The world of ecochair

Behind the scenes at ecochair.ch. Our adventures, our successes and sometimes a few little disasters.  Plus lots of great ideas and tips for living a more sustainable life, through second-hand furniture and beyond.

Heart-shaped box of ... eco-home !

Posted by Carrie Aikman on

Love is in the air...or at least that's what all the hearts and flowers in advertisements would suggest. But a heart-shaped box of mystery chocolates for me? Nein, Danke! Rather, I'm totally obsessed with eco homes.

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Heart-shaped box of ... eco-home !

Posted by Carrie Aikman on

Love is in the air...or at least that's what all the hearts and flowers in advertisements would suggest. But a heart-shaped box of mystery chocolates for me? Nein, Danke! Rather, I'm totally obsessed with eco homes.

Read more


Boxology 101

Posted by Krisztina Bordacs on

or Learnings from trying to ship some chairs...

When I first got the job to find sustainable packaging for ecochair’s chairs, I thought easy-peasy - been there, done that, got the T-shirt. I started with my contacts at hand, as I have done similar work for Unilever and Samsung and started asking questions. And then I thought again, maybe not quite so easy...

For a company that is really working at the top of the waste management hierarchy, waste prevention… wait hang on... this is Boxology 101 so let’s take a step back: let me explain the waste hierarchy first, shall I?

The waste hierarchy promotes waste elimination and reduction, before recycling and disposal options are considered, as show in the picture below.

 

Since re-use is the second-best option, the first call I made was to the company in the UK, Sadlers – a company we had used for my past clients. They take boxes that have been used once and find other companies who could use those same boxes, and sell them cheaper than the new market price. The seller gets a rebate, the buyer gets cheaper packaging, thus creating a nice business model. Unfortunately, it is crystal clear that this model relies on matching the right size boxes for both companies. As you can imagine, finding the right size box for the 'average' chair is not that easy, and this option had to be eliminated due to the lack of suitably sized boxes.

Could we even describe the 'average' chair and the 'right' size box? I pride myself being an engineer and can visualise things, but in the end, it came down to playing Tetris with some chairs in a real-life situation. We had a helluva time with that task. As happened, ecochair had to ship two chairs, and I had just received a new BBQ grill for my home at the same time...... Do not underestimate two crazy sustainability professionals with a BBQ grill box, two chairs, big scissors and tape in hand... We learned a lot in the process, most importantly found the 'right' size for two chairs. And the result was a good shipping experience. We also had a similarly good experience with dog food delivery boxes for a single chair. There seems to be a continuing supply of those, thanks to my two doggies. Woo hoo, re-use at its best. And, unlike Sadlers, we had the required sized boxes available!

Now, we also had a visual clarification of size and experience in real packaging. Which led us to the next option - recycled boxes, more accurately boxes made of recycled cardboard. And we spent days and days talking with suppliers....... Well, actually me talking and suppliers gently declining to offer. And that is our second learning - size matters, and we are not talking about box size either, but order and company size. The mantra was 'call us again when you are ready to order hundreds or thousands of boxes'. Well, in the future hopefully.

But that did not leave us with a workable solution - there is a limit to how many dog food or BBQ grill boxes we could get, and we needed a scalable model. The third learning for us is: never say never. We all love to hate Amazon, me in particular with their unsustainable packaging method of using at least three different layers of packaging, and typically significantly oversized boxes! I keep complaining to them but...... this might be another nice blog for the future. However, we found that Amazon and its marketplace does have is an affordable supply of the 'right' sized boxes.

So, it seems for the foreseeable future when we run out of BBQ grill boxes, we have a potential supply of sustainable packaging boxes at sustainable prices (which is also part of the sustainable business model!) – albeit not from a ‘thought leader’ in sustainable packaging. Who would have thought?

Interestingly, while I was chasing after packaging suppliers, we also learned that you can actually ship completely unpackaged items with Swiss Post as ‘bulky goods’. This is right at the top of the waste hierarchy, though we need to make sure the items are protected. We’ve also been testing options with this, much to the amusement of the local postman.

