The products that we use in our daily lives can create massive environmental footprints and health burdens if we are not aware of where and how what we buy is manufactured. It requires about 2 billion barrels of oil to serve the plastic bag industry annually and it then takes anything from 400 to 1000 years for plastic bags to degrade (Bell & Cave, 2011). Paper bags are not much better as their production requires four times as much energy compared to plastic bags. Producing paper bags generates 70 times more air pollution and 50 times more water pollution than plastic bags and requires the cutting down of 17 trees per ton of paper. So this is not a simple issue! Bangladesh’s leather industry is worth a billion dollars a year, but that value comes at a significant environmental and human cost. The process of tanning leather hides in most cases is highly toxic. Chrome tanning is the most popular and controversial method due to its wide-spread use in the fashion industry. The chromium salts that are used in the chrome tanning are carcinogenic, persistent, and harms both environment and human health.
Our Solutions: traversing from East to West and meeting with people from different cultures and backgrounds, I came to an idea to raise environmental awareness among people (particularly on how to be responsible as consumers) and reduce environmental footprints, starting with eco-friendly bags and accessories, through our Scandinavian startup, The Poli. I have identified vegetable-tanned genuine leathers and jute, the most sustainable natural fibres, to produce bags and accessories which also solve the environmental issues that arise from the present unsustainable production system. The vegetable-tanned leathers mostly employ plant-based dye which is favourable for environment and human health. The bags produced with jute can create huge attention to global consumers, where jute contributes to offset carbon emission and global warming. Jute cultivation is considered as afforestation and reforestation. Jute requires almost no fertilizers or water for production. Also, a hectare of jute cultivation can absorb 15 tonnes of carbon and release 11 tonnes of oxygen in the environment during its whole life cycle of production. We are working in collaboration with Bangladeshi factories to produce our bags and accessories. We have team members from Sweden, Norway, Italy and Bangladesh. We have designed and developed backpacks, tote bags, laptop cases and wallet items with our sustainable resources so far.
Through this project, we plan to scale up our initiatives by developing new eco-friendly products such as shoulder bags and jute shopping bags. In addition, we want to improve environmental standards of existing items through research and development and improve our production and supply chain to create as little environmental footprints as possible. Finally, we would like to reach more audiences through blog writing, web and social media content development, products display and sales collaboration development. The ultimate aim? Responsible consumption.
Written by Mohammad Azim, Founder of the Poli.
The Poli: Responsible Consumption for a Sustainable Future project is being carried out by Azim, a GESA 2015 participant from Bangladesh, and is supported through GEN Project Packages. Learn about other projects by GEN members here.