Kaffeeform: Combining the science of sustainability with the aesthetic longevity of good design
We had the chance to learn more about the innovative team behind sustainable start-up, Kaffeeform, and how we can all look toward a greener future.
It goes without saying that the restaurants and cafés that we frequently visit are responsible for a large amount of food waste. Despite there being an effort within the industry to change this, it seems to have come down to those who are not directly involved in gastronomy to lead the way with a design-first approach.
Based in Berlin, sustainability start-up Kaffeeform used the problem of environmentally harmful takeaway coffee cups as a springboard for their reusable coffee mug that is ingeniously made from coffee grounds.
Meet the designer, Julian Lechner, who asked the simple but important question; what happens to used coffee grounds?
It turns out that we actually waste over 80 million kilos per day. Lechner evaluated and experimented with this natural, raw material and learned that when combined with other biodegradable materials, it can be an environmentally friendly material alternative for fossil-based raw materials.
We got the chance to chat with the man behind the team, Julian, and ask the questions we’ve long been pondering.
You’re a prime example of how designers can play an immense role in our industries’ ecological evolution. How can design truly change the world? How can environmentally conscious product design shape our future relationship to consumption?
We believe that sustainability and design go hand in hand, and in these times there really isn’t room for a product or design in general that does not consider any environmental or sustainable aspects. Design can pave the way for sustainability into people’s daily life. We want to show that a sustainable product can be well designed, aesthetically and practically, and then inspire people to rethink the way we consume and the way we use our resources. We use a resource that would otherwise go to waste, and we’ve found a way to create something new out of it – the circular idea of reuse and repurpose is at the core of our business. Our material is based on renewable and recycled materials only, yet still very durable, and will last for a long time — basically, it keeps the customer happy!
As we are all, in one way or another, part of the cycle of consumption — from food to clothing and entertainment, how do you feel your perspective on what being a consumer means has altered since launching this project?
Since launching Kaffeeform, I’ve started to watch and critically review my consumer behavior with more intensity and now I have this altered perspective on resources. It had an impact on how I shop, eat, travel and live in general. I embrace reusing and recycling and am critical about what I really need, where I buy and try to live as close to nature as possible. Naturally, this sounds very idealistic, and no one is perfect and it is necessary and ok to compromise, but it’s a natural process and journey I find myself on.
When did you first start to learn about sustainability or become aware of the issue?
There was no wake-up call moment or situation, but an increasing dissatisfaction with how we treat our planet – which I had long before the climate crisis and before the awareness of it spread out into the public domain.
I had begun reflecting on the lavish lifestyle of others and the number of resources used to uphold it. I realized, so much goes to waste that could still be eaten, used or repurposed. And the increasing global coffee consumption leaves so much coffee grounds that go to waste, realizing that, the initial idea to repurpose that alleged waste soon was born.
Do you think that it will be the trend of sustainability rather than the fact of the current global-environmental crisis that will end up enforcing tangible and long-lasting economic, political and cultural change?
Sustainability has become quite a trend, but we need to differentiate as trends come and go. There are companies, people and initiatives that really want change, want to make a difference based on the realization that we have to act as time is running out. We see an increasing number of great innovations, solutions, and initiatives coming from product design that really do make an impact and the demand is growing.
Unfortunately, this leads to many companies only using the name or concept of sustainability as a pure marketing tactic to increase short-term sales. But we believe in the critical consumer out there who is able to differentiate. Both the trend and the growing public awareness and pressure, especially from young people not willing to accept the lethargy and unwillingness of those in politics and our economy, will hopefully increase and result with tactically effective, long-lasting change.
And so, what is the future of Kaffeeform? What are your goals and how much further would you like to take this product?
We want to continue our mission to create long-lasting products that replace disposable cups and single-use products and be an inspiration for more sustainability in everyday lives. As Kaffeeform is not only the coffee cups but the innovative material, we are ever exploring new possibilities to create long-lasting, beautiful products out of it. We are thinking in the direction of furniture, accessories and much more. Exciting times are ahead, that’s for sure!