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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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. 

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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! 

11 Aug. 2019 · NEUBAU EYEWEAR
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