Mushrooms, coffee and climate change: neubau eyewear met up with sustainable entrepreneurs Hut & Stiel
neubau eyewear interviews Austrian zero-waste company Hut & Stiel on how they came to pioneer a local movement.
Most of us know the basic facts of climate change; we’re aware now of its process and of our (major) role instigating its acceleratory force. One of the biggest factors pulling us deeper into this climate crisis comes from food waste. According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, “30 percent of food is wasted globally across the supply chain, contributing to 8 percent of total global greenhouse gas emissions.” In fact, “if food waste were a country, it would come in third after the United States and China in terms of its impact on global warming”. But, there is hope: We can work towards change on a local level, as Vienna-based Hut & Stiel have proven.
Vienna is one of the most sustainable cities in Europe, ranking fifth among one hundred others. The city is made up of 23 distinct districts, all of which have been structured to support & maintain their natural environment. Each neighborhood plays host to a variety of urban parks, community gardens, ethical clothing stores & organic co-ops. The 7th district, Neubau, of which we’ve paid homage to by name, is arguably one of the most distinguishably eco-focused. Street art promoting eco-activism lines the walls, art galleries boast progressive imagery and 3rd wave coffee houses literally keep the locals going.
There are many thriving sustainable businesses in Vienna, but Neubau offers a particularly fertile ground for innovative & sustainable ideas. As the makers of Hut & Stiel described to us, neubau is a “creative hub where innovators meet other creatives, to share & discuss their visions & ideas” without judgment.
Beginning as a simple yet impassioned conversation between friends, Hut & Stiel, a zero waste company based in Vienna, has now evolved into a distinguished business. After attending a compelling university seminar on sustainable business, Manuel Bornbaum & Florian Hofer felt impassioned to build one of their own. They looked to their professors for inspiration – those who emphasized the necessities of building, designing and contributing to a sustainable future and decided to put their heads together, using whatever they had available. The result? A self-sufficient, environmentally conscious and overall, accessible business.
As they had made their base ‘the city of coffee culture’, it was only natural that the pair would gravitate towards coffee as a key ingredient for an evolving business. Perhaps less obvious, was their decision to grow mushrooms, using the coffee as compost. Delicious, healthy, relatively self-sufficient and affordable, mushrooms & coffee were the perfect combination to form the locally produced, sustainable business that is Hut & Stiel.
We spoke to this hard-working duo to learn more about this and the ways in which we can all help to create a more sustainable future.
How was Hut & Stiel born and what were the struggles you had to overcome to get to where you are today?
Hut & Stiel was born in and after a University Seminar called “Garage” which was supposed to bring together students from different disciplines in order to create sustainable business ideas. The idea of growing mushrooms on coffee grounds unfortunately wasn’t developed by us, but there was nobody doing it in the german speaking countries so we were hooked by the idea of founding a Coffee-Mushroom judgment in Vienna, the city of coffee house culture.
So after a one year period of planning the two of us finally made the decision that we really want to try this crazy idea in real life (this was 2015) and started finding a right place for it. Looking backjudgment finding the right place was also the hardest part of all, nobody wanted to have two mushroom growing students in their basements. So in the end we had to rent a pretty messed up place and were forced to invest a lot of time and money towards renovation until we finally were able to actually “Start-Up”.
Since starting your business, how have you changed to have a more sustainable approach in your day to day?
I’d say we’ve already had a sustainable lifestyle before we founded Hut & Stiel, especially concerning food. Our whole team is aware of the resource consuming and environmentally unfriendly practices especially in big scale agriculture and with Hut & Stiel we want to try out something completely new and show the world (or at least Austria) that it’s possible to really change something – even as a small grassroots movement/company. Since we’ve had Hut & Stiel we for sure have entered into some kind of “sustainability and food bubble” which led to an even more sustainable lifestyle, simply because we met so many other interesting people with great projects. Also, all of our vegetable kitchen waste is now eaten by worms in our stylish wormbox from www.wurmkiste.at now. That’s one good day to day life example!
If there were no financial limits, what steps would you take to get your ideas to the next level?
We would spend lots of money on raising awareness on sustainable food, not only mushrooms, to really create a massive impact by reducing the CO2 output by a switch in the eating habits of the people. We would start projects and programs with schools and universities and we maybe would develop a kind of franchise system teaching other people in other cities on how to grow mushrooms by using coffee grounds and spreading our story around the globe.
How can we city-dwellers grow closer to nature?
That’s a good one. I think in Vienna just as in every other city in Austria we are really lucky. We have pure nature (eg. Lainzer Tiergarten or Nationalpark Donauauen) within less than 45 minutes from the city center. So, we have the possibility to spend time in nature every day if we want. I think if we really want to grow closer to nature we have to dramatically change our everyday life habits: reduce work & screen time, including mobile phones, and just slow down in general. Just by doing this, we can come into closer contact with nature without actually doing anything directly!
Find out more about Hut & Stiel in our collaborative video portraying their wonderful work