Indeed, if you come here, you will encounter Switzerland Tourism’s programme called Swisstainable: a long-term campaign wherein establishments follow the best practices for running ecologically sustainable restaurants, hotels, and retail facilities.
But long before sustainability became a buzzword, Switzerland was already practicing many key concepts – and these concepts have helped make Swiss manufacturing a worthy example of industrial sustainability and have also enhanced the overall quality and desirability of Swiss products across the globe.
Swiss Sustainability is About Durability and Longevity
One of the key hallmarks of Swiss product quality is how durable many items are – so much, in fact, that you can happily pass them down to the next generation so that they, too can enjoy using it. I feel that the Geneva-based watchmaker Patek Philippe got it right when they said you do not really own their watches, but you are looking after it for the next generation.
Meyer-Mayor kitchen linens, for example, are excellently made and can withstand years of wear, tear, and washing – all without any discernible deterioration in the overall quality of the towels. I actually inherited a number of these beautiful kitchen towels from my grandmother, and these are still in great condition.
Then, there is the REX stainless steel vegetable peeler from Zena Swiss which has been available for nearly 75 years now. Just after the Second World War, it was a kitchen tool that every household seemed to have; today, it continues to appeal to both dedicated home cooks and professional chefs, some of whom may have inherited their peelers from generation. It’s practically indestructible – well, provided you don’t put it in the dishwasher.
Swiss Sustainability is About Sourcing Materials Locally
The Trauffer wooden cow is more than just a toy: it’s a Swiss cultural icon – and it is an item with a long history of sustainability. For over 80 years now, these charming little bovines are carved from 100% FSC-approved organic linden wood which is a highly sustainable and safe material to use for children’s toys. Linden is easy to find in Swiss forests and it is also easy enough to grow and cultivate, ensuring a good environmental balance for years to come.
Soeder, the organic toiletries brand from Zurich, also works on the same principle. The emollients and soothing ingredients that go into their hand soaps and sanitizers are naturally derived from locally-grown wheat and aloe, then blended with Swiss honey and essential oils distilled from endemic herbs and blossoms. No artificial additives or preservatives are thrown into the mix to ensure the safety of these products for even the most delicate skin. The end results are luxurious products that people are confident about using, knowing that these are safe for both the human body and Mother Nature.
Swiss Sustainability is About Innovation
Going sustainable is not just a question of sourcing for the best – and safest – ingredients. But it also poses a challenge for creators and manufacturers to work with what they have on hand.
Take, for example, the stylish bag brand Freitag actually uses truck tarpaulins as the raw material for its products. Every tarp that is past its prime as a truck cover is carefully washed, cut, and formed into handy, stylish, and certainly durable bags that not only look good, but also lower the need to use natural materials like leather in the creation process. It is a smart way to make use of what they have on hand and also to reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfills.
On the other hand, innovation in the context of sustainability may also extend to finding uses for the most unlikely materials. Consider the creation of Bananatex by Swiss bag maker Qwstion: the material is a strong, canvas-like cloth woven from the fibres of the abaca plant – a tropical grass related to the banana and is endemic to Southeast Asia. Bananatex can be used to create cloth in different thicknesses and textures depending on the sort of bag the creators have in mind. In doing so, the people behind Qwstion hope to reduce their use of plastics and other unsustainable (or environmentally unsound) materials in their products – and they hope to do so for the long term.
Sustainable and of exceptional quality, it is not surprising that Swiss products have taken the lead and, we hope, will serve as an example to creators and manufacturers in other countries in their ability to create products that will help protect our environment.
Over the past few years – and particularly these past few weeks – we have seen the devastating impact climate change is having on our world. In Switzerland, we have been experiencing unusual weather and parts of Europe have been severely affected by flooding or exceptional heatwaves and wildfires. We here at Helvetia and Sons hope that we all can make protecting our environment a personal priority. Earth is, after all, the only home that we have.
Photos: qwstion.com, soeder.ch
More information: www.myswitzerland.com/en-ch/planning/about-switzerland/sustainability