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Sustainability

At House Raccoon, we work with as much respect as possible for people and our planet. We call that sustainability. On this page we give you an overview of our sustainability definitions and projects. We try to be very honest and transparent about what we do but we know that for obtaining ‘true’ sustainability, we still have a long way to go. If you think you can help us in any way becoming more sustainable, please reach out!

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1- Definitions

We wrote down our sustainability definitions below. Your own definitions might be different but these definitions are the handles at how we at House Raccoon look at it.

Sustainability

Doing something which you or all other human beings who would like to do so, could sustain forever. Be it 100, 1000 or a million years. A system is sustainable when it has a natural equilibrium in which it doesn’t hurt any other system.

Note: The definition above is extremely hard to obtain because in our current economy, lots of ‘systems’ (e.g. product businesses) cannot be evaluated properly because they depend on other systems which depend on other systems etc. It’s however not impossible to be partially sustainable by creating a system which might not be an infinite equilibrium but could still be sustained for a very very long time or which hurts other (eco)systems only to a minimum.

Ecologic

Anything that leads to (increased) sustainability where the party claiming the ecological aspect of its system communicates openly about the good but also about the bad things in its system.

Note: Claiming that something is ecologic is very simple. Therefore, we think that communicating openly is key so that the market moves automatically towards more ecologic alternatives once they are there. Being ecologic is always relative versus something which is less ecologic. Just claiming the word ‘ecologic’ is misleading because it doesn’t give any perspective. A Tesla for example is ecologic (vs a diesel car) but it isn’t ecologic vs a smaller Tesla, a shared car, public transportation or a bike etc.

Handmade

A product which is made literally by hand and where the people behind these hands also are treated with respect, have a fair wage and do their job passionately.

Note: Believe it or not but most products we buy in our current economy are made by hand. There are numerous anonymous people behind every product. Cloths are sewed by hand, cars are assembled by hand and even smartphones are put together by hand. Robots can only do very specific small tasks. We believe however that putting the label ‘handmade’ on a product that’s only made by hand literally but where the maker didn’t have the respect, fair wage and passion is misleading.

Organic/Natural

Something good for human beings. Something which doesn’t negatively impact the natural processes in our bodies.

Note: While organic/natural literally means something originating from nature (which is confusing in itself because the heaviest chemical industries use raw materials from nature) and is often taken literally (e.g. a tomato which was grown in a natural way without pesticides), we believe that what people really want when using this as a quality label is a system that’s good for their actual body (e.g. a tomato which is healthy, independent on how it’s grown, and that’s not necessarily something which originates from nature). Uranium is for example very natural but you wouldn’t want to have too much of it in your body. The same goes for petroleum. Medicines are very unnatural (if we put the line of being natural at processing materials with processes that don’t occur naturally) but you certainly want them when battling very natural/organic diseases. And finally one example for us: our scent diffusers use synthetic scents but these are actually better as they only use the one (or few) studies molecules that lead to a specific scent whereas a scent made only with ingredients coming from nature has an incredible amount of (non-studied) molecules (lots of which have nothing to do with scent) and we all know that’s not necessarily healthy (especially not when concentrated in scented candles or scent diffusers) when we take into account the numerous amount of natural things people have allergies for.

Greenwashing

Saying or suggesting that you are doing something ecologic while in fact you don’t.

Note: Greenwashing is something which is often used to describe companies who do many bad things (as almost every system is doing given the complexity an interconnection of our current economic system) and then decide to do a little good because this is assumed to be hypocritical and only for advertising. We don’t find this to be greenwashing. Good is good, and we embrace any good that anyone wants to do whatever bad you do apart from that. This is still way more preferable than someone doing only bad. If you do something good and get some positive advertising out of it that’s only good because you will be automatically encouraged to do more good in the future. Only an economic system in which good systems are encouraged in ways like this is able to overcome the environmental challenges we face quickly enough. The only real forms of greenwashing that exists according to us is when you say you do something ecologic while in fact you don’t (this is just plain lying) or when you give extraordinarily too much attention to the little good to hide the bad (which is a soft form of lying: you don’t lie directly but you manipulate people to believe something which is not the truth by exaggerating the good). We also think there’s a huge responsibility at consumers concerning greenwashing. As long as we keep punishing companies too much for being open about ‘the bad’, the soft form of greenwashing will be relatively present. This isn’t constructive. Instead we should support all systems to be open about the bad and help or stimulate them wherever we can to increase their ‘percentage of goodness’.