Anyway, I’m now on to hunting down sustainable packing tape, and eco-friendly cushion filler. Future update: Boxology 102.

Krisztina

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Boxology 101

Posted by Krisztina Bordacs on

or Learnings from trying to ship some chairs...

When I first got the job to find sustainable packaging for ecochair’s chairs, I thought easy-peasy - been there, done that, got the T-shirt. I started with my contacts at hand, as I have done similar work for Unilever and Samsung and started asking questions. And then I thought again, maybe not quite so easy...

For a company that is really working at the top of the waste management hierarchy, waste prevention… wait hang on... this is Boxology 101 so let’s take a step back: let me explain the waste hierarchy first, shall I?

The waste hierarchy promotes waste elimination and reduction, before recycling and disposal options are considered, as show in the picture below.

 

Since re-use is the second-best option, the first call I made was to the company in the UK, Sadlers – a company we had used for my past clients. They take boxes that have been used once and find other companies who could use those same boxes, and sell them cheaper than the new market price. The seller gets a rebate, the buyer gets cheaper packaging, thus creating a nice business model. Unfortunately, it is crystal clear that this model relies on matching the right size boxes for both companies. As you can imagine, finding the right size box for the 'average' chair is not that easy, and this option had to be eliminated due to the lack of suitably sized boxes.

Could we even describe the 'average' chair and the 'right' size box? I pride myself being an engineer and can visualise things, but in the end, it came down to playing Tetris with some chairs in a real-life situation. We had a helluva time with that task. As happened, ecochair had to ship two chairs, and I had just received a new BBQ grill for my home at the same time...... Do not underestimate two crazy sustainability professionals with a BBQ grill box, two chairs, big scissors and tape in hand... We learned a lot in the process, most importantly found the 'right' size for two chairs. And the result was a good shipping experience. We also had a similarly good experience with dog food delivery boxes for a single chair. There seems to be a continuing supply of those, thanks to my two doggies. Woo hoo, re-use at its best. And, unlike Sadlers, we had the required sized boxes available!

Now, we also had a visual clarification of size and experience in real packaging. Which led us to the next option - recycled boxes, more accurately boxes made of recycled cardboard. And we spent days and days talking with suppliers....... Well, actually me talking and suppliers gently declining to offer. And that is our second learning - size matters, and we are not talking about box size either, but order and company size. The mantra was 'call us again when you are ready to order hundreds or thousands of boxes'. Well, in the future hopefully.

But that did not leave us with a workable solution - there is a limit to how many dog food or BBQ grill boxes we could get, and we needed a scalable model. The third learning for us is: never say never. We all love to hate Amazon, me in particular with their unsustainable packaging method of using at least three different layers of packaging, and typically significantly oversized boxes! I keep complaining to them but...... this might be another nice blog for the future. However, we found that Amazon and its marketplace does have is an affordable supply of the 'right' sized boxes.

So, it seems for the foreseeable future when we run out of BBQ grill boxes, we have a potential supply of sustainable packaging boxes at sustainable prices (which is also part of the sustainable business model!) – albeit not from a ‘thought leader’ in sustainable packaging. Who would have thought?

Interestingly, while I was chasing after packaging suppliers, we also learned that you can actually ship completely unpackaged items with Swiss Post as ‘bulky goods’. This is right at the top of the waste hierarchy, though we need to make sure the items are protected. We’ve also been testing options with this, much to the amusement of the local postman.

Anyway, I’m now on to hunting down sustainable packing tape, and eco-friendly cushion filler. Future update: Boxology 102.

Krisztina

Read more


Happy (sustainable) Holidays! A few low-impact gift ideas

Posted by Kathleen Bottriell on

Hello elves,

It’s that time of the year where we all wrap ourselves up warmly, and slog through the dark mornings. The anticipation of the Christmas break glows like a light at the end of the tunnel, getting us through the mad rush to finish an endless to do list before the end of the year.

