Have you ever thought what happens to the hundreds of national flags which are tossed on the ground after the Independence day celebration?

Perturbed by the same thought, Mansi Shah, initiated an effort of recycling flags with her venture GiftGreen. A nature lover with a Masters in Forensic Biotechnology, she decided to introduce seeds into the disposable flags.  A unique gift to emphasize the need to protect the environment as well as the dignity of the national flag. Her venture, GiftGreen, seeds the handheld flags they create and encourages planting them post the celebrations and see it grow into a plant.

The idea is to teach children the need to save the environment. Mansi believes awareness alone can help the world go green at a large level. “Teaching children was not easy, and parents were worried about infection and what not? I persuaded them, eventually! There I learned the biggest lesson of my life. It taught me ‘If you get a chance then contribute, grow a plant it’ll become a tree!‘”

Ahead of the 70th Independence Day, we met Mansi to know more about her work. Excerpts from the interview:

Quitting your job — starting up and working in the eco-friendly space, was this inspired by any personal space?

My mother did this for years, she would grow plants and give it to friends, neighbours and even maids. Honestly, my passion for working with vaccines and microorganism was so strong that I would have either become a scientist or some researcher. However, being an emotional person I could not reconcile with how uncaring we humans are about nature.

GiftGreen was just a thought in my diary. I would sketch the logo images, different fonts and ideas. This was supposed to be my retirement plan.

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Obviously, nature has no replacements and it’s not an option. So, why not gift a lovely plant which you would see grow? I started painting planters and delivering pots to different corners of the city, and orders started coming in by the day.

Mansi Shah, founder of Gift Green

My parents encouraged me to register my company and I realized I was now the owner of a small venture.

What motivated you to launch an eco-friendly products delivery startup?

When we were selling kitchen garden plants, herbs etc. I was facing issues with sending them outside Mumbai. That’s when the idea struck me “What if people want to take that step of gifting green, a courier company can’t stop me!” That’s when I started making personalized soil and seed gifts. Ganesh Chaturthi was around the corner. We made modaks, which looked so tempting, but yes they had to be planted! Then, during Diwali, we made rangolis with diyas, candles and tiles which are decorated and can be planted once used.

Now we offer plants, seed paper diaries and bookmarks, these can be gifted anytime. The demand for our products rises during festive seasons, when people look for gifts.

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Mansi Shah, founder of Gift Green

How did the idea of placing seeds inside the national flags come about?

I came across this video of a newspaper campaign in Japan, where for a day they gave seeds to all. I didn’t want this to be some random day. So, I told my father that I want to make our Indian flag like this. No one should throw the flag, if they throw it, it should grow into a plant. The thing about flags is that you must save it forever but we don’t.

Since then our motto of “Don’t throw me, Grow me” has started. We use vegetable ink and make sure it doesn’t damage the seeds.

Mansi Shah, founder of Gift Green

What’s next?

I want to start a campaign by involving people. It’s going to be called the “Green – Exchange”. We plan to have many workshops for children and teach people how they can grow their own food, waste less paper and convert waste lands across the city into something green and beautiful.

This social enterprise now has a team of 11 people out of which 10 are women.

Any achievements you want to share with our readers?

GiftGreen was a small venture and when people began to appreciate the ideas and concept. I had to speak on the radio for a few minutes and tell people why we should do our bit towards nature. I never ever thought GiftGreen would be there!

The only thing that kept running through my mind was, “The people who had supported me, believed in me and I shouldn’t let them down.”

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Mansi Shah, founder of Gift Green
Team GiftGreen

How did you overcome the challenges?

Customers tend to compare plastic products which are assembly line production to our products which are handmade! The only way to overcome it is to increase awareness. However, to bring about a change in the mindset will surely take time! I always carry a smile – Smile at your haters and smile at your failures! You will never get de-motivated.

How would you rate the other similar practices that need to display more responsibility on eco-friendly ideas?

We tend to get so overboard with the religious celebrations that we don’t realize the damage we are doing to the environment. In a few days the grand celebrations of Ganesh Utsav will start, and after it ends, it’s the ugliest sights to witness, broken faces of idols, bulldozers rambling and pushing them back into the sea. It’s really very heart breaking.

Anywhere around the country, if people take a step to gift a piece of nature, we’ll do our best to cater to them. 

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