Tell us a little bit about soulbottles – when, how and why was it founded?
soulbottles was founded in 2012 by Georg Tarne and Paul Kupfer, two Germans who met in Vienna while studying. Georg was missing a plastic-free drinking bottle. Like 100 % plastic free. First he used empty whiskey and vodka bottles, but at some point he went up to Paul and said: “This is getting ridiculous! Let’s create this product and try turning it into a business.” This was also linked to the idea that more people would avoid disposable bottles if they had a stylish plastic-free alternative. They then began applying the designs onto the bottles in their shared flat, burned them at an art university and sold them to family and friends. Next step was a successful crowdfunding in 2013 and the soulbottle – as we know it now – was born. In that moment, our young team also decided they wanted to use the soulbottle as a tool against global water shortages and started a partnership with the NGO Viva con Agua de St. Pauli e.V. Up until today, we’ve managed to raise more than €1,000,000 to provide access to water, sanitation and hygiene.
Can you briefly describe the brand’s ethos and tell us more about the products it offers?
The soulbottles brand is based on key values that flow through all activities and inspire our purpose: All people act socio-ecologically sustainable, consume without causing our planet useless harm and have access to clean drinking water. Those values include curiosity, honesty, courage and easiness. We want to be transparent, approachable and offer the opportunity to be part of something bigger than just our core team.
Tell us more about how using a soulbottle has a positive impact on the environment…
1 million plastic bottles are produced every minute worldwide and only a small percentage gets recycled. The biggest part is polluting our oceans and environment which disturbs important ecological cycles. So swapping your single-use plastic bottles for a reusable one has a huge impact. Not only do we reduce plastic waste, but loads of resources are saved by avoiding the production of bottled water. Tap water is an easy alternative that is directly accessible, cheap and environmentally friendly. Beyond that, your soulbottle is an effective reminder to
rethink your own choices. Talking to our customers has shown that since purchasing a soulbottle, they rethought their consumption behavior in many other aspects of daily life – and did change for the better. Their percentage of tap water consumption went up from 46% to 84%.
Give us details on the bottle’s design and its benefits…
The design of our bottle was done by product designer Talia Radford, aiming for a pleasing but outstanding silhouette. So we have a rather big opening which sets the focus on our swing top made from ceramic and stainless steel. Being quite outstanding, it also simplifies cleaning and adding herbs or fruit to your tap water. And we heard that is scientifically proven to be the perfect opening size to drink from. The volume of 600ml is the optimal size and weight to carry with you and just enough for very thirsty souls. The next tap is just around the corner.
The bottles are fair, carbon neutral, toxin- and plastic free – tell us about how you are able to achieve this…
At soulbottles, we care. We think twice about the way we make our products: Our drinking bottles are made from glass, ceramics, stainless steel and natural rubber – they are really 100% plastic free. From the very beginning we strived for the most sustainable solution possible, all parts are fully recyclable and will never pollute our environment.
Sustainability doesn’t necessarily mean strict local production but for our glass bottles we achieved that quite well. Over the years we created a product that is 100% Made in Germany. Together with all our partners in manufacturing, we continuously strive for more resource-efficient ways. Toxin-free is the natural way for us to do it. Relying on old techniques and natural raw materials it is not difficult. Still, we have to check regularly and ensure our quality standards. To neutralize the carbon footprint of soulbottles, we partnered with myclimate to compensate our CO2 emissions and invest in climate projects.
Are there any other significant characteristics about the bottles that make them stand out against similar producers?
We are not only trying to make the best product possible – we also want to change how we work. Bringing soul to the economy. soulbottles is self-owned by all active employers (a purpose organisation) and a certified B Corp. B Corporations use business as a force for good. Just recently we gained the highest possible ECG score (Economy for the Common Good) so far and are very proud to say, we do things differently. Emotions at our working place are welcomed and part of every human being at our team.
You offer both steel and glass bottles – what are the differences/similarities of these and which settings are they each best for?
For almost 8 years we have offered sustainably-made glass bottles – printed 360 degrees with your individual design. This year we want to start offering the same service for our newest family member (launched in 2019): the soulbottles steel. Both are plastic free and leak proof. Regarding production standards and company values, they meet the same expectations. The original soulbottles are 100% Made in Germany, while we trust the expertise of our Chinese manufacturer with steel.
The differences which originate from the material lead to a glass soulbottle that is neutral to taste and has a permanent connection with the printed design. For our steel version, we can say that is unbreakable and keeps your hot drinks hot and your cold drinks chilled for hours.
So when in need of a very durable and insulating mate, we suggest the soulbottle steel. Whereas the everlasting quality of the design and the pure taste is emphasized, our original soulbottle is your solution.
There is a wide variety of patterns/graphics available to choose from. Where does the inspiration for these designs come from?
Who knows best what the community wants? The community. So we source most of our designs directly from our community. One way is using our own tool to host design contests where everyone can contribute a design, followed by a public voting. Another source of creative minds is our cooperation with Viva con Agua de St. Pauli e.V. They are closely linked to many international artists. Once a year we launch the Millerntor Gallery edition with one of those artists. Experimenting and flexibility is our credo here. Who knows what’s next?
Customers can also customise their bottles – how does this work?
For business customers we offer the chance to create a unique product with their very own design. The same qualitative screen printing technique is used as for our collection. Regarding the top and gasket combination, you can choose from our full product range. Our team has years of experience with creating those outstanding products – we are happy to support you finding your soulmate!
You donate 1€ per bottle sold to drinking water projects – which projects do you support and why?
Since the beginning we have worked with Viva con Agua de St. Pauli e.V., an NGO from Hamburg, Germany that uses a unique approach of the three universal languages. Through sports, music and art they connect with people in disadvantaged communities. All our euros go to a WASH (water sanitation and hygiene) project in Nepal. This is a country with one of the most fresh water reservoirs but poorest accessibility due to so many mountainous regions. Up until today, we have donated over 1 million euros and were able to assist about 80 000 people by giving them access to clean drinking water. Today, July 28th, we celebrate together with Viva con Agua 10 years of #waterisahumanright – and to remind us that there is still a lot of work to do.
What impact do you hope soulbottles will have on the lives of its users and in turn, the environment?
soulbottles makes behaving in a sustainable way easy and attractive. It’s no chore! Our hopes are to encourage people to live a more sustainable life in other fields besides drinking. Our last customer survey backs this hypothesis and we are actually quite proud to say that it really does change people’s lives for the better and in return has a positive impact on our planet.
What’s next for soulbottles, any new products on the horizon?
Now that we have this new material and a trustworthy producer at hand, we are going to try improve our steel bottle further, widen the product range and experiment with other reusable containers for drinks or food. Stay tuned and excited!
Portrait image of Laura © Marco Fischer. All other images © soulbottles.