Growing up in New Delhi, Tanuja Dabir loved traveling with her parents to a small village in India called Sakuri. “There I experienced life in a very simple yet green and sustainable way,” says Tanuja, who now lives in Vancouver. “I used to play in the millet fields, drank fresh water from the well and ate meals off of palm leaf plates, and the idea just stuck with me!”, she adds.
Back at her New Delhi home, her parents continued to impress upon her the importance of not being wasteful and respecting what you’ve got. “I was always conscious about the use of resources,” she remembers and she continues to be so today.
This eventually led to the concept for her Burnaby-based business, Saakori Lifestyle Inc. (inspired by the village name Sakuri from her childhood days). The company wholesales sustainable palm leaf dinnerware of varying sizes and shapes to organizations throughout the Metro Vancouver.
“We also have retail presence in Whole Foods Market and sell online through our webstore: www.saakori.com”, says Tanuja.
Saakori’s plates are made without any chemicals or additives. The manufacturing process is very benign in terms of energy usage. Each piece is handcrafted from a single palm leaf with use of only heat, steam and pressure.
Besides her focus on sustainability, Tanuja also strongly believes in ethical sourcing practices. She travels to India to ensure the manufacturing factories of the palm dishes maintain sustainable practices and standards of corporate social responsibility, paying all workers a fair wage and employing local women seeking an additional source of income for their families. “We also make annual donations to the village of Sakuri to improve the living quality of local women there”.
With so many “green” products available to consumers, how does Saakori’s dinnerware stand out? “I chose something simple and basic that, at the same time, is novel in a way,” she explains. “It’s a perfect example of the cradle-to-cradle concept.”
Saakori Lifestyles aims to eliminate the use of paper and Styrofoam plates and help move towards zero-waste. The company also sells reusable mesh produce bags as an alternative to plastic bags. Due to the breathable nature of the bags, produce stays fresh longer. You can buy, carry, wash and store the produce in the same bag.
“Many of our customers also use the bags for sprouting grains or during travel to pack small items. The produce bags come in a set of 3 bags (s,m and l) and are available for purchase through the company webstore.
After a year in business, she won the Entrepreneur of the Year award in 2010. The business has a strong, personal connection for Tanuja. “It is something connected to my childhood, something I’m really passionate about,” she says about the concept for the company.