Dunja Karabaic

  • The “Garden of the World” in the middle of the Ehrenfeld neighbourhood – a favourite place and district project. © KölnTourismus GmbH, Axel Schulten
    The “Garden of the World” in the middle of the Ehrenfeld neighbourhood – a favourite place and district project. © KölnTourismus GmbH, Axel Schulten

We talk to Dunja Karabaic, designer, founder of ökoRAUSCH, co-initiator of “Das gute Leben im Veedel” (the neighbourhood good life) and chairwoman of the “dasselbe in grün” (an association that promotes sustainability) talks to us about taking little and large steps towards more sustainability in everyday life and reveals her favourite green spot in Cologne.

Ms. Karabaic, you've been involved with promoting sustainability for a long time, why?

(Laughs) I think I'm just a believer. I first got involved with these issues as a teenager, building toad fences and working for Amnesty International ... What drives me is my strong sense of justice, something that has automatically led me to develop an interest in sustainable issues.

Today, you chair the “dasselbe in grün” (the same in green) association. Given today’s demands, is it really that easy for consumers to find green alternatives?

It has never been so easy! The last ten years, in particular, have seen enormous changes in consumer behaviour. I would even go as far as saying you can find everything in green. Green consumerism is booming, but there is still a lot of greenwashing going on. For consumers who are new to green shopping, identifying who takes the subject seriously and who doesn’t, can be quite challenging. “dasselbe in grün” provides consumers with advice and, with the help of our inhouse sustainability check, offers them the opportunity
to evaluate companies in terms of their social and ecological behaviour.

What advice do you give to people who want to live more sustainably?

I believe that every step is the right one, no matter how small it is. At the same time, it is important to try and score big points. For example, if I get rid of my car, I’m obviously going to make a bigger contribution than I would if I drove my SUV to the health food store every day. It’s important to set yourself realistic goals. If you need your car to commute, getting rid of it is a big deal, but as a
city dweller, I can always join a car-sharing scheme – providing I can overcome my inner sloth, that is (laughs). My second tip is not to rest everything on your own shoulders, but to work with others to bring about change and create a just and resource-sensitive society and to ensure that politicians take responsibility. If certain products are prohibited by law, we no longer need to make complicated decisions. It is also important to take action but not to be too strict with yourself! Taking a small step is always better than not taking a step.

In 2008 you launched the ökoRAUSCH trade fair for sustainable design. Today, öko-RAUSCH is a well-established international platform. So, what came first, supply or demand?

We had over 3,000 visitors at the first öko-RAUSCH event. We hadn’t expected that at all. Things were just starting to take off back then. In recent years, we have had to increase our offering in order to broaden our appeal to a wider audience. The ökoRAUSCH festival is held in Cologne’s Museum of Applied Arts (Museum für Angewandte Kunst). Since taking place there, visitors who would not usually come into contact with sustainable design have become aware of us. They are often pleasantly surprised by the products, ideas and concepts on show in the museum – the kind of things people wouldn’t normally
label as eco. As a result, we have been able to inspire them and motivate them about sustainability and its background. As the organiser, I am obviously very pleased about this!

You live and work in Cologne. What’s your green favourite spot?

It's not far from here: The “Garten der Welt” (World Garden) is a community garden that was established on the site of the old synagogue in Cologne’s Ehrenfeld neighbourhood. Here, plants from different cultures have found a new home. In summer it is a beautiful wild oasis that is accessible for everyone.