Katrine Bay Ejlersen is a business woman and former international fashion model who grew up on an organic farm eating strawberry ice cream with no colors or additives. She is the Founder of Green Collective, an online platform where consumers can find extraordinary design made sustainably. She talks about the story behind Green Collective and how conscious decision making can help you live a more sustainable life.
Green Collective (GC)
What inspired you to form Green Collective?
Katrine Bay Ejlersen (KBE)
The Green Collective is an idea that I’ve had for more than 10 years. I found that there was a need for a platform where consumers could find design items that are both aesthetically high-quality and transparent about their origins, in relation to sustainability. Finally, the timing is right. 10 years ago, it would have been too early. Consumers are requesting luxury design – made sustainably; hopefully Green Collective can support this journey and make a positive contribution to more conscious consumption.
I’ve always been inspired by my parents who are very entrepreneurial and purpose driven. They have been frontrunners in the environmental movements from the early days in the 70’s. They challenged conventional farming by transforming their farmland into an organic farmland in the early 1990’s – trust me, at that time it was not cool. They farmed crops in conjunction with nature instead of fighting it. They embraced the wild animal/insect life in the blooming fields by measuring biodiversity as a natural way of optimizing vegetable production and experimented with alternative cultivation methods to minimize climate impact.
When I grew up, we were eating strawberry ice cream with no colors or additives – the ice cream was brown/greyish – it tasted heavenly but looked awful. I always wondered why organic or more sustainable products looked the way they did, why nobody cared about the design of the product but only how it was produced. My twin sister and I, who at an early age worked as international fashion models in Paris, Milan, and London, often talked about how you could inject a bit of glamor to the products and voila, you would have sustainably created extraordinary beautiful products. Stella McCartney was bold in the early 2000’s by saying no to fur and leather, and was one of the pioneer designers to combine high-end luxury with sustainability.
Today, I am excited to see so many new designers taking up the challenge. Every time we talk to designers we explore how to create and produce products in a less harmful way. It can be done – but it is not always an easy task because most materials, design, and production processes need to change radically. Production is also much more expensive, as there are fewer automated manufacturers out there producing sustainably. One of the biggest challenges for sustainable designers is the price – consumers are used to extremely low prices, which are based on outsourcing and raw material exploitation in low-income countries.
When we, the Green-Collective team, talk to our partners, we ask them what is behind the design – what reflections have they done to minimize their climate footprint and what challenges are they facing? This iterative dialogue often results in minor adjustments that make the design better while minimizing climate footprints. It is extremely satisfying to work with partners who see opportunities in sustainability rather than challenges. These are the stories we want to share with you as a consumer.
What does “sustainability” mean to you?
Sustainability for me means longevity and conscious decision making in all aspects of life. Ideally, we would have full transparency and know the true impact of the decisions we make – however this is normally not the case.
Therefore, I try in the decision-making process to filter out things I don’t really need. Don’t get me wrong, I want to maintain the lifestyle I have today but in a much more conscious way. I prefer to have fewer things in my life, items that I have carefully selected. I want to surround myself with things that make me feel good – and I feel good when I know what materials things are made of and by whom. That is what we are trying to do at Green Collective. We focus on visualizing the journey for each product, so that you as a consumer get a better understanding of the story and footprint behind the product.
For me, conscious decision making is key to a sustainable lifestyle because you have to get into the core of what your needs actually are, and then consider which footprint you want to create when fulfilling them. You can as an individual make a difference, but it starts with yourself and your decision making.
How do you practice sustainability in your life?
I see myself as a conscious consumer focusing on my climate footprint. In practice, my family and I eat organic produce (preferably from our organic family farm), most of our furniture is preowned vintage design, and our clothes are mostly made from organic cotton, linen, or recycled materials. I have a lot of luxury designer clothes, shoes and bags from my former modeling career which I still use and love dearly to this day. Some of it is more than 15 years old and I am proud of prolonging its lifetime – beautiful design never goes out of style.
My husband and I recently bought an old cottage in the woods north of Copenhagen from 1934 designed by Rigmor Andersen. She was one of the first female furniture designers in Scandinavia who worked for Kaare Klint. My husband is an architect specializing in restoration and transformation of old or ancient buildings, so we decided to make a complete renovation focusing on keeping its original details. We ended up recycling around 80% of the building materials and reusing them in the renovation. Most furniture in the summerhouse is vintage design or produced sustainably from local designers. However, I must say that going that far in the recycling process was not easy, and it took much longer than we first expected, but I am proud of our achievement and what we have accomplished with the house – it still has the original atmosphere in an updated version with modern appliances.
What inspires you?
I find inspiration in authentic beauty. It can be sunlight reflecting in old hand drawn windows, a design object, seasonal changes in nature, or special moments with family and friends. I guess that is why I love the French/Danish impressionist painters: Matisse, Monet, Cézanne, Renoir, Degas, Chagall, Anna Ancher, and Marie Krøyer so much.
Do you have any favorite sustainability tips for readers?
You can make a difference – it is your choice to choose a more sustainable lifestyle, and as you keep taking steps in the right direction, your behavior will change over time.
I think it’s important to emphasize that, even though most of us expect governments and politicians to make the sustainable transition happen, it doesn’t happen by itself. You have to be active in your decision making, in everything you do. Two-thirds of all consumption worldwide is driven by private consumption – your consumption decisions matter, and you can make a difference.
By Kristin Forte