sustainability through innovation
writer: emma ranne
picture: from Annamaja
Today we're introducing you to Annamaja Segtnan, the founder, CEO and Designer of KeepJar, who has been inspiring us with her drive for entrepeneurship in sustainable design. KeepJar is a Swedish company that has introduced a new view on practical recycling through a simple but very clever innovation. The company strives to highlight new perspectives on what we could do instead of consuming only new materials. With her idea of turning empty baby food jars into glassbottles by designing a compatible lid to them, Annamaja has come up with a solution that safes energy and material. We love the inspiring yet simple idea! Why not use what we have as a part of something new?
We fell in love with the aesthetics and practicality of the reusable netbags that are made out of organic GOTS-certified cotton from string to label.
But now let's give Annamaja the word. What inspired her to create KeepJar and what are her best zero waste tips for living a more sustainable lifestyle?
Hi Annamaja, can you please shortly introduce yourself to our readers?
Hi Inlace-readers! I am a Swedish-Norwegian entrepreneur and industrial designer from Stockholm and I want to make it easier to live a sustainable everyday life with my products and innovations.
What inspired you to create Keepjar?
I think it’s very interesting to hear what experiences and decisions lead to what we do as of today. KeepJar was more of a project than a brand for me for many years, before I found the right form for it.
In 2008 I was studying industrial design at a Swedish well-renovated art and design school, Konstfack. That year everybody talked about Al Gore’s documentary, An Inconvenient Truth. During an internship at a design firm I got feedback that the product design sketch I had made was great, because the customer would love the slick look of it and that it could break easily – then the customers would need to buy an other one. This experience made me worried about what I had just educated myself to. Was my future job designing things that would make people buy more things? But where my criticism for my own professional career woke – a burning interest in climate-friendly, environmentally friendly, resource-saving industrial design and packaging design grew.
My daughter was born in 2011. Because of the growing awareness of babies and plastic in the society I started to try to avoid plastic objects in my home, especially toys for my daughter. One day when I was doing the dishes I saw a baby food jar with a nipple for baby bottles laying on top of it – I thought why not use the baby food jar as a baby bottle? It’s always much better to reuse directly than to recycle (no extra transports, not energy to melt the material). When I had developed the KeepJar baby food jar adapter I needed a packaging and it had to be re-usable and not made of plastic. This is how I started to also sell mesh bags for buying fruits and vegetables.
So to summarize: my inspiration for KeepJar – it was meeting with a cold cynical commercial world, as a fresh industrial designer, that inspired me to make a brand with the aim to break the consumption cycle through smart reuse, repurpose, up-cycling and recycling.
Besides the practicality of your products we love the aesthetics of them. What kind of things drove the design of your reusable shopping bags?
The things that drove me was three experiences:
1. Friends. I had friends who were more environmentally friendly profound than I was.
2. Then composting feces. A social entrepreneurship project that I ran in India – ecological toilets for slums, Ecoloove.
3.And last a bargain at a flea market.
Friends. My friend Parag worked in a architectural firm oriented on designing in natural materials in Pune, India. When I visited him 2010 I said gladly: “Yes, please” being offered a thin plastic bag for my groceries at the supermarket. I had considered myself conscious regarding sustainability before this. But right there and then I had to re-think. Parag was opening my eyes to how bad the plastic bags are. We worked together on an industrial design sanitation project (Ecoloove) for Indian slums at that time. When separating urine and feces the usage of a bag made of de-compostable materials was sometimes uses to collect the feces and I was involved in that research to develop and manufacture de-compostable bags for toilets, this opened my eyes to the alternatives to the plastic bags. I was working with ecological sanitation 2009-2011 in India and Bangladesh. During my time in Bangladesh I learned that the country was first in the world to put a ban on plastic bags, in 2002. The plastic bag was forbidden because it clocked the cloak systems during the monsoon.
