There are few things more disappointing than reaching into your refrigerator for a nice fresh piece of produce only to be greeted by a slimy, stinking glob of mush in a bag. While you could have sworn you just went to the store or had that CSA delivered mere days ago, fruits and vegetables have a remarkable way of escaping even our most diligent of cooking schedules. Food waste is not just a personal problem, but one that strains the resources of an already stressed planet. Seeing as 40% of all food produced goes uneaten, a product like FreshPaper that can extend the life of your groceries up to four times longer doesn’t just make economic sense — it’s something that could potentially help conserve energy, help the environment, and avoid that embarrassing smell of rotting broccoli in your house.
Developed by entrepreneur Kavita Shukla, Fenugreen FreshPaper is a sheet of herb-infused paper that when slipped into a bowl of fruit, pantry, or vegetable drawer, can inhibit mold and bacteria growth. The proprietary blend of spices has the potential to keep produce fresh for up to four times longer than sitting alone in the crisper, and each piece lasts about two to three weeks. A sort of “dryer sheet” for veggies, FreshPaper is certified organic and completely biodegradable.
Shukla was inspired to create FreshPaper after many childhood trips back to India to visit her family. Fascinated by her grandmother’s blend of spices to ward off illness, she began to study the effects of the compounds on rotting produce in high school, eventually fusing the mixture into paper and patenting the invention in her senior year. At first, she intended to start Fenugreek FreshPaper as a nonprofit, but as a college student she wasn’t particularly well versed in the ins and outs of philanthropy organizations. In 2010, she teamed up with a partner to open up a booth at a farmer’s market to sell FreshPaper, and word began to spread.
The product was recently picked up by Whole Foods, and the increase in sales has allowed Shukla to initiate a buy-one-give-one program that benefits local food banks, beginning with areas affected by Hurricane Sandy. She hopes to eventually bring FreshPaper into school lunch programs as well as work with NGOs to introduce the product to farmers both at home and developing nations.
“As we start to learn more about what’s going on with food waste, we realize that there’s water involved, there’s energy costs, land, resources, that go into creating the food that we eat,” she says. “And with the economy, people are becoming much more conscious of being wasteful at home, because they know not only are they struggling, but there are people in the U.S. that have no access to fresh food at all. It seems that everyone is coming to understand the importance of buying less or conserving what we have, and how that fits into the larger food crisis.”
FreshPaper can be found at Whole Foods markets and select shops around the country. You can also pick up a sample pack of 8 sheets for $4.99 or 10 packs of 8 for $42.99 through the FreshPaper online store.