Every two years, life-changing innovations in design are honored at the Index: Awards, the biggest of its kind in the world. FreshPaper, a simple piece of paper designed to extend the shelf life of fresh foods, was among the 2013 winners announced August 29, in Elsinore, Denmark.
Kavita Shukla, age 17 at the time, happened upon the idea accidentally. While visiting her grandmother in India, Shukla absent-mindedly drank tap water which is ill-advised in India. Her grandmother warded off pending illness with spices steeped in water. Interested in the power of these spices, Shukla began her investigation.
What she found was that some spices–like fenugreek–can inhibit bacterial and fungal growth. This knowledge eventually became FreshPaper, a piece of paper infused with organic spices, including fenugreek, which slow the growth of decaying elements and therefore extend life. The design keeps fruits and vegetables fresher longer. Shukla received a patent for the new invention, which is now available in stores across the U.S. including Whole Foods and Wegmans.
The idea is enough to be impressive, but the spirit of innovation as a means to creatively solve globally significant problems, is where it becomes a real standout. Perplexed by the statistic that 50% of the world’s food supply is wasted, Shukla, along with medical doctor Swaroop Samant, founded Fenugreen, a social enterprise endeavoring to distribute FreshPaper to developing countries. Fenugreen operates with the idea that the world’s food supply may be increased simply by decreasing its waste.
While many have tried to answer the question of world hunger with how to increase food production, Shukla assumed a different angle - reduce the amount of food wasted. She was able to take ordinary and accessible elements – spices in her grandmother’s kitchen–and re-purpose them. Curiosity and examination along with the inspiration to look at an old problem in a different way led to a relatively simple and sustainable means to make critical global impact.
What other old problems might we solve just by adjusting our vantage point?