I have warm childhood memories of getting up at dawn on Christmas morning to see what Santa had brought us and tearing through wrapping paper to uncover coveted toys. I remember being so disappointed, one year I really wanted a guitar - but my parents borrowed one and gave me a voucher for lessons as a gift. In retrospect I know what a horrible teenager I was, and how sensible my parents were, as the guitar was soon returned after I lost interest. What a waste it would have been if they had bought me a new one (you can read about Gibson guitar’s troubles with illegal tropical logging).

British journalist George Monbiot has written about the environmental problem with Christmas gifts, and gives a shocking statistic that of all materials flowing through the consumer economy, only 1% remain in use six months after sale. Seriously. Put down the solar-powered-waving-queen and think about that one for a minute. It is estimated that households in the UK to produce approximately 750,000 tonnes of extra waste at Christmas time, generating 1.4 million tonnes of CO2 in total.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a grinch. I love cheesy Christmas music, I love decorating the Christmas tree, stuffing my face with shortbread cookies and rolling my eyes at the awkward family games. But I do not love Christmas gifts. In fact, my husband and I decided a few years ago not to do Christmas gifts anymore. But, for the rest of the family, we still do, and here are some of our best (low impact) ideas:

  1. Excursions and experiences, like going for dinner, spa vouchers, wine tasting, going for a hike…and for your nearest and dearest, including time spent together with you. It doesn’t have to be an official voucher, or even an activity that you have to pay for. Sole Uno, in Rheinfelden, is my go-to gift voucher, and floating in the darkened salt pool is the perfect post-holiday recovery activity.
  2. Food, especially if you are travelling to visit people for the holidays, bring something unique (for example, my mother asked for Ovalmaltine, even though you can get the same thing in Canada, but it’s called Ovaltine there). Of course, there is some impact still involved with food, but it’ still much better than a novelty gift that is never used.
  3. Drinks, like a local wine or set of their favourite mixed drink (think boutique gin, fancy tonic) – and assemble the set yourself (don’t buy the kits in the box, that just makes more packaging waste). Have a look at Sustainable Spirits, which use eco-Pouches, 2.8L poly-laminate pouches which can be used to refill our beautiful silk-screen printed “bottles-for-life”. You can supplement this with beautiful vintage drink glasses you found in the local thrift store.
  4. Donations to charity. I recieved a virtual family of ducks a few years ago, as part of the Oxfam Unwrapped They also have vouchers to support education, women’s empowerment, inequality, children and so on, so you can match this to your recipient’s interests. Just don’t donate on their behalf to ‘The Human Fund’ please!
  5. Something upcycled. We’ve got a few options in our webshop, like this unique wine holder, or vase (both made from old wine barrels), or these wine bottle glasses / tea light holders. For someone really special on your list, you can combine an experience with upcycling: we recommend the Vintage Letters atelier in Basel (the friendly owner will work with you to create an LED-illuminated word of your choice), or Kyburz made, where you can pick the wood they use to create custom furniture from old pallets.
  6. Second-hand. This could be anything – toys, books, kitchen appliances, bicycles, jewellery – you name it, you can find it second-hand. Use the opportunity to explain why you are giving second-hand gifts and if you got it somewhere interesting (like a vintage store, or an antiques) market, tell them the story of how you found it as part of the gift. And finally, if you know someone who wants second-hand or vintage chairs for Christmas, you know where to find us!

We wish you very happy holidays, wherever you are, whatever you celebrate, and we look forward to seeing you in 2019.

Kate and the ecochair.ch team

Read more

Happy (sustainable) Holidays! A few low-impact gift ideas

Posted by Kathleen Bottriell on

Hello elves,

It’s that time of the year where we all wrap ourselves up warmly, and slog through the dark mornings. The anticipation of the Christmas break glows like a light at the end of the tunnel, getting us through the mad rush to finish an endless to do list before the end of the year.

