Q&A with Erica Bol, co-Founder of reWrap
Q: What makes you stand out?
A: Our bags and laptop, phone and tablet cases have been designed with the cradle to cradle principle in mind. We use only natural materials – coconut fibre, natural rubber, walnut wood, bees wax, wood pulp, wool – with no added chemicals, so our products are 100% biodegradable. During its growth the fibres and wood absorb more CO2 than is used during transportation and production, so by getting a Treebag you actually reduce the CO2 in the atmosphere. And all our sewers are based in The Netherlands. We employ those with disabilities, so that they can improve their skills.
Q: Why do you care?
A: I like to experiment with materials and love wool felt. Our first product was a woollen felt laptop case and I was carrying it when a staff member in Apple asked me where I had bought it. It got me thinking. I didn’t want to create yet more stuff in the world that would end up as a waste. So we adopted the cradle to cradle principle to inspire others that it’s possible to do things differently. Over the years we have asked potential suppliers so many questions about their raw materials, their dyes, their toxins and I think it helps them to take that next step.
Q: Is being responsible good for business?
A: Yes. And our products don’t make you look like you’re a ‘goat felt sock’ wearer, as we say in Dutch i.e. unfashionable and weird! More and more consumers are looking for products that show everyone what they care about. If we added in the research time for all our materials then our creations would be unaffordable but it gets easier to make new products from new materials because you’ve already answered a lot of the questions.
Q: Has the business changed you?
A: My mother is an environmentalist so we were raised knowing a great deal about the natural world, but as you grow up and become surrounded by people who don’t care as much, it fades a little. reWrap has brought all this previous knowledge to the fore and has definitely made us more aware of what we buy. I also now have a lot of respect for others working to challenge ‘business as usual’. And I feel a lot more positive.
Q: What do you like most about your job?
A: It’s amazing to see how the mood has changed; a couple of years ago some customers chose to see what we weren’t doing, because we’re always trying to improve our practices and I think it’s ok not to be there just yet. But now they predominantly see what we are doing. For example, some criticised us for our use of wool as sheep contribute CO2 to the atmosphere and didn’t value that our sheep are not dipped (sheep dipping means sheep are bathed in toxins) and that also the dye contains no toxins. And their wool is renewable, because when you shave it off new wool grows (just like human hair)
Q: Plans for the future?
A: We’re trying to move towards a scenario where everything sold considers the cradle to cradle principle. We spend time doing presentations, lectures and talks to conscious consumers who like stylish products. They need to let retailers know what they want and to get better at thinking longer-term; that decisions they make now need to be good for the future too and only then can we have a sustainable future.