DELHI: Social and religious celebrations are often marked by a lavish display of floral arrangements. In a country like India, witnessing religious spaces such as temples, mosques, and gurdwaras festooned with flowers is not uncommon. However, the waste generated from these flowers has always been a glaring environmental concern.
Research suggests that about 80,00,000 metric tonnes of flowers are dumped into the Ganges every year. “This is a major issue but usually neglected because of religious sentiments,” says Ishika Thakur (19), a second-year student from Hansraj College, University of Delhi.
Hoping to nip this waste management issue in the bud, the Enactus team from Hansraj College launched Project Mehr in January this year. The project, which tackles flower pollution at the source (usually temples and other religious places), currently operates through three verticals namelyPotpourri, Composting, and Tie and Dye.
Utilising flower power
Project Mehr’s flagship product, the Potpourri, sources dried natural flower petals from temples to create an eco-friendly alternative to chemical air freshener. The product is packaged in 200g jars with a vial of essential oil and claims to last up to six months.
“We visited a few temples and asked the priests there if we could take the offered flowers for the project. While a few denied, some of the priests were happy to help this cause,” shares Thakur, who is the project head.
Apart from this, the Project helps tackle discrimination against the transgender community. The Project, in collaboration with Janakpuri’s Mitr Trust, an NGO that works towards empowering the transgender community, aims to uplift the usually stigmatised community in the city by providing employment to them.
“When we first met the members of the Trust, we realised that a lot of them came to Delhi because they were abandoned by their families just because they did not fall into male/female gender binary. However, that did not stop them from having dreams and aspirations. We thought if we could give them a little financial help for their dreams, what could be better,” Thakur says.
For each product sold, Enactus keeps five per cent for emergencies, while the rest of the money is given to the person in charge of creating the product.
“Although the community was slightly sceptical in the beginning—they don’t trust you easily—but, in time, they have opened up and really enjoy the work,” mentions Thakur.
Haya Ansari, one of the members of the transgender community who has been working with the Project, mentions how she loves the idea of not letting flowers from temples go to waste. Talking about being an entrepreneur in association with the Project, she adds, “While making the products, we are in our safe space. But, when we go out into the field, instead of looking at the products, people judge us because of our gender. This is an aspect that needs to change in our country.”