“We just didn’t want to be part of what we see as the old fashioned ‘green’ perception. We wanted to design for modern young contemporary couples, that really embrace life, that explore the world, that aren’t bound by a very limited look.”
It’s a point well made by Floor Wellens, director of marketing and communications at Greentom, makers of award winning and very stylish baby strollers, created entirely within the circular economy model. Once-upon-a-time, buying a sustainability-aware product typically meant consumers had to compromise on aesthetics, or sign up to the hippy-esque look that dominated the sector. Greentom’s less-is-more visual approach tackled this old school ‘green’ cliché head-on, winning them a Red Dot Design Award in the process - the global benchmark for excellence in product design - while at the same time creating the most sustainable baby stroller on the planet.
As Wellens tells it, the likeminded group of founders, all parents, had a clear and aligned vision on what they wanted to achieve: “We started a company where we didn’t want to be bound by the conventional ideas on designing. What usually happens in an existing company is that it’s very difficult to change because you already have a production mode, you have a design team, and all kinds of procedures. We really wanted to embrace the idea of starting fresh and designing from the start really.”
The clean sheet approach paid off, allowing the fledgling company to instill the principles of the circular economy throughout its business model, from sourcing materials, to its production capabilities and brand behaviour. The stroller’s frame is made of recycled polypropene and bioplastic. The fabric is made of recycled soft drinks bottles (PET). All components can be reused or recycled at the end of their lifecycle, making Greentom sustainable according to circular principles. The mattress of the carrycot is 100% organic and made of wool, flax and organic cotton. Greentom is also able to produce locally, meaning less transport, use of local raw materials and providing local labour.
We didn’t want it to be a second Bugaboo where it would only be limited to people with a certain income.
The brand’s evolution from producing its first baby stroller in 2013 to selling in 35 countries worldwide sounds almost effortless. The truth is far from it, says Wellens.
“It’s been an interesting journey. It’s also been a challenge as the whole industry is evolving as we speak. The safety factor is primary for us. Not only from an ethical standpoint but also because as a ‘juvenile producer’ you are bound by very strict regulation and certification requirements. So in order to even bring a product to market it has to be certified. It has to be tested on the components, the materials, non-toxicity, basically anything. So for us that was also an interesting test because if we wanted to start a company this was probably one of the most difficult products to produce as a starting point.”
Another key factor in Greentom’s success is without doubt its entirely accessible price point for a fully circular product with such obvious design credentials. Its Classic stroller retails at €279, while its Carrycot for newborns comes in at €449. Both are in line with standard high street non-circular pricing. It was a clear-headed decision by Greentom to price at a level contrary to the existing ‘designer stroller’ market.
“We did that very consciously,” says Wellens. “We didn’t want it to be a second Bugaboo where it would only be limited to people with a certain income. We just really wanted it to become an easy solution for everyone, even people who were not so much eco-warriors, because in the end they also recycle those bottles and that plastic. We just wanted to contribute as much as we could and we thought it would be really important to make it accessible to a large number of people across the world. That definitely has an effect on our profits at this point, it’s not the easy way, but we really want to try and make it work this way.”
The process is ongoing. Greentom is currently looking into joining a lease-orientated company to further extend accessibility to its strollers as an alternative to buying. Other activities include putting in place systems that make their used strollers easier to recycle in territories where recycling facilities aren’t fully established.
Even if you’re not completely aware of all the implications of going circular and doing the right thing, even then, you can still make a difference.
Despite being a brand at the forefront of the circular economy movement, Greentom wears its sustainability mission lightly. For consumers, selecting circular brands needs to feel like a seamless transition from their previous choices, says Wellens.
“Even if you’re not at the point in your life where you’re completely aware of all the implications of going circular and doing the right thing, even then, you can still make a difference. And that’s exactly what we would love to communicate to the customer. Whatever you do, if you can make a smart decision, please do so. You don’t need to compromise on looks, or on expenditure. Just do it and enjoy the product and recycle some material at the same time. We’re very keen on that positive approach as opposed to telling people what to do. Just embrace different ideas, different cultures and different ways of going about it. In the end it has the same result.”