Watching the mounds of grain chaff burning at her family’s farm in India’s northern city of Amritsar, the then 15-year-old Bisman Deu decided to research the pollution caused by this activity. “I started researching pollution,” she says, “then I researched the properties of rice husk; it has a high silica content, is waterproof, and termite resistant.” She went on to experiment in her mother’s kitchen, mixing the leftover rice husk with resin and baking it – to form a prototype product, which she named Green Wood. She saw this particle board forming the base building block for housing in rural communities, reports Forbes.
“It’s affordable, sturdy,” she says, “instead of cutting wood.”
Deu and two other students formed a team and entered Hewlett-Packard’s 2013 Social Innovation Relay competition in which high school students had to come up with socially innovative business products. Green Wood was chosen a winner out of 43,000 student entries globally.
In 2015, Deu was invited by UNICEF to be a keynote speaker and panelist at their State of the World’s Children event in New York, where she said:
We want to give back to our society. Green Wood can help give poor, homeless people a roof on their head. It can also improve rural livelihoods, by creating a market for rice waste, so farmers can make extra income. Our product can furthermore greatly reduce air pollution as well as deforestation of the rain forest areas where many hardwood species grow; deforestation has been linked to climate change and has a devastating impact on biodiversity and the water cycle. Using sustainable materials is not only the right thing to do ethically, but it also has potential for commercial longevity. Although Green Wood is not yet on the market – we have made a prototype and are improving it as we go along – companies have shown a lot of interest already.