You never know when a great idea strikes, for Bidhan Pokhrel, Kobit Baniya and Swaviman Acharya, the co-founders of Leaf Plus, it was while eating ‘Tapari Momo’ outside their old high school. “While eating Momos we realized that the Momo stall was doing what we wanted to do- have a profitable business with a positive social or environmental impact. Knowing first-hand how flimsy the traditional leaf bowls- taparis are, we decided to improve the taparis. We hoped to make the taparis into a popular eco-friendly alternative to plastic plates and cutleries,” shared Swaviman Acharya.
This trio started with an idea to improve taparis, and make them more appealing to the general public. However, Hari Dahal, another co-founder of Leaf Plus, suggested a different material. “While we were researching ways to make the existing taparis stronger, Hari suggested that we use areca nut (Supari) leaves instead of Shorea robusta–Sal, leaves which are traditionally used to make taparis. After we studied the feasibility of using Supari leaves we started working with it,” explained Swaviman. According to Kobit there are many advantages of using Supari leaves-“compared to paper and even plastic alternatives, our products are sturdier. Unlike paper products, our products can be used for liquid materials and can withstand heat. Our products are microwavable and we do not need to add any additives or chemicals while making it. Plus, because they are made with leaves they are biodegradable and good for the environment-unlike plastics.”
In a push to go green, people have been turning to eco-friendly materials, like leaves, to make plates and cutleries. Nepal has a history of using leaf plates and bowls, but it was the idea of using Supari leaves instead of the traditional Sal leaves that proved to be a stumbling block. “When we first approached people to collect the leaves, they would not believe that we would actually buy it. Now, we do not have such problem.”
Leaf Plus is not only creating an impact with their bio-degradable products but also with their hiring practices. “We made it a point to try and employee women to collect the leaves. Even though they were hesitant to start working with us, we now have 16 women working with us.” These women, whom they call leaf entrepreneurs, collect the leaves from their community and sell it to Leaf Plus. “By focusing in employing women we are trying to empower them and give them financial independence. We have not only collection centres where they can store the leaves, but have also negotiated a profit margin with them and given them advance so that they can buy the leaves from the farmers, making things a lot easier for them,” revealed Swaviman.
Leaf Plus started their production in 2017, and are currently selling their products to restaurants like the Flat Iron Grill, Lakpaa’s Chulo and Baan Thai as well as the Prime Minister’s residence and the American Recreation Centre. Leaf Plus plans on using the investment to increase their production capacity so that they are able to not only sell more products in Nepal but also export it. They also plan to expand the varieties of cutleries that they produce. Currently, they are only collecting the Supari leaves from Jhapa, but they plan on collecting from Morang and Sunsari as well.
“We want to increase Nepal’s exports and generate as much employment as possible while doing so. But most importantly we want to reduce the amount of plastic plates, bowls and cutleries used in Nepal and the world,” Kobit Baniya.