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Going back to roots...

Using traditional way and culture based solution.

Photo of patil archana
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Have you ever wondered what our ancestors used to do for cooking or drinking tea? What shampoo they used?  Did they even washed their hair?  I know at some point we stumble upon some questions… Harappan civilization suggests the use of clay pots. For taking bath they used herbs, plants, flowers, fruits or seeds. I remember my grandmother making shampoo for me using hibiscus flower and some herbs in hot water. We humans have tendency to create habits around our needs. Some are basic while others we take it to luxurious experience.

Let’s get back to topic, what can replace plastic?  A super plastic with recyclable qualities?  Or sometime replacing it is better option. Plastic is so convenient for use,  non leaky, tearable -non tearable, easy to stack and pack, keeps product safe. What we used before plastics?

We overlooked that material because plastic was easy. Now with use of plastics we realize its disposal problems. And with such a huge demand and disposal of plastics human is not far from self destruction. Especially places, overly populated like India. That means the disposal and consumption both are at huge amount. For example imagine one man drinks tea twice a day, that makes to nearly 60 plastic cups. Maybe solution lies in our past. 

In India, ceramic cups known as Kulhar for chai using locally sourced red clay for thousands of years. Baked at low temperatures they were an economical way of ensuring there was no contamination between the various users. We would not prefer using same cup used by stranger or other person. There were Societial norms like caste heiarchy too. The chai seller serves his customer the sweet, spicy brew ladled into a small ceramic cup, the flavour mixing with the earthy taste of the terracotta vessel. After drinking, one will dispose of in soil nearby. It will mix with soil easily. They cost 2-5 INR or less then a dollar. 

These fast disappearing vessels not only embody an alternative view on consumption culture but are also beautiful and functional objects on their own. They can be produced in industry at large level and can be  hand made and individual which are more beautiful.

It is not just material but a earthy aroma tea experience. People in India connect to their past or childhood memories  seeing  Kulhar. It is also about emotional attachment to product and healthier option as plastic is not in direct contact with body. Have you ever tried Kulhar tea or ice-cream ? 

It also have it's disadvatange like disconcerting tendency to soak the contents for example, normally, one unit have 150 ml of tea. When poured into the kulhar, it shrinks to only about 100 ml because of the clay properties. Properties of clay can be altered by glazing. Imagining number of users it may need to soil erosion, though it's going back to soil.

Few years back, Australian artist and designer Sian Pascale, suggested the idea of kulhar with seed embedded, this idea of giving back to nature is brilliant to reduce soil erosion with the help re-planation. May be we need to get deeper in design of kulhar and introduce this earthy material again. Going back to roots, giving back to nature.

Idea Title

Coolcup (Kulhar)

Company / Organization Name




Where are you / your team located?


How does this Idea redesign unrecyclable small format plastic items that often end up as waste?

Reusing clay pot (Kulhar) takes us back to era, where after drinking we can dispose it back to soil. Kulhar was replaced by plastic and paper cups, as easy to use and cheap. Kulhars will be packed with corrugated cardboards and paper or heygrass stuffing to fix it at place. Traditionally Clay pots are cover with newspaper and transported across. A unique cardboard and heygrass stuffing can avoid using plastic at any stage.

Which use cases does your Idea apply to?

Case 3 , use of straws and lids. If we get back Kulhar in use, we can have earthy aroma food/drinks which in turn can go back soil. If globally accepted, Nigel can crushed them and add soil to trees and plants in park! Or Anne can provide customer, earthy experience based drinks in Kulhar, making it healthier and recycling them easily.

In what geographical context or area does your Idea plan to operate / solve?


How do you envision scaling up your Idea?

Envision of the idea is to target public places first, like temples, stations, markets, etc There are manufacturing units available, one might need to setup standards for manufacturing And transport there.There will be alloted plots for disposal. While there will be disposal trucks collecting same from bin to dispose it. That landfill can be used for vegetation. Social media marketing for encouraging earthy pots use and stories of makers. And also making it more transportation easy

At what stage of development is your Idea?

  • Research & Early Testing: You are exploring an idea, gathering inspiration and information needed to test it with real users.

Please describe how becoming a Top Idea and working with the Think Beyond Plastics Accelerator Program will help to accelerate your solution.

Usage of Kulhar clay pots have been discarded, when a initaitive is taken on wider level, many problems like to avoid soil erosion or transportation can be solved in better ways. When a local idea gets a global approach, solution can emerge more creatively. Check what all kind of soils can be used for making Kulhar, and variation in colour beacuse of It. Quick research on what soil is preferred. Redesigning of shape and size of Kulhar for various scenario like if it is takeaway!

Please describe from where your Idea emerged

From harrapan civilisation, using Clay pots for cooking and our ancient ways of going back to roots, before availability of plastic. From Australian artist Sian, idea of reusing Kulhar inspired me to take it to next level.

Tell us about your work experience

Myself Architect and designer, loves to work near or with nature. I travel to learn and explore various cultures and lifestyle around the globe.

1 comment

Join the conversation:

Photo of Afnan Ansari

Are these cup can be only made of clay?