A quote attributed to Leonhard Culmann in 1741, (which is probably why it misses half the human race out,) but which is a central pillar of the Facebook group «Will Öpper» (which literally means does anyone want this?). The facebook group, which is soon to become an app, allows users to find new homes for unwanted items and is the brainchild of Carla Opetnik, who’s inspirational work on waste and sustainability has even attracted the attention of national broadcaster SRF. She is also the author of the city guide «Geliebtes Zürich». I caught up with her at Campo for a drink and a chat. Let's start with your project «Will Öpper?», newly called WOP (for World of Plenty). How did this sharing group come about?
WOP was inspired by the Facebook group «Will Öpper?» - I wanted to create a counterpart to it where people could offer things they no longer needed for free. That was four and a half years ago now, and a lot has happened since then. Myself and many of my friends haven't been on Facebook that much for a while. In order to reach more people and build the platform the way the community needs it, I then took the project away from Facebook. But I knew I couldn't create a platform on my own, nor did I have enough
I quickly realised that this approach, i.e. doing everything on a voluntary basis, doesn't really correspond to my values. In everything I do, I want to build something sustainable and also treat the people around me in a sustainable way. That's why I decided to work with a company, making sure that everyone who works on it is paid. To finance the launch, I did some crowdfunding. You can still fund the project, by the way.
I didn't necessarily expect you to get into this aspect of sustainability in our conversation. Does that have to do with the fact that you have a lot of experience by now?
Yes, I do. I started dealing with the topic of sustainability six years ago. I read Marie Kondo's book, cleared out my flat and found - everything is bad in this world, I have to change it. And where better to start than with yourself? All the projects that have come after this moment I have tried to implement as sustainably as possible. But very often this is also a financial question. Without crowdfunding, for example, I would never have been able to afford to have my city guide printed in Switzerland.
How far do you go to ensure that you can say with a clear conscience that your projects are sustainable?
For example, having my city guide printed abroad, with paper from unknown sources and with underpaid labour, was not an option for me. To be consistent. To say, «I won’t do it,» is quite hard for a small entrepreneur but for me it’s the right was. I have found that people are quite willing to pay a higher price for sustainable products.
You said it yourself, sustainability is often also a question of money. How do you assess the dilemma of sustainability for low-income people and families?
I am often asked about this issue and am almost reproachfully asked how I can afford to live like this, à la «surely you are supported, get scholarships, have rich parents». I have neither scholarships nor rich parents. There is a lot of sacrifice involved in sustainable living. Maybe I don't buy new trousers twice a year because they cost 300 francs if they are produced sustainably. On the other hand, I find every small act that contributes to a more sustainable world very valuable. And I fully understand if a family with 4 children can't go shopping at the Bachsermärt every day.
How do you implement sustainability in your daily life?
In my life it's about physical waste. However, living according to the principle of zero waste does not necessarily mean producing zero waste, but rather not causing any waste. Accordingly, I try to waste as little as possible in my everyday life. In concrete terms, this means that I don't fly much, and I think very carefully about the things I buy to see if I really need them. I also try to share things like machines that I own with those around me.
On the other hand, for me it's also a bit about cleaning up my digital life. That means calling all the companies that send me mail and telling them that I either don't want it any more or only want it electronically. Unsubscribing from the emails that end up in spam and that I don't read at all. But when I suggest this to people, it is admittedly an unpopular task (laughs).
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