"Every decision we make has an impact."
Why did you start living a sustainable lifestyle?
That’s actually a tricky one to answer because it happened gradually over my lifetime and due to a combination of factors. I’ve always been an animal lover and was raised to be a fairly eco-conscious person, but it’s only in the past 5 years or so that environmental issues started to feel more urgent and personal to me. My biggest wake up call probably happened while traveling in Indonesia. I went to see semi-wild orangutans in the Indonesian part of Borneo, and while flying back out over the island, saw the massive amounts of deforestation that is absolutely destroying the natural habitat of those amazing creatures (not to mention all the other indigenous wildlife). I also saw a lot of trash in the ocean and on beaches, which horrified me. After that trip, I started thinking about why this is happening, and if there’s anything I can do to stop it. I realised that to stop this kind of environmental destruction, being a good citizen and recycling, as I had so dutifully learned to do during my upbringing in Switzerland, was just not enough. I realised that I also have to completely change the way I consume. The reason the Indonesian rainforest is being cut down is in order to grow palm oil, which is used in a range of low-cost, and frankly low-quality and unhealthy consumer goods, from food to cosmetics. Like many other people, I decided I no longer wanted to be part of the problem and would stop buying products that are directly responsible for the near-exinction of species and destruction of their habitat. And the more I learned, the more I realised it’s not just palm oil. Many, if not most of the products available in conventional shops are made in a way that endangers natural ecosystems, threatens the health of workers, as well as our own, and are therefore unsustainable. Aside from food, fashion is probably one oft the biggest culprits due to the massive amounts of land, water and pesticides needed to grow cotton and the inherent quantity over quality approach of the fast fashion industry.
It also occurred to me that the intensive use of natural resources that was leading to this natural destruction was also closely connected with other problems in the world, from social and health-related to political. Finding a more sustainable way to use resources seemed to be the most important mission for humanity, in terms of resolving ecological, social, political, economic and health-related problems and averting potential crises. When I discovered the concept of “sustainability,” it seemed to me to be the most logical and cohesive approach to a wide range of problems faced by life on our planet. I read the book “The Upcycle: Beyond Sustainability--Designing for Abundance” in 2013, and the idea of finding smarter ways to live that bring humanity back in harmony with nature, really appealed to me. I knew I wanted to be part of this movement, and felt that changing my own life, here in the city where I live, was the best way to start. I am a believer that you can’t really change people, but you can change yourself, and you can help others who want to make a change to take the first step.
Once I had that realization, I decided to try to find more sustainable alternatives for everything I consume. I felt that it would be hypocritical to complain about environmental destruction and then to go and consume products that caused it to happen. I no longer wanted to blame corporations or governments, but to also take some responsibility into my own hands. Changing my own life seemed like the most immediate, easiest and most honest way to start doing something about the problem. It’s not always easy, but seeing others were doing the same always motivates me to continue, because I believe that together we can make a huge change.
What is a sustainable lifestyle?
For me, a sustainable lifestyle is first and foremost about thinking about ourselves as part of a global ecosystem. Our political, economic and even cultural systems have become so intertwined that every decision we make has an impact - on animals, humans and entire ecosystems - on some other end of the planet. When it comes down to it, living a sustainable lifestyle is about joining a global mission to ensure our species’ continued survival on this planet. Sure, we might be able to live in a bubble on Mars some day, but for now this planet is all we have. A sustainable lifestyle aims to use precious life-giving natural resources, whether directly or indirectly, in such a way that does not cause the depletion, exploitation, pollution or destruction of our global resources and ecosystems. It is about voting with our money, and time, to support the kinds of businesses and organisations that are shifting our systems of production and consumption into a more positive direction.
How did you meet your co-founder?
Aneta and I met in the spring of 2014 at a concert and then bumped into each other a few months later in the bathroom at a bar (poetic, I know!). We decided to meet up to do English-Czech language tandem, and those meetups evolved into long discussions about our visions and dreams of what we wanted to do in the future. We had a lot in common in that we had both spent a few years working for corporations and wanted to develop a lifestyle that felt healthier, more in touch with nature and to somehow contributed positively to society. Greenglasses, the blog and online directory of sustainable businesses in Prague that we launched in the beginning of 2015, kind of became the embodiment of that mission. And later it branched into our sustainable lifestyle festival (Sustainability Day) and now our travel guidebook (Prague Green City Guide).
Who do you say no to?
I say no to mindless consumerism and the destruction of our planet’s natural resources, biodiversity and beauty, solely in the name of profit.
Do people have false prejudices towards you because of how you position your self with sustainability?
I guess that’s part of being human, but I try to not let it bother me. And in fact most people I talk to about what I do respond positively. Maybe it’s because I’m in a bubble, or because on some level the concept of sustainable living (i.e. a lifestyle that’s healthier for people, society and the planet), is universally appealing. It’s possible that people think I’m some kind of modern-day hippy, which does come with certain connotations and presumptions that may not apply to me, but that’s ok. People who listen to what I say or read what I write will have a better idea of my particular worldview, and know that I’m not an eco-extremist. On the contrary, people who know me, know that I am not a fan of extremism and that I think a more moderate approach, one that acknowledges we are all human and make mistakes, is more likely to spread and succeed. At the end of the day, I know what’s important to me and I’m trying to focus on that.
Who inspires you in the sustainable fashion world (why)?
I’m actually most inspired by the regular people who are walking the talk and showing that it's possible to look good, feel good and express yourself creatively in a more sustainable way. Of course, bloggers like you inspire me a lot with your personal drive, thought-provoking words and images, and practical tips on how to move forward. I think everyday people making changes in their lives are really the key to starting the wave of change in society that is needed to bring an end to the status quo—both in fashion and other areas of life.
What does “voting with our money” mean?
Voting our money is about using each purchase as a way to support our values and what we believe in. It means not just passively waiting for changes to happen on a political level, but rather realizing that in our global economy our consumer decisions actually give us great power to change things, starting today. It’s about making daily micro-investments in the things we want to see more of in the world, and about sending a signal to industries we want change.
Interviewed April 2017 by Cherie Birkner