FENUGREEN freshpaper by kavita shukla wins INDEX: award FENUGREEN freshpaper by kavita shukla wins INDEX: award
oct 29, 2013

FENUGREEN freshpaper by kavita shukla wins INDEX: award

FENUGREEN fresh paper by kavita shukla wins INDEX: award 2013
image courtesy FENUGREEN




everyone knows all too well the frustrating feeling of finding strawberries, mushrooms or other produce covered in a delicate cotton-like coat of mold; often these are perishables fresh and ripe for a few days. by that point, the only thing to do is to discard said produce, and although this may seem like an innocent everyday inconvenience, its consequences are monumentally vast.

freshpaper fenugreen designboom
renewed FENUGREEN fresh paper packaging as of 2015
image courtesy FENUGREEN




according to a study conducted by the swedish institute for food and biotechnology (upon request from the food and agriculture organization of the united nations), roughly one-third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally, amounting to a staggering 1.3 billion tons (and $450 billion in losses) annually – this includes the aforementioned batch of strawberries gone bad. indian-american researcher and designer kavita m. shukla is taking on this global challenge with a simple sheet of paper. awarded with the ‘design to improve life’ INDEX: award 2013, FENUGREEN fresh paper is a natural product made with organic spices. as for usage, freshpaper only needs be placed wherever the produce is stored, which it is to protect. the design is a remarkable way of re-thinking, re-purposing and re-combining an old tradition with industrial knowledge into an easy to use everyday consumer product for everyone.

freshpaper fenugreen designboom
25 % of  the world’s food supply is lost to spoilage
image courtesy FENUGREEN


freshpaper fenugreen designboom
freshpaper inhibits bacterial and fungal growth, along with degradative enzymes
image courtesy of FENUGREEN




FENUGREEN was founded in 2010. it all started with handmade batches of fresh paper handed out at the farmer’s markets and street fairs in cambridge, MA. today, FENUGREEN fresh paper is used by farmers and families across the globe, and is establishing initiatives to benefit local food banks in the U.S. and small-scale farmers in the developing world. 

freshpaper fenugreen designboom
kavitam shukla, inventor and founder of FENUGREEN fresh paper
image courtesy of FENUGREEN




kavita happened upon the active ingredients after accidentally drinking some tap water while visiting her grandmother in india. her grandma gave her a home remedy – a mixture of spices, which kept her from getting sick. after years of research and development (starting with a middle school science project), she discovered a new application of her grandmother’s generations-old home remedy – a remarkably effective way to keep food fresh! this 2013 INDEX: award-winning innovation has received international recognition for its potential to change how the world keeps its food fresh.



audio © designboom



the small (5″ x 5″/ 12.7 x 12.7 cm ) freshpaper sheets are biodegradable, compostable, and recyclable





kavita’s ‘incident’ piqued her interest in the potential antimicrobial properties of her grandmother’s home remedy. she researched several possible applications, including dipping strawberries into the tea. she realized the spice mixture kept the strawberries fresh longer, and this process eventually led to her create freshpaper. by the age of 17, as a high school senior, and had received a patent for it. she then went on to study economics at harvard university with the objective of starting a nonprofit whose mission would be to reduce global food waste, thanks to her invention.


I thought that it could really help people like my grandma, who grew up without access to refrigeration,’ kavita told designboom. however, she struggled with the best way of bringing her innovative product to market. ‘in college, I couldn’t figure out how to get it to people. I realized how hard it could be to give something away for free. I started to think it didn’t have any real-world applications, because I had tried and failed.’ after college, she decided to give up on fresh paper for a bit and set her sights on pursuing a PhD.

freshpaper fenugreen designboom
one small sheet keeps fruits and veggies fresh for 2-4x longer, naturally
image courtesy of FENUGREEN




