For some complex problems, a solution seems impossible. We face too many factors that contribute to it and multiple obstacles that have to be overcome. It makes us feel small and that there is little we can do. However, almost all problems can be faced using creativity and determination. Let’s see how an innovative idea—edible cutlery—can help restore India’s water supply and reduce a large amount of plasticthrown away in the garbage every day.
The birth of an idea
Since 2003, researcher Narayana Peesapaty has been observing a worrying trend: the accelerated reduction in groundwater in India. However, upon checking precipitation data, he realized that these figures had not varied significantly in recent years. If it wasn’t because of the rain, then what could be happening that would lead to the groundwater decreasing this way?
Peesapaty kept investigating and discovered the cause of this scarcity of groundwater. The reason was none other than the change from traditional agriculture, in which millet is grown, to more and more widespread rice cultivation. It turns out that a field of rice consumes 60 times more water than a field of millet, water that farmers get by pumping this resource from the ground. It was necessary to go back to grow millet,but farmers had started growing rice because the market for millet was becoming smaller and smaller.
After explaining all of this to the government authorities and seeing their inaction in the face of this enormous problem, Peesapaty did not want to resign himself to doing anything. This is how Peesapaty’s simple, a clever idea was born: create edible cutlery from millet.
Facing a big project
Soon after, one of his videos went viral. This helped his project and in 2016, his two crowdfunding campaigns far exceeded the targets they had set.
Edible cutlery is a solution that is both simple and effective.
The spoons are made with 100% natural ingredients, mostly millet flour. In addition, during production, salt, sugar, vanilla, lemon, and other substances can be added in order to create various flavors. It’s an excellent solution to put a stop to the groundwater problem in India and at the same time reduce the use of plastic, one of the big worldwide environmental problems.
But it’s not enough to develop a good product, you have to sell it. Peesapaty studied his possible market and noted that the big niche for disposable cutlery was found in catering businesses. Despite the availability of bioplastic, it had not managed to take root due to its higher price. However, edible cutlery made from millet could compete with the price of normal plastic without any problem.
Another problem that Peesapaty found was people’s skepticism of his product. It seemed incredible that something so simple could be real, that a spoon could simply be eaten. But his continuous efforts when it came to exposure bore fruit and today he has orders from all over the world.
Articles in The Guardian and other media outlets echoed the idea and the work of Bakeys, the name Peesapaty gave his project.
What Peesapaty’s story shows is that there are two possible paths towards a solution to a problem:
- Conformity, that’s to say trying to find solutions through already-established channels. This could be appropriate for many day-to-day challenges. In this story, however, it was not successful, given that after being informed of what was happening, the government did not take action to solve the problem.
- Originality, opening new channels in order to progress towards a solution. This becomes necessary when it comes to thornier problems, given that they require a divergent way of thinking in order to reach a solution. This is the case of the edible cutlery made of millet, without a doubt an innovative and effective idea.
The use of creative thinking, with an idea as simple as a spoon you can eat, is allowing the innovator Peesapaty to be part of the solution to two serious problems: water scarcity and the excess of plastic thrown away each day in the world.
Now it’s your turn. Can you think of a problem in your surroundings that demands an innovative idea as a solution?