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Eco@Africa

The leaf plate video

Having posted a video of a German company that makes plates from hand stitched Indian leaves, we were delighted to receive such a wealth of feedback. Your responses were deeply divided and raised some important issues...

The plates from which we eat are not bound to get people talking, but in the case of those portrayed in ourrecent web video, tongues have been wagging. Of the four main points raised in your collective comments, the first was: how is it environmnetally friendly to harvest fresh green leaves from trees in India?

Derek Moore said: "That will take millions of large tropical forest leaves to make these plates in a mass production scheme. And must be fresh it appears. There is no simple solution. Or just use a washable plate. Remember those. And no trash then."

He was by no means the only one to raise that point, but Prem Cs went a step further. He said it is "not exactly cool" to take green fresh leaves, but suggested using leaves that had already fallen from their branches. The plates might not be green, but they serve the same purpose. 

DW | Eco@africa Screenshots | Leaf1 (DW)

The leaves are hand sewn in India before being shipped to Germany

Another issue that was raised by many of you was the carbon footprint aspect of the whole venture. How envrionmentally friendly is it, Alasdair Forbes asked to ship the leaves half way round the world? "What's wrong with German leaves?"

But perhaps the most frequent comment of the thousands you made, reflect the fact that such plates have been made and used in many parts of the world for decades and even centuries. Since "time immemorial" in India said Abinanth Singaravelan

And not only in India, So Choezong commented. "Most Asian countries have been using leaves as dishes for ages." She went on to say that in Nepal, it's called tapari, and suggested the finished products be made in and exported from India, rather than just the leaves.

Many of the responses you offered in reference to long-standing traditions, revealed a clear dislike of the fact that a German company had adopted a technology born long ago far from its shores.

But Michaela Shannon-Sank, described as "ludicrous" the outraged claims that Leaf Republic is "stealing" an ancient idea. "So are you going to cry foul if any other country or people use toilets because they didn't invent it? Or how about the wheel? Only the people who came up with the idea are allowed to use it?" she asked, adding that if it can cut down on trash and pollution, while also creating jobs, it is a "good thing."

Bran Teller Polen Teller aus Kleie essbar kompostierbar (picture-alliance/dpa/A. Reszko)

Leaf plates aren't the only sustainable crockery out there. This one is made of bran

And that was the fourth main point you made, that for the Western world, in which we have allowed a culture of disposability to become all pervasive in many aspects of life, any attempt at reversal is more than welcome. 

Alyssa Stock summed it up nicely, when she said "even if the rest of the world has been hip to this (much more sustainable) method for centuries, it will seem like an earth-shattering revelation to the masses of people who toss out plastic and styrofoam plates like it's their job."

Though she said she'd like to see the locally grown leaves used in the manufacture, and credit given to the cultures who inspired this, she also said "props to a company that is trying to popularize this choice in a throwaway world."

It was impossible to include all your comments here, but we are grateful that you took the time to write, and we will be revisiting this story in the New Year. We hope you'll join us then for more debate and opportunity to learn from each other in our common efforts to protect the resources of our planet.

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