“What if someone could turn the husks and straw discarded by rice farmers into sustainable building materials?”
So wondered 15-year-old Bisman Deu three years ago after seeing the environmental hazards that burning rice waste was causing on her family’s farm in north India.
Bisman saw an opportunity to create something useful and developed an environmentally sustainable building material from the farm’s biggest waste product. She wanted to create low-cost structures that could withstand all forms of weather, which is something traditional mud huts cannot.
Instead of letting the idea die on the vine and going back to worrying about normal 16-year-old things, Bisman cooked up a prototype of rice waste-based building material in her family’s kitchen. She calls it Green Wood.
She’s 18 now and has finished school in Chandigarh, but Bisman is on a journey with Green Wood as it becomes more relevant now than ever before.
Bisman says Green Wood is affordable, waterproof particleboard that is also fungi-proof, making it a good choice for low-income families who need to live cheaply in variable weather. And it not only positively impacts the environment but also gives farmers a new source of income.
The teenager’s idea is to get out there. She won the Social Innovation Relay with two teammates, a global contest by Junior Achievement-Young Enterprise Europe. In partnership with Hewlett-Packard, the relay seeks students aged 15-18 to develop socially innovative business concepts. Her Green Wood concept was also featured in UNICEF’S State of the World’s Children report.
Editor’s note: Rice is a staple food for more than half of the world’s population, and one tonne of husk is produced for every five tonnes harvested. In 2014, about 1,190,775 ha of rice was planted in the US. All those husks have to go somewhere, and this idea of converting rice waste into sustainable building materials is also making inroads in the Americas.
Oryzatech, a company in Goleta, California, has used the staple crop’s leftover straw to make what the company calls the Stak Block. These are 12-by-12-by-24 building blocks that look like cement but are made of straw and glue.
They’re manufactured where rice is grown and Oryzatech claims they are made of 96% recycled material and sequester carbon from the environment.
Sustainable rice houses that filter carbon out of the atmosphere? The future is here for third-world countries that need low-cost shelter.
- With extracts from thebettterindia newsletter