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2- What we do good

Or what we think we do good. Because there are of course multiple facets to everything and as explained before, it’s very hard to find out what’s best. Please enlighten us if you have a different or more informed opinion on something! Contact us here.

One tree per product

This is definitely something relatively sustainable. We couldn’t keep planting trees forever because there’s a limited amount of space for trees on earth but planting more trees definitely leads to a better equilibrium both locally (flora and fauna) and globally (less C02 in the atmosphere). On top of that, we plant the trees with poor farmers on their farms so that the quality of their soil improves so that they can eat more, even sell some of their produce for money. This way sending their children to school which leads to them having less children (positive impact on the environment). They can give these children a better & more qualitative life with room for sustainability too and so on… The social effects on sustainability might even be bigger than the direct effects of the tree in itself. Read more about our trees here.

We produce and source locally

All our products are made in our atelier in Belgium. This way we have absolute control over working conditions and at House Raccoon, they are up to all modern standards. People at House Raccoon are like family and we want nothing else than them to have a full and healthy life. Another effect is that by producing where we sell most of our products, we are eliminating a lot of greenhouse gasses (30% of greenhouse gasses in the EU are due to transportation) and we also know that there’s isn’t somewhere in the world a factory in a country with lower emission standards that’s emitting way too much by producing goods for our brand. On top of that we have a ‘source locally’ rule at House Raccoon. We source materials in Europe only when we can’t find them in Belgium and we source materials only outside of Europe when we can’t find them in Europe. For example lamp bulbs & clock parts are materials which are all made in China and imported to Europe. If you know a company who makes (not imports) them in Belgium/Europe, please let us know!

Recyclable packaging

99% of our packaging is pure uncoated cardboard. We also use glass and plastics whenever we have to pack something liquid but we make sure to use recyclable plastics.

Using energy as green as possible

We get electricity for our atelier and store from local green producers with Bolt Energy. Our store is still heated with a gas installation but we offset this with same-year C02 offsetting.

Our base material is gypsum

Gypsum is a very common material (there’s no sulfate mineral found in more abundance on our planet) which can be mined from surface mines, often right next to the factory where it is processed at quite low temperatures. This is why it’s one of the most environmental friendly binders available (vs cement which is rather polluting). We also only use water based resins and pigments which need way less polluting production processes than oil based resins and pigments. Also, no VOC’s come in the environment when producing or working with water based resins which is a big plus.

Asking a fair price for our products

By doing the things we do for people and our planet, our products naturally land in a higher pricing segment. Our makers are paid fairly and work in a healthy environment and we make sure we take care for our planet. Also, by paying the real cost of a product, consumers are encouraged to keep our products for their full lifetime which is one of the most ecologic things to do.

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3- What we can improve

More research on the impact of resins

While the resins we use fall in the category of low-impact resins because of them being water based, they are still polymeric and not biodegradable. On the one hand, that leads to our products being durable (which could offset some of the negative traits of polymers). On the other hand, there might be some negative effects of the polymers on the environment. The honest answer is that we don’t know for sure and that we definitively have to do more research on that. We are certainly open for alternatives like biodegradable resins but for now we didn’t find any suitable ones in our research for alternatives.

Making our product range 100% circular

One of the positive aspects of the material we are using is that in theory you could crush it and use it as a filler in new products (it won’t react but it will fill space so that you need less ‘new’ materials). We aren’t that doing that currently. On the one hand because collecting used products and crushing them would be super expensive. We just don’t have money for that. On the other hand because we are still unsure about all technical science aspects of making our process circular: are the saved greenhouse gases from reusing materials worth the extra greenhouse gases of transport etc.?

Using more (recycled) fillers

Another way to decrease our need for new processed resources such as gypsum and resins is the use of (recycled) fillers. We are currently looking if we can use grinded coffee waste as a filler in our material but there should be lots of other options where the waste of others can become our resource. All other ideas are very welcome!!

Entering in more social projects

While tree projects and our collaboration with social housing service CDienst are very social, we are always looking into ways to make a positive impact on people’s live’s. The reason we don’t do as many social projects as we would like too, is because, in a startup, we often just don’t have time/money to engage in new social projects. In the first place, we have to make sure our company stays healthy so that we don’t shoot ourselves in the foot. Of course, as soon as we have time/money to engage in new social projects, we will do that because it’s so needed!

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