Zero waste business, a big statement, an ambition, a goal….and many question marks. At grünBAG zero waste is part of our DNA as we are founded based on the idea of using materials for our bags that otherwise would go to waste. Surplus materials from tarpaulin production, old liferafts, wasted sails and seatbelts – we see potential in materials, others would give to the trash. It’s the mindset we have for designing our products for you. But that is just the tip of the iceberg. We will take you on a journey through our everyday business life with having zero waste as our ambition at heart.
WHAT IS ZERO WASTE BUSINESS AS A CONCEPT?
Zero Waste International Alliance defines it as follows “Zero Waste means designing and managing products and processes to systematically avoid and eliminate the volume and toxicity of waste and materials, conserve and recover all resources, and not burn or bury them. Implementing Zero Waste will eliminate all discharges to land, water or air that are a threat to planetary, human, animal or plant health.”
In other words, in a world where consumption is growing, and resources are scarce and finite, we are looking for more circular ways of producing in which discarded materials become resources for others. And what does it take to get there? First and foremost change. Changing perspective, habits, and mindsets.
SO WHAT DO WE DO AT GRÜNBAG?
Partner – Keep your eyes open
As a zero-waste business, you don’t just look inward, you look beyond your own nose. But we don’t need to chase rainbows on the other side of the world. No, think local. Actually, it could just be your neighbouring business. Our neighbours at our headquarter close to Aarhus receive deliveries in large cartons, that don’t serve them another purpose. Hence, they’d just go to waste. We saw them waiting to be picked up, and didn’t wait long. Now we use some of them for our larger deliveries to our partners.
More Partners – Get creative
We might be already using mainly waste to produce our sustainable goodies, but we also have offcuts from our production. For instance, we use several discarded products from Viking Life-Saving Equipment such as their liferafts. Their old thermal insulating liners that are originally used in their protective suits on the open sea, get a second life as protectors of another kind – in the form of padding for our laptop sleeves and laptop inserts in our backpacks. While we cut as efficiently as we can, there are scrapes of this soft material that remain leftover. But they find a “third” purpose, as we donate them to a production school in Silkeborg 20 minutes west of Aarhus. Here pupils learn amongst other things design and sewing skills. They produce for instance pouffes that need to be stuffed with fabric. Yes, you got it – they use what we can’t use.
Of course, we cover our base – dividing trash is a given for us. That counts for our everyday garbage and production cut-offs. Our little Christmas hearts that we launched as a special edition Christmas 2019, were made from remains from our production, and handmade with zero waste love.
Educate & Inspire
Yes, zero-waste business is a mindset, but it doesn’t work just in your mind. It’s about talking about it, exchanging ideas, inspiring others, and creating new partnerships. Actually often it’s about shifting perspective and opening eyes. Honestly, we know it, waste doesn’t have the best connotation. But just because the material has no purpose for one person, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have another purpose for someone else. The challenge is to bring them together. Trust us, waste can be kind of cool. Today, we are not asking for material, people actually offer us their materials.
A big aspect of today’s economy is mass- and overproduction. While we always have a small stock on our shelves, we never produce massive amounts. Some of our backpacks like newly released products or bags made from discarded sails are truly based on on-demand production. That means, the bag is only hand-cut and sewed once the order is placed. Materials like sails are special, as they are so diverse and the stitching patterns and thickness vary a lot. For every product we need to assess the sails and find the right parts to use for the backpacks, so each one becomes a unique item with a beautiful pattern and with the quality to last for years.
We always try to find yet another purpose for the remaining waste that accrues. That doesn’t work in every case yet. But we believe zero waste, rather than being a rigid model, is a mindset and ambition. Our zero-waste mindset is the fuel that keeps us innovating, and we are constantly looking for new materials, partners, and ways to optimize.
We hope you enjoyed the look behind the grünBAG scenes and maybe you just got some inspiration to look at things differently yourself.
Do you have zero waste ideas you want to share with us? Please write us a comment below.