “We thought we’d use it for ourselves, but there was so much coming in that we started gifting the product to our friends. Eventually, we arrived at a system where the community would harvest honey and we’d process and sell the same on our website,” explained Mani.
Honey season comes twice in the Palani Hills – April-May and October-November. During this time, groups of men camp out in the forest, as they go from hive to hive to collect honey. “It’s an extremely skilled task. The hives are high up on trees and the men use bamboo ladders for climbing. They use dried leaves to smoke out the bees. The man hangs off a branch as he uses a sickle to cut off the honey chamber from the comb,” said Mani. This is carried out after sunset, since the bees are less aggressive then.
Once the honey is collected and handed over to HoH, the women process the honey, which involves filtering it by passing it through a muslin cloth. It is then packaged and ready for sale. Since the honey is collected from different flowers, they are able to sell different variants of the final product, such as Bitter Jamun Honey, Eucalyptus Honey and Wild Cerana Honey. “We were left behind with a lot of beeswax. That’s when we introduced the wrap, so that people can cut down on single-use plastic,” said Mani.
Their life in Kodaikanal is different from Bengaluru, Vasanth says, adding that their work with the adivasi community is what keeps them going.