I have warm childhood memories of getting up at dawn on Christmas morning to see what Santa had brought us and tearing through wrapping paper to uncover coveted toys. I remember being so disappointed, one year I really wanted a guitar - but my parents borrowed one and gave me a voucher for lessons as a gift. In retrospect I know what a horrible teenager I was, and how sensible my parents were, as the guitar was soon returned after I lost interest. What a waste it would have been if they had bought me a new one (you can read about Gibson guitar’s troubles with illegal tropical logging).

British journalist George Monbiot has written about the environmental problem with Christmas gifts, and gives a shocking statistic that of all materials flowing through the consumer economy, only 1% remain in use six months after sale. Seriously. Put down the solar-powered-waving-queen and think about that one for a minute. It is estimated that households in the UK to produce approximately 750,000 tonnes of extra waste at Christmas time, generating 1.4 million tonnes of CO2 in total.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a grinch. I love cheesy Christmas music, I love decorating the Christmas tree, stuffing my face with shortbread cookies and rolling my eyes at the awkward family games. But I do not love Christmas gifts. In fact, my husband and I decided a few years ago not to do Christmas gifts anymore. But, for the rest of the family, we still do, and here are some of our best (low impact) ideas:

  1. Excursions and experiences, like going for dinner, spa vouchers, wine tasting, going for a hike…and for your nearest and dearest, including time spent together with you. It doesn’t have to be an official voucher, or even an activity that you have to pay for. Sole Uno, in Rheinfelden, is my go-to gift voucher, and floating in the darkened salt pool is the perfect post-holiday recovery activity.
  2. Food, especially if you are travelling to visit people for the holidays, bring something unique (for example, my mother asked for Ovalmaltine, even though you can get the same thing in Canada, but it’s called Ovaltine there). Of course, there is some impact still involved with food, but it’ still much better than a novelty gift that is never used.
  3. Drinks, like a local wine or set of their favourite mixed drink (think boutique gin, fancy tonic) – and assemble the set yourself (don’t buy the kits in the box, that just makes more packaging waste). Have a look at Sustainable Spirits, which use eco-Pouches, 2.8L poly-laminate pouches which can be used to refill our beautiful silk-screen printed “bottles-for-life”. You can supplement this with beautiful vintage drink glasses you found in the local thrift store.
  4. Donations to charity. I recieved a virtual family of ducks a few years ago, as part of the Oxfam Unwrapped They also have vouchers to support education, women’s empowerment, inequality, children and so on, so you can match this to your recipient’s interests. Just don’t donate on their behalf to ‘The Human Fund’ please!
  5. Something upcycled. We’ve got a few options in our webshop, like this unique wine holder, or vase (both made from old wine barrels), or these wine bottle glasses / tea light holders. For someone really special on your list, you can combine an experience with upcycling: we recommend the Vintage Letters atelier in Basel (the friendly owner will work with you to create an LED-illuminated word of your choice), or Kyburz made, where you can pick the wood they use to create custom furniture from old pallets.
  6. Second-hand. This could be anything – toys, books, kitchen appliances, bicycles, jewellery – you name it, you can find it second-hand. Use the opportunity to explain why you are giving second-hand gifts and if you got it somewhere interesting (like a vintage store, or an antiques) market, tell them the story of how you found it as part of the gift. And finally, if you know someone who wants second-hand or vintage chairs for Christmas, you know where to find us!

We wish you very happy holidays, wherever you are, whatever you celebrate, and we look forward to seeing you in 2019.

Kate and the ecochair.ch team

Read more


Think global, act local - a few tips

Posted by Kathleen Bottriell on

It's that time of year again, when I head off to Asia for an annual conference on palm oil. That's right, in addition to my work with ecochair, I have a secret life as a sustainability consultant. I've been going to these conferences on and off for close to a decade, and I am always impressed by the number of passionate people working tirelessly, year after year, to solve some of the biggest challenges facing our planet.

