Kanpur-based startup Phool (Fomerly HelpUsGreen), which converts flowers and offerings collected from religious places into biodegradable alternative to Thermacol and incense sticks received the United Nations Young Leaders Award at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, yesterday.

Ankit Agarwal, Co-founder, Phool (Fomerly HelpUsGreen), was selected as one of the 17 young leaders for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by the United Nations, at the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly in New York. Ankit was selected from more than 18,000 youth from more than 184 countries. As a young leader, for the next two years, Ankit will be engaged in UN advocacy efforts and support young people in the realization of the goals by collaborating with the UN on strategic opportunities. The Young Leaders, representing five continents, seventeen countries, and their constituencies of millions of young people around the world, range from scientists, inventors, story tellers and activists.

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The UN Young Leaders is a flagship initiative led by the UN Secretary-General António Guterres's envoy of youth. The jury comprised of social visionaries and SDG advocates spanning across a range of backgrounds.

Founded in May 2015, by Ankit Agarwal and Karan Rastogi, Phool (Fomerly HelpUsGreen) has been supported and incubated by Tata Trusts' Social Alpha and IIT Kanpur. Phool is a sustainable solution to the monumental 'temple-waste' problem in India. Having pioneered the 'flowercycling' technology to preserve the Rivers Ganges from becoming a dumping ground for temple waste; they have recycled 11,060 metric tonnes of temple-waste flowers till date. Phool collects 8.4 tons of floral-waste daily and is upcycled into biodegradable packaging material, charcoal-free incense and natural vermicompost.

In an effort to create a circular economy, Phool employs women who were earlier manual scavengers thereby impacting more than 73 Manual Scavenger families and increasing their income 6x times. They are also being provided with facilities like insurance, bus service and medical benefits.

Ankit Agarwal, UN Young leader for SGD said, "We are deeply humbled by the UN recognition and opportunity to represent our nation, India at the prestigious forum furthering our work towards cleaning the Ganges and 2030 agenda for sustainable development."

"Three years ago, Member States committed to the Sustainable Development Goals, an ambitious agenda for people and planet. In order to achieve these ambitious Goals, we must engage today's youth and empower a generation which knows about the Goals, cares about their success and actively works toward their realization," said Ms. Jayathma Wickramanayake - UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy on Youth.

Manoj Kumar, Head, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Tata Trusts & CEO, Social Alpha said, "Phool has very innovatively applied the regenerative system model by recycling waste and also creating employment for the extremely poor and underprivileged. We are proud of what the founders have achieved in a short period."

Prof. Abhay Karandikar, Director IIT Kanpur, said, "Flower waste to Greening, IIT Kanpur is proud to be the technology partner of Phool, a company dedicated to not only greening the environment but also in the process empowering thousands of women through this endeavor matching IIT Kanpur's credo of 'Technology for Sustainable development'."

Phool is also set to receive the 'Goal Keepers Award' award from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation this month in New York and the UN Momentum of Change Award, which will be awarded as part of COP26 Summit in Poland in December. Earlier this year, Ankit Agarwal was named in the Forbes 30 under 30 list.

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