We all know that eating locally produced food has a lower environmental footprint, as does eating a plant-based diet. In Switzerland, it’s quite easy to find locally processed meats, but what about vegetarian protein options?

A large part of vegetarian protein is imported into Switzerland and there are only a few fully Swiss-processed foods on the market. At the same time, the world needs more crop diversity and new approaches to a sustainable food system. Well, the good people at Fyn foods, a local startup, are working to address these issues. They’ve been working with Swiss farmers to introduce alternative crops—organic chickpeas—that have a high nutritional and agronomic potential for the future of Switzerland. Once harvested, the crops are processed into tasty food, such as hummus. By building this local system of produce, process, distribute and consume, Fyn foods has created strong connections to Swiss farmers and implemented a traceability system that provides end-to-end information for the consumer.

Wouldn’t it feel good to know you’re supporting local farmers and producers while devouring your favorite snack? (Ok, maybe you don’t devour, but I’ve had the pleasure of sampling all of their hummus dips and I could not stop myself). If your mouth is watering, then head to one of these stores to get your own. And learn all about the cool creators of this innovative brand and the story of how the humble chickpea is rocking Switzerland here.

by Carrie Aikman

Giving You the Dirt on Soil

Few things matter more to humans than soil. Really—it’s quite the superhero! It’s the foundation of food production and security, it’s Earth’s largest water filter and storage tank, it contains more carbon than all above-ground vegetation, and it is home to a tremendous diversity of organisms of key importance to ecosystem processes.

With that in mind, it’s worrying that today, one third of our soils are moderately or highly degraded due to erosion, loss of organic carbon, salinization, compaction, acidification and chemical pollution. The current rate of soil degradation threatens the capacity of future generations to meet their most basic needs.

Yikes! But wait – there’s hope…

A hundred years ago when I was studying for an exam on sustainable building practices, I read a tiny bit about using bioremediation to clean up contaminated soil. Since then, I’ve always been intrigued and excited about this—the idea that nature can remedy itself is so hopeful! So, I was super excited to speak to Christa Herrmann from Terrabiom, a startup in Impact Hub Basel’s Incubator program. Using science to improve degraded soil, therefore improving life for all, is what Terrabiom is all about.

Before understanding what Terrabiom does and why, it’s important to learn about what motives them—that is, soil. I doubt many of us think about soil very often. Boring! Am I right?!

Wrong, actually. It’s incredibly interesting and infinitely better to learn about soil than to shove our heads in the sand – pardon the pun – because here’s the deal: In 50 years, there will be no more fertile soil if we humans keep living the way we are today.

Uhhhh, any of you out there fond of eating? Like, to stay alive?

I thought so. And since soil is one of the most critical elements to human survival, maybe we should be thinking about it. Better yet, maybe we should actively work on caring for it. The good news is, we can.

Did you know that soil is a living resource, home to more than 25% of our planet’s biodiversity? Up to 90% of living organisms live or spend part of their lifecycle in soils, so it follows that it is important to maintain its health.

And here’s what really blew my mind—did you know that it takes about 500 years to form 1 cm of topsoil? 500 years! For one centimeter?!?! Meaning that we won’t be able to produce more soil within our lifetime.

What we see is all there is.

So, what can we do? Well, Terrabiom is using soil science, researching the biodiversity, and applying their knowledge in real-world ways. For farmers, gardeners, or any home-owner curious about what’s beneath them, Terrabiom samples the soil and discovers what’s in it. By creating a ‘soil map’ of the area, they can determine how best to improve it (i.e. plant tomatoes there and there, this type of vegetable over there, or perhaps trees are the best choice). Pretty cool, huh?! They also offer regular activities to learn about and engage in soil health fun. Yes, soil health FUN!

And for the Average Joe, every day offers an opportunity to:

  1. LEARN: understand what’s at stake, and what’s going on. Be curious and educate yourself about soil health.
  2. CARE: for any decision you take, consider microbes first! Take care of them since they take care of you.
  3. ACT: get active and create spaces and opportunities to let nature do her job. She holds the most effective solution for our greatest global challenges. Grow a plant, join a gardening group, or help your local nature conservation association. And the easiest of all actions: Join Terrabiom’s membership program to receive regular inspiration & action opportunities around soil health – coming early next year!

My fascination that nature can remedy itself remains strong—organisms in soil can break down certain contaminants. But my hope can be wobbly as it relies on humans allowing for her to do that (we don’t have the best track record of doing the right thing). Soil protection and conservation starts with us. Making sustainable food choices, properly recycling dangerous materials like batteries, composting at home to reduce the amount of waste that enters landfills, or managing antibiotic waste more responsibly, are just a few examples of how we can be part of the solution.