However, these days, I feel much more passionate about having an impact where I live, here in the Basel area. The phrase 'think global, act local' has been widely used since the 1970s, and really resonates with me these days. Making good, ecologically responsible choices here, where we live, is as important as working on far-away projects.

There are really simple things you can do every day through your buying habits that will have ripple effects back to the countries where many of the raw materials are grown, mined and extracted and in the world's oceans. Here are some ideas:

1. Never use a plastic bag. If you are getting take-away food, in a little corner shop, or are on holiday somewhere, just tell them you don't want a bag. There are so many options for beautiful, foldable bags these days, there is no excuse.

2. Skip the straw. Unless your jaw is wired shut or you've just had your wisom teeth pulled, you actually don't need that little piece of plastic to consume your drink. After all, humans have consumed beverages for hundreds of thousands of years without the plastic straw (which was only invented in the 1960s, though earlier versions were made from paper, plant tubes and precious metals).

3. Check where your precious metals and diamonds come from. Mining can be have a really negative environmental impact, not to mention slave and child labour that is known to occur, and fund wars. If you want to learn more about work being done in this area, check out the Responsible Jewellery Council,  the Conflict-free Gold Standard and the Kimberly Process.

4. Eat less meat and cheese. Ok, this one's a bit controversial, but all the studies we are seeing these days suggest that reducing meat and dairy products is the single biggest way to reduce your environmental impact on the planet. According to the largest study to date, published in 2018, livestock produces only 18% of calories but takes up 83% of farmland. Apparently reducing these has a far bigger impact than even cutting down on your flights. Start with little steps, like choosing a veggie option at lunch once a week.

5. Resist the temptation to get a new phone every two years. e-waste is a huge problem, not to mention the mining of the rare earth minerals used in the electronics (see above). Try to squeeze out another year, and make sure you take your old phone to be recycled back where you bought. Check out digitech.ch secondhand and refurbished options, instead of buying new!

6. Buy secondhand furniture! We've just launched our map of local secondhand furniture shops, so in addition to ecochair.chh, you can go visit the shops in your neighbourhood.

7. Repair and upcycle what you have. Got a scratch on your table, or waterspots on wood furniture? We'd be happy to give you tips on how to get in looking like new, or even recommend local services for re-painting and upholstery.

That's a few tips to get you started! Do you have more ideas? Let us know.

Now, I'm going to go sleep off my jet lag and count up how much my carbon offset for my flight to Asia will cost. And maybe next year, I will stay here instead.

Kate

 

Read more

Think global, act local - a few tips

Posted by Kathleen Bottriell on

It's that time of year again, when I head off to Asia for an annual conference on palm oil. That's right, in addition to my work with ecochair, I have a secret life as a sustainability consultant. I've been going to these conferences on and off for close to a decade, and I am always impressed by the number of passionate people working tirelessly, year after year, to solve some of the biggest challenges facing our planet.

However, these days, I feel much more passionate about having an impact where I live, here in the Basel area. The phrase 'think global, act local' has been widely used since the 1970s, and really resonates with me these days. Making good, ecologically responsible choices here, where we live, is as important as working on far-away projects.

There are really simple things you can do every day through your buying habits that will have ripple effects back to the countries where many of the raw materials are grown, mined and extracted and in the world's oceans. Here are some ideas:

1. Never use a plastic bag. If you are getting take-away food, in a little corner shop, or are on holiday somewhere, just tell them you don't want a bag. There are so many options for beautiful, foldable bags these days, there is no excuse.

2. Skip the straw. Unless your jaw is wired shut or you've just had your wisom teeth pulled, you actually don't need that little piece of plastic to consume your drink. After all, humans have consumed beverages for hundreds of thousands of years without the plastic straw (which was only invented in the 1960s, though earlier versions were made from paper, plant tubes and precious metals).

3. Check where your precious metals and diamonds come from. Mining can be have a really negative environmental impact, not to mention slave and child labour that is known to occur, and fund wars. If you want to learn more about work being done in this area, check out the Responsible Jewellery Council,  the Conflict-free Gold Standard and the Kimberly Process.

