Many women entrepreneurs believe in giving back to society. Some of them do so by being green crusaders and take up environmental causes. Tamanna Sharma, Founder and Director of Earthling First (OPC) Private Limited, a start-up that works for green and sustainable events spoke to BE’s Ankita Chakraborty about her journey.
Q. What is Earthling First?
A. Earthling first is one of our very first environmental project. It works on sustainable events and waste management. Essentially, we help event organisers with sustainable alternatives to the non-recyclable or non-reusable products and materials that they use. We help them with economical solutions that do not cost too much but at the same time are also healthy for our environment. For example, in lot of events there are cutleries that are not reusable. So, we try to find a better solution, best available locally. As we source locally, we try to provide the benefits to the locals and that is also a part of our sustainable goal. Whatever waste is created during the event, we make sure that it is segregated on source.
We work on all areas of waste management but our focus is on reducing waste. We start with the planning where we give event organisers newer options. For example, paper cups. They are compostable if they are made of just paper but if it is paper lined with plastic, then the cups are neither compostable nor recyclable. So it isn’t a good option at all. We focus on the life cycle of the product, on how it is made, the kind of resources used, its ideal disposal method and try to find the best eco-friendly solutions locally.
Q. Who are your partners?
A. Our partners are essentially those who recycle products. For instance, when there is a lot of plastic generated, we have a partner who recycles plastics. Similarly in terms of composting, we try to find a local solution for composting as well, or send it to a biogas plant if possible. While sanitary wastes have to go the landfills, there are things that cannot be recycled like flexes. We repurpose them as much as possible but such products eventually need to be sent the landfills as well. However, in cases of medical wastes, we generally urge the medical team to take it back because they are essentially responsible for the medical waste disposal.
Q. What made you come up with the start-up?
A. I was studying journalism. Eventually, what I got into was campaigning. Climate change and environmental issues have always been issues close to my heart. The story of our initiation may sound unique. The department of environment had organised an event on Earth Day. I went to the event with high hopes but what I noticed was too much of waste being created. If an event that is dedicated to the earth is creating so much trash, I wondered what happens to other events. That was the first time that the idea of starting this organisation occurred to me.
Q. And your struggles?
A. Well, it took me a while. It has been more than a year that we have started this company but the first few months went in convincing people. We got our first opportunity with Maruti Suzuki Devils Circuit. Thereafter, more followed. We are their pan-India partner. Wherever they go, we make sure that none of the waste created is disposed unscientifically. The first six months of our work went in tethering our project. Eventually we got a chance with Devils Circuit. We have had several clients like the Border Security Forces. We regularly partner with them for organising their marathons. Oxfam India has also given us an opportunity.
Q. As a successful entrepreneur, what are your views on women empowerment?
A. In our organisation, we have a policy that whenever we are hiring for an event, we look for equal participation of men and women. What tends to happen in these areas is when we tie up for such events it is only men who are working. So initially it was a constant fight, because in my experience, women work just as hard as men. There is no difference because we want people who are dedicated towards the work. We encourage women who have to look after their children and people with disability. But in small cities women generally don’t come out of their houses. When I was in Jaipur for an event, it was very difficult for me to find any women to work with the men. Wherever we go, we ensure that women get equal opportunity to work in an environment where they are considered weak and my experience tells that women can do anything.
Even today there are no exclusive departments for sexual harassment, sufficient leaves for maternity, and many do not think that equal opportunities need to be given to women. I have been highly inspired by women entrepreneurs. Especially in green entrepreneurship, I see a lot of women coming up and doing amazing things. Nonetheless, we need both men and women to work together for this cause.
Q. Your future plans?
A. Right now we are focusing primarily on events. We would like to create the event from scratch and show the world that a green event is possible. We would also like to get into more projects on sustainability. We are already working on and enhance our cooperation from villagers who make eco-friendly products.