Our Year of Hope Vol. 6 - Comfort Felt Nepal

Apr 09, 2024

For the year of 2024, the team here at Fifty Shades Greener have decided to focus our energy and efforts into spotlighting small, community driven sustainability projects from anywhere in the world that are operating on a grass roots level.

The world of sustainability itself can often be perceived as a minefield. From the enormity of the climate crisis, CSRD regulations and measuring carbon emissions, the efforts being made on the field by individuals or groups can often get overshadowed.

However, we always say at FSG, that small actions do count, especially when being carried out by many. This blog series will endeavor to highlight those people or communities who are driving REAL action.

We hope their stories inspire you, and more importantly that they spark hope.

Our sixth story features Anup Manandhar of Comfort Felt, a factory and workshop located at Kirtipur city in Nepal producing beautiful felt products. Our CEO Raquel and Director Patrick, were able to experience first hand the work that Anup and his enterprise are carrying out to support women in work in Nepal when they visited Nepal in August 2022 while working with the government there in the area of green skills.

Anup and his team have a goal - and that is to contribute towards poverty alleviation socio-economic development of Nepali craftspeople. Social woman producers group are viewed as their valuable assets and also associated with the various artists and craftsmen to contribute to women empowerment, by securing the women's income, integrating them into the Nepalese society and promoting financial independence for women who come from backgrounds that make it difficult to survive and enables their children to go to school.


💡 Give us a brief description of yourself, who you are, what makes you tick? 

This is Anup Manandhar, age 48 from the Kathmandu, the capital of the country with highest peak in the world, Nepal. I have completed the journey about 23 years on this handicraft business line.

I got engaged in this business line since I started to work as an employee on September 2002 in one of the renowned NGO name called Association for Craft Producers. I worked there till 2006 on different positions with different work responsibilities. It was a new experience and great learning for me during that period. I came to know so many things about the handicraft business, economic development of community through trade and handicraft. I also learned the potential in this sector. Especially how the grass-root people, producers and the artisans can be benefited and motivated through the trade and export. Actually the organization where I worked is Fair Trade Organization.

They have Fair Trade Principal where sustainability, environmental issues and community development are focused mainly. From that period of time, there is one kind of mind-set with me that whenever I will be doing any business or service on any field, I will be following those Fair Trade principals.

I always love learning new ideas and techniques on productions. Take risk doing experiments and something new. Our team is always exploring how the things can be done better with ethical values and being responsible to the community and society. We always think how we can do the things differently and make our products unique. I have a desire and got one kind of addiction to establish small factory for making premium felt shoes. I have a dream that one day I will be making one of the best handmade felt shoes in my country. That passion drives me to get into this business. Because I was sure and confident that this item/felt shoes will be going to hit the European /USA markets also the cold countries.


💡 Tell us what your project/business is.

We are basically felt handicraft manufacturing company, a SMES company. I would like to say that our main product line is woollen hand felted shoes. We manufacture and export all our production to third countries, especially to European countries. Also to USA and Canada.

Our girls/producers make every pair of shoes with passion and care so that the outcome is always good and all our products are liked by the end customer. The customer can enjoy and feel the warmth and comfort of that slipper.

This is also the main reason that we make our brand name as “Comfort Felt”. Every customer buying our felt products will be enjoying the Comfort of these natural fibre products. Besides felt shoes, we also make Home Decorative Items, Accessories and Christmas Ornaments. We have a dream project of establishing semi-industrial type of felt shoe factory where we will have fusion of handmade slippers with some automated machineries on finishing and production line.

That workplace/factory will be inclusive workplace where we will be hiring differently able (different kinds of disable) employee as well. We have to make the workplace accessible for all.


💡 What motivated you to start this project?

Despite of less development and scarcity, I see Nepal has more opportunity and potential. In fact, when there is less development and scarcity, the same situation will also create more opportunity and scope in other hand. I was also inspired by my first Employer Company that when we are doing something or any kind of business, then there must be contribution to community around and the growth of socio-economic. The major part is I always use to think to do some business in my own mother-land so that my work is recognized. This has made me really inspired to start my business. And I really discourage to go abroad all our young generations and settle there. But instead I prefer to explore globally to gain knowledge and ideas, learn new things and then be back to own country to implement that knowledge where country economic get benefited.



💡 What steps/actions did you take to reduce your business' environmental impact?

We are always very conscious how we can minimize the wastage, make pollution free and environmental friendly. At the beginning year of factory establishment, we set up solar power as an alternative electricity power. That period we used to have more than 16-18 hours of power cut off in a day (24 hrs). Whole county had a problem of this long hours of load shedding. And we didn’t have choice that time. Setting up generator is costly and also not environmental friendly. That is why we use solar power for all our lights, computer and printers. Even small machineries and electric tools are also used by that power back up. Currently we have 5KVA solar electricity power. Only big capacity machines are operated by AC electricity.