4. Eat less meat and cheese. Ok, this one's a bit controversial, but all the studies we are seeing these days suggest that reducing meat and dairy products is the single biggest way to reduce your environmental impact on the planet. According to the largest study to date, published in 2018, livestock produces only 18% of calories but takes up 83% of farmland. Apparently reducing these has a far bigger impact than even cutting down on your flights. Start with little steps, like choosing a veggie option at lunch once a week.

5. Resist the temptation to get a new phone every two years. e-waste is a huge problem, not to mention the mining of the rare earth minerals used in the electronics (see above). Try to squeeze out another year, and make sure you take your old phone to be recycled back where you bought. Check out digitech.ch secondhand and refurbished options, instead of buying new!

6. Buy secondhand furniture! We've just launched our map of local secondhand furniture shops, so in addition to ecochair.chh, you can go visit the shops in your neighbourhood.

7. Repair and upcycle what you have. Got a scratch on your table, or waterspots on wood furniture? We'd be happy to give you tips on how to get in looking like new, or even recommend local services for re-painting and upholstery.

That's a few tips to get you started! Do you have more ideas? Let us know.

Now, I'm going to go sleep off my jet lag and count up how much my carbon offset for my flight to Asia will cost. And maybe next year, I will stay here instead.

Kate

 

Read more


Summer is blazing - why not float down the Rhein and drop by our shop?

Posted by Kathleen Bottriell on

Hello furniture aficionados,

Summer is blazing away - the city is eerily quiet, except the Rhein, which is bursting with colourful swimbags and their owners (including me). Our shop is very close to the water (just up from Oetlingerstrasse buvette), so why not float all the way down and drop by? Just make sure you check our special summer hours >

Many of your are off in far-flung places on holiday (lucky you!), but we've been around most of the summer, and despite the lethargy-inducing heat, have been busy bees, connecting with old and new old friends around Basel.

One of these is Simone Aïda Baur, a talented Swiss interior designer, based in Basel & Zurich. We met her back in the early days of ecochair.ch at the Start-Up Academy, and this month we're excited to feature some of her insightful tips about moving home, on our blog >

We also had the pleasure of meeting Ken Bourson, who has designed very cool flower vases out of old wine barrels. We got chatting with him at a local flea market, and thought his upcycled product was really aligned with our ecochair.ch mission, so we've now got it in our webshop >

I've been planning a new look for the shop interior, and have been playing with some ideas for the website. But, it's too hot for me so I'm going to pour myself another G&T and wait for the cooler weather before I get to work ;)

Enjoy your summer, folks.

Kate and the ecochair.ch team

Read more

Summer is blazing - why not float down the Rhein and drop by our shop?

Posted by Kathleen Bottriell on

Hello furniture aficionados,

Summer is blazing away - the city is eerily quiet, except the Rhein, which is bursting with colourful swimbags and their owners (including me). Our shop is very close to the water (just up from Oetlingerstrasse buvette), so why not float all the way down and drop by? Just make sure you check our special summer hours >

Many of your are off in far-flung places on holiday (lucky you!), but we've been around most of the summer, and despite the lethargy-inducing heat, have been busy bees, connecting with old and new old friends around Basel.

One of these is Simone Aïda Baur, a talented Swiss interior designer, based in Basel & Zurich. We met her back in the early days of ecochair.ch at the Start-Up Academy, and this month we're excited to feature some of her insightful tips about moving home, on our blog >

We also had the pleasure of meeting Ken Bourson, who has designed very cool flower vases out of old wine barrels. We got chatting with him at a local flea market, and thought his upcycled product was really aligned with our ecochair.ch mission, so we've now got it in our webshop >

I've been planning a new look for the shop interior, and have been playing with some ideas for the website. But, it's too hot for me so I'm going to pour myself another G&T and wait for the cooler weather before I get to work ;)

Enjoy your summer, folks.

Kate and the ecochair.ch team

Read more