“Hydrophil(ic)” is composed of the Greek word for water “hydor” and philos (to love). So the choice of the name, Hydrophil, for a start-up focusing on water was by no means coincidental. Founders Christoph Laudon, Wanja Johannes Weskott and Sebastian Bensmann set up their company in 2013. The trio first met when volunteering for Viva con Agua, a non-profit organization dedicated to unlimited access to clean drinking water all over the world. During a bike tour, the three hit on the idea of manufacturing their own products using as little water as possible. No sooner said than done and the first item was a self-printed T-shirt. Hydrophil now specialises in vegan, fair, hygiene and personal care products manufactured with as little water as possible. Christoph Laudon told Hamburg News in an interview, what “water neutral“means, how toothbrushes made of bamboo can save Co2 and why Hamburg is close to his heart.
Hamburg News: What do you wish to achieve with Hydrophil?
Christoph: We act true to the motto: “Become a little better every day,” and wish to make a conscious contribution to responsible use of water. We want to sensitize people to cautious use of water as a resource. We are talking about “virtual water” – needed for manufacturing products. We want to keep the amount of water consumed to a minimum with our water-neutral production.
Hamburg News: Can you explain “water neutral”?
Christoph: For us, water neutral means using as little water as possible. We use only natural ingredients e.g. bamboo, which grows without artificial irrigation, for our products. No pesticides that contaminate the groundwater are used. Our soaps are produced entirely without chemicals or micro plastic, which may enter the water through usage. Our packaging is also biodegradable and non-toxic. We try to use as little water as possible during the production process. And if water is used, it must be fed back into circulation without having been contaminated.
Hamburg News: What does your product range look like?
Christoph: We specialise in WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) segment products. Apart from our sustainable, bamboo toothbrushes, you can also find a toothbrush tumbler, toothbrush cases, an upcycling toilet-bag, cotton swabs, soaps, mouthwashes containing oil right up to small soap bags, toothbrush holders and several hygiene products in our online shop. Naturally, everything has been produced in a water-neutral, vegan and fair manner.
Hamburg News: Can you outline “fair production” in relation to your goods ?
Christoph: That depends on the product. We work with many smaller producers. The soaps, toothbrush tumblers and toothbrush holders are produced in the greater Hamburg area. The bamboo in our products is grown in Lishui, China and is processed near the cultivation area to keep transport routes as short as possible. We lobby for fair work conditions for our staff there. We believe that is very important in a country where compliance with labour rights as well as fair conditions are rare and cannot be taken for granted. We ensure that we visit the production sites personally on a regular basis.
Hamburg News: The bamboo toothbrush is your best-known product. What makes it special?
Christoph: The handle of the toothbrushes are made of bamboo, which because of its anti-bacterial qualities, is perfect for sustainable hygiene products. We use moso bamboo, which grows under ideal conditions in our cultivating regions in China and up to 20 metres in height. During a two-year growth phase, the plant binds 18 tons of Co2 and supplies enough material for 100 toothbrushes. A company called Auro treats the toothbrush handles with solvent-free, colourful lacquers. The multi-certified, quality natural colours do not contain any mineral oils with synthetic additives.
Hamburg News: How important is Hamburg for a sustainable start-up?
Christoph: Hamburg is simply close to our hearts, and personally speaking, there is somehow no alternative. Apart from all the nice advantages, that we value privately e.g. the port and the Elbstrand, the community here is very helpful especially in relation to sustainable entrepreneurship. The solidarity is very strong here and not as superficial as in other cites. Apart from that, Hamburg is ideal for us given our focus on water.
Hamburg News: What are your plans for 2018?
Christoph: We are constantly looking for new products that live up to our high standards in terms of water and the environment. Our sustainable bamboo toothbrushes will be upgraded, but that remains a secret. We are also working on a new toothbrush for children.
Hamburg News: Thank you for the interview, Christoph.
Interview by Sarah Bischoff
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