For more inspiration, knowledge and ways to get involved, check out these resources:

Article from Food and Agriculture Organization

Urban Agriculture Basel

Swiss Recycling

Abfall.ch

Composting at home with worms

Stadtgärtnerei (City of Basel helps you set up composting!)

While soil health is related to all the SDGs (no kidding!), Terrabiom contributes most directly to the following: 15, 12, 8, 13, 11, 3

by Carrie Aikman

Do you remember the telephone directory? Perhaps I’m showing my age (or that I grew up in America—did they have them in Europe, too?) but the telephone directory was actually very useful (in addition to doubling as a booster seat for a child). It was a large, thick book delivered annually to your door, listing every local business in the area alphabetically and divided by category, making it easy to locate a service provider when you needed one. Got a clogged drain? Just look under “P” for plumbers and make a few calls.

Naturally, with the digital age, these became obsolete. With Google and its equivalents there is no need to waste the resources. But the idea behind it—having local resources all in one place—is still good. So, what if we combined the two?

Ask and you shall receive.

Officially launched on the 4th of March, 2021, Help’n’Trade is an online marketplace for local goods and services, connecting customers with local businesses. Founder Stefan Kuruc and his team are passionate about creating an easy, user-friendly experience, as well as supporting local businesses, creating a tighter-knit community, and contributing to the environment.

By using the platform, you not only find the qualified service providers and local products you need when you need them, but your community benefits as well. For instance, according to The Local Good:

Time to Tea – a local teeshop on Help’n’trade.

It gets even better—in addition to all those fabulous reasons, did you know you’re also helping the planet? And you don’t even have to try! By using a local provider, this generally means contributing to less urban sprawl, traffic congestion, habitat loss and pollution. In fact, Help’n’Trade’s vision is to show just how acting locally contributes to the local economy, community and environment by measuring impact.

For customers, Help’n’Trade aims to make it super easy. Don’t speak German? Kein Problem. French? Mais non! It’s a multi-lingual platform, therefore it’s especially useful for expats and people new to Basel. And it’s free!

As for businesses, since they are new and building up their list of providers, it is currently FREE for businesses, too! So, if you’re in the market for more customers, take advantage of this ‘early adopter’ offer. In the near future, businesses will have a choice between a monthly subscription or a risk-free percentage from sale via Help’n’Trade. (For customers, it will always be free to use the platform.)

Hydropure is a local business offering their cleaning services on Help’n’trade.

So, friends, if you’re in need of some sort of service–window cleaners, electricians, personal trainers and life coaches, film and production companies, web designers, and the list goes on—Help’n’Trade makes it easy and convenient to find legitimate, verified businesses. And if you’re looking for a homemade Greek pie, tasty tea, artisan bagels or a gift for your loved one, Help’n’Trade makes it easy to find and purchase products from right around the corner. Can’t find a business on their platform? Have a suggestion on how to improve? Just let them know…Stefan and the team are always open to feedback.

Together, we can support this local entrepreneur, as well as help other local businesses, build a tighter community, and bring more sustainability into our own lives. It’s a win-win all around.

by Carrie Aikman

Do you know the fairytale “The Three Little Pigs,” where two of the three pigs are described as lazy, which is why they built their houses out of straw and sticks? This was, of course, their downfall, and the wolf blew their houses down.

Well, I’d love to tell a modern-day version, and revamp the moral of the story to reflect the genius of using local, biodegradable, natural materials in a small, cradle-to-cradle design in order to reduce the environmental impact! And my protagonist would be Damian Breitenstein, founder of LIVO, one of the startups of the 2021 Impact Hub Basel Incubation program.

What is LIVO?

Inspired by the Austrian forest engineer and entrepreneur Erwin Thoma, a LIVO home is produced with locally sourced, solid wood panels used for the walls, ceiling and roof components. These panels are constructed in a factory by a special machine, so they are ultra-precise – which means ultra-low waste! Rather than adhesives and screws, wood dowels are used to connect the panels, making future deconstruction and reuse easy.

The homes are self-contained units, with furniture and kitchen built in, compost toilets and solar panels. And with graywater and rainwater collection, they are designed to be built on ‘unusable’ land that doesn’t allow for tapping into the water system (perhaps due to pollution), an important feature in today’s cities and growing population. In addition, they are currently working on a new toilet which uses microbes and creates biogas and fertilizer from the waste.

LIVO homes are designed to have a small footprint, but that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice living space – the modules are made to be stacked and customized to your needs.

And here’s the kicker—large screws drilled into the ground replace the more traditional (and environmentally unfriendly) concrete foundation so the home can be built and deconstructed, leaving very little impact on the environment.

Why should I support LIVO?

Today’s buildings not only are made from imported resources that carry a large carbon footprint, but they also contain all sorts of adhesives and materials that off-gas, causing poor indoor air quality. According to Designing Buildings Wiki, despite available options of reusing or recycling materials and reducing the amount of waste produced in the first place, a large amount of construction waste is still disposed of in landfills. 32% of landfill waste comes from the construction and demolition of buildings and 13% of products delivered to construction sites are sent directly to landfills without even being used.

