There is no better way to be inspired to go waste-free than by meeting the people who have done it already. This week I got to interview Susan Roßner, an employee at the University of Konstanz who also runs the website monomeer, an online shop that focuses on selling plastic-free and reduced packaging products. She has lived a plastic-free life herself for years, and with her website is educating and inspiring many others around Germany and beyond to do the same!
Below are the questions I asked about her plastic-free life and business:
1) Tell me a bit about yourself.
I am living in Konstanz, but am originally from Saxony. I studied history.
2) What made you want to start your website monomeer? How did you come up with the idea?
When I started living plastic-free myelf, I noticed that that is not quite easy. It was hard to find plastic-free alternatives, and if I found something, I didn’t know how to make sure that they actually were plastic-free (and didn't contain any hidden plastic), that they weren't wrapped in plastic and, if it was a webshop where I had found the product, that the delivery would be plastic-free as well. The idea came quite quickly that this lengthy research and shopping process could be made much easier - with a shop especially for plastic-free products.
3) When did you become conscious about environmental issues, plastic, producing less waste etc.?
I decided to go plastic-free when I saw the movie "Plastic Planet" by Austrian filmmaker Werner Boote. Before that, I didn't care too much about plastic, although I had always been a bit "green", starting even in childhood when I gestured at car drivers at closed railway crossings to turn off their cars while waiting for the train to pass. They must have thought I was nuts, I guess. Later on - we're in my early thirties now - I remember that it became important for me to not buy any cosmetics with mineral oil in them. I think that for me, going plastic-free is also part of a process in which I developed strong anti-consumerist views.
4) How do you source your products? Do you test them all yourself beforehand?
I do a lot of internet research and visit trade fairs. I find products in magazines, or monomeer customers or the makers of such products approach me. I test most of the products, yes.
5) What is your favourite product that you sell?
I really do love the Organic Essence deodorants, an American product that comes to me through Hemant, my wholesale dealer from London! I love the deodorants because they work and because they have a smart paper packaging.
6) How do you minimise packaging for posting your products? And where do you post to?
I post mainly to Germany and Austria but have also shipped upon request to several other European countries and even the U.S. I try to minimise packaging by having in stock lots of different sizes of packages - more than the average webshop, I think. This way, I pack products into suitable boxes and need less filling material. In the future, I plan on using used boxes and filling material, at least upon customer request.
7) What are your best tips for going waste-free? And favourite places to shop local to you? (if not online!)
There are some very easy things that anyone can do: Use a piece of soap instead of shower gel, buy milk in bottles and don't buy plastic water bottles any more. You won't miss anything if you do that but can reduce your plastic waste significantly. I love to shop at the farmers market, but apart from that, there aren't as many alternative shops with less packaging in Konstanz. I buy refillable cleaning stuff at Farben Gradmann and refillable "Vergorener Most" at Fuchshof in Litzelstetten - they also have Schnapps. Otherwise, I seize my chance when I am in cities with an unpackaged-store like Berlin and buy Gummibärchen and the occasional refillable bottle of gin and vodka there ;)
8) Do you have any success stories where you feel like you have impacted other people's lives, made them more aware of the plastic problem, encouraged others to move away from the throwaway lifestyle?
Most people that I spend time with have become very aware of the fact how much plastic they use. They tend to apologize to me for their plastic waste although it is totally their decision. Also, I get a lot of positive feedback from customers. I think that in general, by shopping plastic-free easier, more people will be encouraged to try.
Thank you Susan for your business, and keep up the good work! I know I shall definitely be placing an order with you soon :-) Check out her online shop at www.monomeer.de for a range of plastic-free products!