Rethinking Agricultural waste: Greenie’s Circular Spin on Pelepah Pinang

Rethinking Agricultural waste: Greenie's Circular Spin on Pelepah Pinang
Greenie Indonesia works with a community of Areca farmers and women in rural Indonesia, developing a sustainable village enterprise through the cultivation of agricultural waste such as pelepah pinang (areca palm sheath) for sustainable furnishings. 
JAMBI, Indonesia – As global demand for sustainable practices intensifies, Greenie Indonesia stands out, transforming what was once waste into stylish, eco-friendly decor. Founded in 2020, this Indonesian enterprise is giving discarded Areca Palm Leaf Sheath (Pelepah Pinang) a new purpose, fashioning them into modern home furnishings.


Seeking Eco-Friendly Solutions to Combat Byproduct Burning in Agriculture

In Jambi, a province known for its significant exports of oil and rubber, the areca palm fruit has carved a niche of its own. The fruit, which yields the betel nut, has emerged as a key export, bringing in over 5 trillion IDR (equivalent to over 300 million USD) for Indonesia in 2021 alone. As betel nuts find their market in countries including Thailand, Iran, India, China, and Pakistan, Indonesia’s vision is clear: bolstering both quality and volume to position the betel nut as the nation’s front-running export commodity.
image : Greenie Indonesia
image : Greenie Indonesia
As Jambi scales up its betel nut production, an unintended consequence emerges: the vast accumulation of areca plant waste. Traditionally burned away, these remnants pose a growing environmental concern, stirring apprehension among local farmers and the broader Jambi community.
At the helm is Ika Juliana, a bio-material researcher. In a challenging period of her life, Juliana tapped into her deep connection with nature and expertise in bio-products. She saw potential in peat palm leaves, typically destined for the burn pile, turning them into the core material for Greenie’s product line. Her personal journey of healing thus became intertwined with an eco-revolution in the heart of Indonesia.

Bringing Innovation for Sustainable Living

With a tagline proclaiming, “Bring Innovation for Sustainable Living,” Greenie Indonesia isn’t just crafting furniture—it’s pioneering a sustainability movement. This venture transforms overlooked Areca Palm Leaf Sheath (Pelepah Pinang), typically discarded in rural locales, into nature-inspired decor, challenging traditional home aesthetics.
image : Greenie Indonesia
image : Greenie Indonesia
Yet, adapting peat palm into quality furnishings wasn’t simple. The process, striving to rival conventional wood quality, demanded rigorous experimentation. Partnering with artisans, too, required a paradigm shift – both in technique and mindset.
But Greenie’s aspirations go beyond furniture. In Teluk Kulbi, a village nestled in Jambi, the initiative saw potential in the community, especially its women. Traditionally sidelined in palm harvesting, these women now find themselves at the forefront of Greenie’s mission. Harnessing their inherent creativity, Greenie empowers them to craft income-generating items from agroforestry remnants, underlining a commitment not just to eco-friendly products, but to community elevation.

We source the Areca Palm Leaf Sheath from Teluk Kulbi Village, Jambi. There are 10 groups of farmers there, but we have only collaborated with one group, consisting of 20 members, all of whom are men. Typically, women only assist during the harvesting process. We see potential in empowering these women to recycle peat palm leaves into products.

Greenie’s ambitions transcend mere product creation. In the pastoral settings of Indonesian villages, Juliana identified a transformative potential: elevating village women, often relegated to auxiliary roles in palm harvesting. With Greenie’s guidance, these women are not just assisting; they’re leading, channeling their inherent creativity into crafting products from agroforestry waste.

Sustainability Recognized Globally, Impact Felt Locally

Greenie Indonesia’s unwavering commitment to sustainable innovation hasn’t gone unnoticed on the global stage. Their efforts recently placed them at the forefront of Indonesian representatives at the prestigious Hannover Messe. There, amidst international innovations, Greenie’s unique creations – from coasters to wall clocks crafted from peat palm leaves – drew attention. But it wasn’t just their craftsmanship that turned heads. Their mindful choice to use local adhesives, cutting down emissions, underscores a dedication to not just the present, but future generations.
Product Innovation From Greenie Indonesia
image : Greenie Indonesia
2023 brought a new accolade for Greenie. As participants in the x IKEA Social Entrepreneurship program, they’ve caught the eye of the renowned furniture brand, IKEA. This collaboration spells a year of mentoring, allowing Greenie to hone their products and explore synergies with the furniture titan.
At its core, Greenie’s modus operandi is empowerment. Their approach? Purchasing Areca Palm Leaf Sheath (bahasa Indonesia : Pelepah Pinang) from local farmers, ushering in cooperative production (Koperasi Produksi). But they don’t stop at production; Greenie takes charge of distribution, ensuring the fruits of labor reach the market. Their vision, “Bring Innovative for Sustainable Living,” also sees them aiding startups, like their recent endeavor with KULAKU Indonesia. Here, coconut fiber waste morphs into decorative items, with Greenie helming research and development.
Greenie’s footprint is expanding, most notably with their foray into Sumatra. Their newly-minted factories lie strategically amidst abundant peat palm resources. This move isn’t just logistical. It’s emblematic of a dual commitment: to the environment and the community. Challenges, like ethical sourcing and waste collection nuances, remain. With their current operations in Cibinong, West Java, limited to processing only 1% of the 43,000 tons of waste sourced annually from Jambi, Sumatra’s extensive palm plantations offer a strategic advantage. Yet, this expansion isn’t without its pitfalls. A fragile market demand means farmers sometimes prematurely offload waste. It’s this intricate dance between supply and demand, ethics and enterprise, that Greenie continues to navigate.

We established a factory in Sumatra to be closer to the raw materials, as Greenie relies on waste from Jambi, with an annual total of around 43,000 tons. Our focus is on empowering farmers and handling more peat palm waste, emphasizing both people and the planet. However, challenges arise when farmers, due to low palm fruit demand, prematurely sell the waste, leading to concerns about early waste collection from the trees.

In the corridors of sustainable innovation, Greenie Indonesia has secured a coveted seat at the table: the x IKEA Social Entrepreneurship 2023 program. In a collaborative endeavor led by IKEA Social Entrepreneurship and hosted by Interstellar Indonesia, Greenie embarks on a year-long intensive journey tailored for rising entrepreneurs.
Out of ten handpicked participants, Greenie’s unique appeal stems from its novel use of materials. The mentorship they receive, a generous contribution from IKEA, dives deep into the nuances of business strategy, product refinement, and measuring impact. The synergy is palpable: IKEA’s market aligns seamlessly with Greenie’s vision of sustainable home furnishings, particularly their signature peat palm leaf panel creations. With this alignment, the program not only serves as a learning experience but possibly a gateway into IKEA’s supplier roster.
As the globe grapples with sustainability, Greenie Indonesia emerges as a beacon of innovation, underpinned by a deep reverence for nature. Their trajectory signals a future where sustainability isn’t just an aspiration but a tangible reality. With each stride they make, the horizon seems a tad greener.