After three weeks talking about the side effects of the conventional and fast fashion industry it’s time to take a break from the past. The future will be sustainable and all the (conscious) consumers out there have the power to make it happen. The first step into the right direction is to figure out what modern sustainable shopping means and how we can define and understand sustainable products. I am not an expert but I found one and got some very interesting ideas and shopping tips I want to share with you. Here my interview with the CEO of Avocadostore.de – a marketplace offering sustainable alternatives for all conventional products, Mimi Sewalski.
Transparent and sustainable production is still a niche sector. Nevertheless at Avocadostore.de you are offering a wide range of products. Is it difficult to find items for your store? Compared to the beginnings five years ago, has it become easier?
Mimi: When Avocadostore.de launched in early 2010, a young designer scene just started to develop. These designers created and produced unique and sustainable products in places like Munich, Berlin, Hamburg or Düsseldorf. They were mostly unknown but Avocadostore.de gave them a market place five years ago and made them visible and accessible to a large clientele. This was pioneering work and certainly much more difficult than today.
Today it is definitely easier, because we present more than 400 retailers from across Europe and offer our customers more than 80,000 sustainable products from all areas. Looking at these numbers alone it is clear that a lot has changed in our market. There are more and more manufacturers and designers who develop sustainable products that are characterised by style, innovation and quality.
Many people believe that they shop consciously when the products they buy have certificates or do not come from factories in Asia. At Avocadostore.de you have a closer look at your products. What is your idea of conscious consumerism?
Mimi: For us it’s a holistic and transparent approach. Products can be sustainable in several ways. To make this more clear, we have established ten criteria of sustainability, each product that we sell, must meet at least two of them. The most common criteria include “resource friendly production process”, “organic raw materials”, “fair & social production”, “cradle to cradle”, “recyclable or recycled.”
For each product on our site we illustrate which criteria was fulfilled. That way the costumer can orient himself. And of course, we also point to the certificates such as the textile seals GOTS or IVN. And most importantly: Every customer can ask questions on our side about the products and post criticism. With this transparency, we want to discuss the concept of sustainability and make it more tangible.
Are there still misconceptions for example that “Made in China” immediately means cheap labour and the exploitation of workers?
Mimi: Yes, there are. For example, some consumers still think “green”, “fair” and “eco” mean wool sweaters, sandals and cereals. But that’s exactly not the case anymore. Today, “Green & Co” mostly stand for modern design, fair production, good quality, not using synthetic chemicals in the production, smart management and sometimes even for alternative economic concepts.
And it’s a myth that organic products are always expensive. We offer the 3-pack basic T-shirts for 28.90 euros, baby bodysuits are available from 3.90 euros. That is not expensive. Many spend much more money on designer clothes “Made in China”. So why not spend money on a product that is fair produced? We hope that more people instead of asking “Why are organic products expensive?” change their perspective and ask “Why are conventional products so cheap?”.
And of course, sustainable products often are of better quality, a sustainable value chain protects the environment and sustainable consumerism is no longer a sacrifice but real fun.
Let’s do a little experiment: I have just discovered Avocadostore.de on the internet and decided to start shopping sustainable and environmental friendly. What would be the three products I should have a closer look at and why?
Mimi: I would recommend you three products from very different areas.
Firstly, I would recommend a textile basic, such as a plain, white T-shirt made from organic cotton. Here you have the direct comparison to conventional textiles and you’ll soon notice that organic cotton textiles are of great quality, last longer and are not much more expensive than normal T-shirts. Perhaps this will inspire you to shop more clothes from fair and ecological production.
Then I would recommend a to-go cup. Why? It’s an in-expensive product, which can be integrated perfectly into everyday life and can have a great impact. Every day, millions to-go coffees are purchased around the world and each of them comes in a paper cup, which is thrown away afterwards. The result is piles of paper and plastic waste. With a to-go cup made of bioplastic, glass or ceramics it’s possible to avoid these piles of waste. Caring around such a reusable cup is not creating much of an inconvenience either. Nice side effect: It already happened to me, that my coffee shops gave me my coffee for free, because they found the idea super cool.
The final product, which I would recommend, is a mouse made of bamboo. It is a perfect example of what ecological design can do: It shows that there are alternatives and at the same time it is great fun to use them.