This entrepreneur makes paper that you can plant, grow or compost

This entrepreneur makes paper that you can plant, grow or compost

We’ve heard of handmade paper, recycled paper and elephant poo paper. The newest kid on the block is plantable paper. You read that right. Jaipur based Tomato & Co. manufactures paper sheets and products that look, feel and can be used just like regular paper. But they have a life beyond these uses.

Founder Kritika Parwal tells us more about her interesting venture.

The seeds for Tomato & Co. were sown when she, as a student at Kellogg, heard the CEO of a leading global coffee chain mention that 4 million cups of coffee are sold at its outlets every day. “When I realised that a single chain disposes 4 million cups as trash every single day, the number did not let me sleep for a few days”, she recalls. That got her thinking about eco-friendly alternatives to conventional paper. Being from Jaipur, she had a fair idea of how handmade paper was made. Working on this idea together, she and her professor at Kellogg were able to come up with a nine-step process for making a paper that after usage, could be directly sown in a pot of soil to grow plants instead of bring discarded as garbage.

The paper is handmade and contains organic cotton shreds, bio-enzymes, resins, organic binder and dyes made of natural pigments like indigo, cochineal and saffron, and of course, it is embedded with seeds. Currently, Tomato & Co. produces 17 different paper varieties including basil, tomato, parsley, chilli and a number of flowering plants.

The paper looks and functions just like regular paper. You can write or print on it, shape and shear it just as you would regular paper. The real magic of plantable paper begins once you no longer have use for it.

Kritika explains that the paper is 100% biodegradable and after usage, it can be shred, sown in a pot of soil and watered. The paper decomposes and the seeds in it germinate to grow into a plant after a few days.

The company makes customised products for bulk/ corporate orders. In the past, it has created name tags, wrist bands, calendars, door tags, coasters, greeting cards, business cards and wedding invites. "We do not retail currently but are soon launching our line of quirky plantable greeting cards that will be available online and at our partner stores," she adds. Also being planned is a prototype of a plantable coffee cup for a major coffee chain. These cups can be sowed after use and a plant will grow out of them. 

Besides profits, Tomato & Co. measures its success by the number of new plants they have helped grow through their paper.

We have facilitated around 3.6 million new plants in the world through our paper and are trying to reverse the classic equation of paper coming from trees to show that paper can give us trees and food.

Images © Tomato & Co.

Maya is a social researcher by training. Her writing has appeared in YourStory and The Alternative. She is the Founding Editor of Eartha and tweets @Maya_Kilpadi.