Say what? Sorry to state the obvious but we simply do not live in a world that can support this kind of wasteful practice. We must do better! Thankfully, with LIVO’s innovative practices, we can choose to do so, easily.

Our core values develop over our lives, and for Damian, his certainly were influenced by studying industrial design. He said something during the interview that struck me: “When you reproduce something a million times, it can have a good impact or a bad, depending on how it’s built.”

When you think about the total, long-term impact of that—one ‘bad’ design choice, multiplied by millions—it really drives home the point that each of us, each of our actions, truly does make a difference.

I could go on and on gushing about this startup and how much I’m a believer in Damian and LIVO, and I hope you’re on board, too. To read more about their story and get updates, check out their website. They are currently getting funding and looking to build their prototype in January 2022. This September, you can support their efforts by donating to their wemakeit campaign. Check their website for exact details and updates.

LIVO supports SDGs: 9, 11, 12, 13

by Carrie Aikman (Text) & Ina Wecken (Video)

I’m sure many of you out there are familiar with the term ‘fast fashion,’ and perhaps you know, too, just how devastating the fashion industry is not only to the environment but to human rights as well.

Here are some “fun facts” you may not have heard yet:

Clearly, there is an urgent need for change across the spectrum, from material suppliers and garment workers, to designers and consumers. And while you and I have so little control over most of that, we have perhaps the most important role – as consumers. As I like to say, we get to vote with our dollar. Supply is only there because we demand it.

So, what if we demand something different?

Recently, I joined Impact Hub Basel’s online event, “Future Wardrobe: Slow & Circular Fashionand met some truly inspiring and innovative local entrepreneurs who are working towards positive change in the fashion industry. To be the change you wish to see in the world (thanks, Ghandi!), support these businesses by following them on social media, telling your friends, buying from them, and encouraging others to do the same.

And without further ado, meet the changemakers…

Catherine Meuter and Stefan Mathys, founders of VYN, have years of experience in the fashion world. Together, they have designed over 40 collections for various brands in Italy, the UK and Norway. They recognized that multiple seasonal collections with a short lifespan, sold cheaply (but at what real cost?), has led us to a disposable mindset, with huge impacts on the environment. The sneaker industry is one of the most polluting in fashion. As an answer to this, VYN was born. With their repairable sneaker – the first of its kind – VYN’s goal is to encourage the customer to re-evaluate their spending and move away from a disposable mind-set to one where they take care of their sneakers and enjoy them for longer.

T2RIFF produces sustainable sports clothing according to GOTS and BIO guidelines. Items are fairly produced, in Europe, using organic cotton and recycled materials whenever possible from PET bottles or old polyester. Their practices result in much less impact on the environment, for instance:

They’ve thought of everything so you can look good as well as feel good while sweating it out…

ID Geneve created the most eco innovative watch, and of course, with Swiss, high-quality standards! In addition, their materials are sourced as locally as possible. The watches are made from 100% recycled premium 4441 stainless steel collected in Jura; the straps are made with 80% recycled residue of grapes after vinification; and their packaging is recyclable and compostable thanks to the incredible mushroom. What’s more, the watch’s modular design makes it easy to repair (which makes it last longer and uses local services), and they completely dismantle and clean used watches for resale – guaranteed to be better than new!

SHAREaLOOK was created in 2019 with the mission to offer conscious consumers a sustainable, yet fun and affordable way to consume fashion. Their online platform enables users to easily rent out their own clothing or rent from others. With ever-changing options and new looks, this means members can have fun in fashion without the environmental impacts of traditional consumer ways. Why contribute to the horrors of fast fashion when you can do this?

Manusia was founded by two best friends after they became increasingly aware of the fashion industry’s consequences. They try to find the best way possible to deliver clothing with a positive impact, both on community and environment. One way is by using 100% GOTS certified organic cotton for the entire collection, to ensure there are less chemicals and less water consumed in the agricultural process. The clothing is produced in Izmir, Turkey – from cotton bud to woven material – by Orimpex, a factory that uses organic textiles, has a certificate for “Equality for Women at Work” and is part of the Fair Wear Foundation. Manusia uses packaging that is 100% recycable (they do not use any prints on the covers and keep paper use to a minimum), and partners with One Tree Planted.

During the event, I also met a new startup yet to hit the market. Baby Come Back is a company that sells children’s clothing—but then buys it back from you! They are in the early stages so keep an eye on their website for the full story…they are launching in August 2021!

Please help in supporting these social entrepreneurs! And thanks for reading – you can also listen to this segment on RadioX I did following the event.

 

-Carrie Aikman