“Carbon dioxide emissions will really mess with the world and have negative impacts, especially on the poor people who can’t protect themselves from the consequences of climate change.”
Have you ever had a great idea but never pictured yourself setting it in stone because its immensity automatically makes you switch off? The calculations can overwhelm you and you might stop thinking about it, merely because it’s just a nice fantasy to have.
Georg Tarne, founder of sustainable water bottle company soulbottles, is a leading example of a young man who used his passion and entrepreneurial experience to make his idea succeed. Soulbottles are an alternative to using plastic water bottles in countries that have access to safe tap water.
The Germany-based company not only provides sustainable solutions in Western countries, but they also contribute to the thousands of people who are in need of water. For every soulbottle purchased, €1 is donated to clean water projects at NGOs Viva con Agua and the German World Hunger Relief Organisation.
“So far we’ve raised about €130,000-120,000, which gives about 10,000 people in Nepal access to clean drinking water.”
Eco-friendly and visually appealing
It was roughly six years ago when Georg was enrolled in a social entrepreneur course, which focused on the importance of climate change. He told the IPF about the influence the course had on him: “I was getting used to thinking entrepreneurially – like identifying the challenges in my day-to-day life and thinking: ‘Okay, how can I make an entrepreneurial solution?'”
While developing his entrepreneurial antenna, Georg also watched the documentary Plastic Planet, which shocked and informed him about the grave dangers that plastic has on the environment. He realised that any plastic container couldn’t be a healthy or safe option.
“In every plastic there’s some kind of chemical that has a dubious effect on your health.”
He soon began searching for plastic-free drinking bottles, which also looked visually attractive. But he couldn’t find anything. It was at this point that the green innovation of a glass soulbottle emerged within him.
Elements of sustainable soulbottles
Anyone who lays eyes on a soulbottle will most definitely give it second look – purely because of the design. Georg said that the design inspiration developed from the T-shirt company, Threadless. Stressing that even though it is against his ecological values to order a non-organically produced T-shirt, he was captivated by their method of deploying a “crowd design”. This is a concept that allows anyone to submit a design, after which people vote to select the best one.
“The designs were just so cool. If good designs can convince an ‘eco-Nazi’ like I was, and still am (laughs), to act non-sustainably, maybe we can use design to motivate people to act more sustainably.”
Aside from obtaining a very interactive network with their customers, Georg also explained how soulbottles have ongoing collaborations with designers throughout the world, including the renowned tattoo artist Peter Aurisch.
Impact of plastic in our oceans
According to a UNEP report, marine debris consists of plastic and synthetic materials that have harmed roughly 267 different species of sea animals through ingestion and entanglement. Georg highlighted that even though 80% of plastic gets recycled in Germany, the additional 20% continues to be detrimental to life in our oceans.
“The 20% of plastic that doesn’t get recycled ends up in the water ways and oceans… into the stomach of fish and birds. Those animals die with a full stomach because there’s only plastic in there and no food is able to get in there.”
He added: “This is something a thinking, feeling human being will think, ‘that’s horrible’, and you’ll want to do everything you can stop that.”
Therefore, soulbottles makes it an absolute priority to be “completely plastic-free” – so much so that even the rubber used on the top of the glass bottle is completely natural. Georg explained: “Our national rubber is a special blend from a rubber manufacturer who does it exclusively for us, so that we get the highest percentage of natural rubber possible.
Implementing social entrepreneurial solutions
In early 2012, when soulbottles was just an idea, Georg and Co-Founder Paul Kaupfer produced 50 bottles to see if people would pay €20 for a glass bottle. They were sold out in the second week.
When the IPF asked this young, motivated entrepreneur what and how is the best way we can take our passion to the next level, his advice stressed thinking big but starting small.
“I encourage everyone to start thinking about the world in terms of what are the problems we face and what are the solutions that we could develop. What are the social entrepreneurial solutions that I can test on a small scale, and then maybe if it works, build a business out of it.”
To purchase your own soulbottle, visit their online store. You can also donate to their crowdfunding page that is raising money for a 1l soulbottle, a cork protective sleeve and a plastic-free coffee cup – the soulcup.