To be very honest, when we started the production, we used to burn firewood to boil water. Because we consume lot of hot water in our production.  During peak season and when we have overtime production, we used to spend almost US $400-$450/month just for buying firewood. There used to be huge pile of firewood stock. This had made me really worried and could not keep on watching that stock occupying space. I can imagine how many trees will be that. On other hand, while my workers start to put on fire, they use to put some plastics and rubber sometime. This creates very bad smells and smoke. I was very much worried and also had to have complains few times. Then just to solve this issue permanently, I replaced this by electric heat pump. Then supply of hot water and cold water was manage to each working table. Problem solved. No more smoke, no more smells and no complains. Surprisingly, the best thing is I saved lots of cost. Because, I used to spend more money on transportation of getting firewood, load-unload, labour charge and electricity charge on cutting the firewood into pieces. One labour cost for supervising of burning stove with firewood. All those issues are gone. I invest US $ 4600 on that heating system, but I saved cost like US $300/month. We have just US $ 80/month cost increase on electricity. I got my investment return within 15 months time. So, this has made me so excited. While I am thinking of environment, in return I got more and lot of saving in my business.

In August 2022, when I got a chance to take workshop classes on Green Skills taken by Raquel Noboa and Patrick Flanagan in Kathmandu. I came to know what does that mean. And how important it is to make our business with Green Skills. After that I reuse our suede leather sole wastage for size tags/labels. I offer to some of my customer using these residual instead of fresh skin leather. Explain them to be part of this sustainability and cost saving. Now we are not throwing our wastages and left over cut piece of those suede leather. But we are using them for size tags and also planning to use key rings. We do not use plastic bags anymore for packing slippers.

We have also installed the water recycling plant where we can use soap water again for gardening and cleaning. We still need to work and improve on that. Because the result outcome is not as per our expectation. But we are hopeful that this will be done.

We have consumption of lot of water (around 2000 lit/day in peak season). To solve this, we have arrangement of rain water/roof water collection of 30,000 lit tank. This has helped us to save the cost of water up to six months during rainy season. Alternatively, we also have underground water source/well that we use during dry season. So at least for six months, there will be no water tanker coming to our factory. That means no diesel consumption and no carbon emission from tanker because of our production.

Even on last Women’s Day celebration, with collaboration of two different INGO “Days for Girls” and “Sano Koseli” we organize small program and distribute free re-usable sanitary pads to all our female workers. So, they don’t have to buy disposable sanitary which sometime is also a problem for us to manage. We hope this will save their cost and also will be less impact to environment. So, we are on the way in whatever effort we can do to have less impact on environment.


💡 How does your business benefit people in particular your local community?

Basically my business has help the women living nearby and surrounding getting the employment opportunity. They are now capable of making money and support their family on earning. Last year we are able to give direct employment around 100 girls/ladies. As we don’t have compulsory requirement of education and experience, even illiterate women and unskilled workers can also get job. We give free training and 3 months’ full salary even on probation period. After 3-month period every employee get other social benefits as old staff/worker. Besides Salary and other benefits, we also pay school fees of maximum 2 kids of our workers. We pay US $8 per kid per month. This may be not sufficient if consider to private boarding school, but some support so that parents are motivated to send their kids to school. We have worker with hearing impaired and short heighted working with us. The concept is every individual has right to get job and work despite some kind of disabilities. We believe inclusive work place. If small change from our side can impact the society, why not to think about it. We give preference to single mother, women from marginalized community and those who have less opportunity in labour market.


💡 What would your main piece of advice be for other people looking to start projects/businesses to protect people or the planet?

I would suggest that whenever someone wants to start any projects/business, first of all one must think responsibly and be responsible towards the society, community and environment and nature. If we are concern about environmental impact from the business we are doing, this will definitely in return give more saving and of course good branding and recognition.  We have to think sustainability on our business. The world current demands are for Green Products and service. We have to be very careful with the whole supply chain is under Green Skills/jobs or not. Even if we can’t do everything instantly, but slowly step by step we have to implement those sustainability issues, recycling and reusing concepts. This will sure help to protect our green planet and increase the value of company.


💡 What gives you hope?

We all human being in the world want to be happier and healthy person. No doubt. We all love greenery and nature. But somehow we are not very aware about what efforts from every individual can do to make this earth green. As me myself got more knowledge about the Green Skills from workshop and training, this is for sure other will also take actions to save the impacts on environment after getting knowledge about this. When one will understand the value of Green Skills and came to know what sort of savings can be done on business, everybody will accept this and go for it. Sooner or later, we all have to go for it. No choice.  That is why I am so hopeful that every daily activity we are doing will be to save our planet and nature beauty.

Thank you, Anup and the team, at Comfort Felt for your time and insight. We wish you the absolute best with your efforts and thank you for leading the way in positive change.

You can find out more about Comfort Felt -  Comfort Felt & Craft Pvt. Ltdon social media.

If you want to follow Our Year of Hope series sign up to our blog HERE

And if you want to learn more about sustainability for your personal life or for your workplace/ career please book a discovery call with one of our experts HERE 

Thank you for reading today.

The FSG Team. 💚


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