I thought that it could really help people like my grandma, who grew up without access to refrigeration,’ kavita told designboom. however, she struggled with the best way of bringing her innovative product to market.
‘in college, I couldn’t figure out how to get it to people. I realized how hard it could be to give something away for free. I started to think it didn’t have any real-world applications, because I had tried and failed.’ after college, she decided to give up on freshpaper for a bit and set her sights on pursuing a PhD. 

original FENUGREEN fresh paper packaging
image © designboom





however, it was her graduate school application process that renewed her entrepreneurial aspirations, and her social mission.‘there was a question on one of my grad school applications that said, ‘what has been your biggest regret?’ I wrote down that I had created this invention as a kid, and my regret was not working on it anymore, because I wanted to do something about global food waste,’ kavita says. ‘after I wrote my essays, I had my friend, swaroop samant, read them over. as a doctor, he was fascinated by freshpaper’s public health applications and encouraged me to keep working on my idea.’


last summer, with no funding and no experience in the food industry, the duo decided to take freshpaper to a local farmers’ market in cambridge, MA. they shared handmade pieces to anyone who stopped by and received an extremely favorable reception to their product. ‘we started to hear from people we had met at the farmers’ market, and they shared stories about how freshpaper was helping them eat more fresh, healthy food and waste less. after that, everything started falling into place. a local co-op signed us on, and within a year, simply through word of mouth, we were shipping freshpaper to folks across the U.S and launching in whole foods. today, we’ve shipped freshpaper to farmers and families in over 35 countries.’

just toss a sheet anywhere you keep produce (in the fridge, on a table in a fruit bowl, in a cupboard, in a basket, …)
image © designboom




the pair has continued to test freshpaper with different materials and applications. together they have several patents — kavita shukla holds three patents, with four pending, and swaroop samant has two pending. however, they remain steadfast in the their commitment to their environmental and social goals.‘FENUGREEN is developing small pilot projects with farmers in india and africa, where we are working to determine how freshpaper can best help them reduce post-harvest loss,’ says kavita. the social enterprise also has launched a ‘buy a pack, give a pack’ initiative, where for every freshpaper pack sold, a matching amount is donated to a local food bank.

once placed with your fruit and veggies, fresh paper will remain active for 1-3 weeks. its distinctive  maple-like scent indicates that the paper is active.
image © designboom




awarded biennially in denmark, under the attendance of HRH the crown price of denmark, the INDEX: award is the biggest design award in the world – and probably the most important. the importance of INDEX: award lies in the unique, over-arching theme of design to improve life – a concept which has established the prize as a global, inspirational design beacon. INDEX: award is split into five categories: body, home, work, play and community, representing the entire human life, inside to out. one prize worth €100,000 is presented to the winner in each of the categories.


from the index: design to improve life®  press release:

index: design to improve life®  is a danish non-profit organization with global reach. we inspire, educate and engage in using design to improve life-skills to develop sustainable solutions to global challenges. we do this by means of the biggest design award in the world (index: award worth €500.000), world touring exhibitions, education programs, city collaborations and investment initiatives. we inspire by showing people how their personal lives and the lives of people around them can be improved by design to improve life. we do this through index: award and index: award exhibition, showcasing the positive outcomes and effects of the world’s best examples of design to improve life. we educate by using real life challenges as learning resources in schools and the talents of school as a resource in society. we educate students, teachers, educators, designers and decision makers to create sustainable solutions through a certified education curriculum, summer schools and design challenges. we engage by using top-down and bottom-up approaches to involve governments, organizations, companies and people in long-term, valuable network collaborations – ensuring economic, social and environmentally sustainable solutions. design to improve life cities and design to improve life investment are great examples of this.


INDEX: award 2013, these designs were awarded the prestigious prize in the following 5 categories:

BODY – ‘mama natalie birthing simulator
HOME – (featured here) ‘fresh paper’,
WORK –  ‘raspberry pi’
COMMUNITY – copenhagen climate adaptation plan
PLAY – ‘smart highway’ by daan roosegaarde



UPDATE: this feature has been updated on february 4th, 2015 to reflect the product evolution of FENUGREEN fresh paper.

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