Composting feces. In 2014 I wanted to make a plastic free packaging for my innovation ‑ KeepJar, that transforms a baby food jars into a baby bottle. I remembered a responsible textile factory that I had visited during my time living in India and together with them I developed a cotton mesh bag for the packaging design. Since early start I had a dialogue with my very sustainability conscious customers (love ya!) at social media and it didn’t take long before one after the other contacted me and asked if I could please make bigger mesh bags? Because the size that I had made could only take around 3-4 yellow onions. But it took some time, because I was having an other full-time job. In 2015 I started to sell a few mesh bags (medium size) that grew with popularity fast.
A bargain at a flea market. I had been using a turquoise string bag made of nylon that I had bought at a flea market 2004 when I studied art in the countryside of west Sweden, Hällefors. It was very lovely with some sort of bamboo handles. I guess it was from the 60-ties. I knew that a string bag was more lightweight than a regular tote bag and could expand with the content. I loved the function but I wish I could have it in a non-petroleum material. After I had such a success selling mesh bags for fruits I asked my factory if it’s possible for them to make a bigger mesh bag for making string bags. And together we developed the string bag that KeepJar sells since a few years.
What does a typical work day look like for you?
On a typical work day I work in Illustrator and Photoshop designing the KeepJar products regarding form and packaging. I work a lot with paper and knife and my printer keeps going warm ;-) I always make the new designs in paper to see the size properly. Usually I have a few user-friendliness tests going on where I let friends test and photograph upcoming products. Many of my new products are ideas from customers who contacted me about an idea or a need connected to my current product line. I work a lot with user friendliness and function studies to find the right form and material and this in close dialogue with customers.
Before 12 I am usually busy packing orders to customers and resellers all over the world. I have to book my pick-ups with shipping companies before 1.00 PM. I usually work 8 AM-5 PM.
When I have to go for errands I mostly cycle. I have a bicycle trailer – to be able to bring along parcels. I don’t have a car and cycling is a great way to get everyday exercise. I have a MTB with 7 gears.
What are your best zero waste tips?
- My best tip is to get a decent cycle and start cycle commuting! Check youtube to learn how to take good care of it so it lasts long and will be in perfect condition! You will need cycle oil for sure.
- When buying new clothes, buy wool, cotton, linen instead of fleece/polyester, since fleece contains of PET/polyester. Plastic clothes spread micro plastics into the water that the water purification plants aren’t always able to catch – it ends up as fish food disturbing the fishes reproduction.
- Get rid of the classic dishcloth and use one in linen or similar.
- Eat more vegetarian!
- Bring your own grocery bags to the grocery store – for vegetables and fruits and for and to pack foods in.
- Bring your own water bottle and thermos – so you don’t have to say yes please to another paper or plastic cup.
- Buy used clothes, especially for kids – they grow fast and buying used makes a lot of sense. Rent or borrow things that you don’t use that often, instead of buying.
You might think that it’s too costly and therefore not for everyone and – yes, there’re expensive things to buy for this lifestyle. But Instagram is full of inspiration from people who for an example sew their own mesh bag from lace curtains and using old clothes as dishcloth or sewing their own grocery bags.
What is inspiring you at the moment?
A friend gifted me a booklet with recipes for eating vegan food (cutting out milk, cheese, yoghurt, egg, sugar and gluten) that really inspires me at the moment and I’ve made a roughly plan for this weeks meals. I bought new ingredients that we don’t usually have at home like whole buckwheat. Today I made chocolate smoothies for breakfast for me and my daughter and she loved it! It contained buckwheat, almonds, blueberries, banana and cacao.
I'm also inspired by the new environments in my everyday life, I just moved to a new office and love my new area of Stockholm, Aspudden.
Name three of those slightly random things that give you joy:
- Excursions on bicycle with my 6 year old
- Cycling fast through the Stockholm night
- Drawing objects, animals, and people together with my 6 year old
Craving more practical tips on how to be a little more sustainble? We made a 5-step game plan for you on how to turn your groceries a shade greener. Also be sure to check out Annamaja's Instagram for more inspiration.