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Intro: Discover how you can green your life by building a knowledge base of current sustainable and eco-savvy trends. This series will delve into hot topics, current standards and practices, ways to design better spaces and specify materials that benefit not only us as consumers, but the world as a whole. Members of CaraGreen, as sustainable material distributors, and other industry leaders weigh in throughout the series. This is Build Green Live Green.

Jessica: Hi this is Jessica with Build Green Live Green, CaraGreen’s podcast on sustainability issues in the built environment. Today we have one of our manufacturing partners, Florian with Organoid and welcome, Florian.

Florian Foger: Hi Jessica. Thanks for having me here today.

Jessica: We’re happy to have you. Organoid is one of our our favorite products. You guys are such a direct translation of biophilic design and nature in this space and we just love your materials. So can you talk a little bit about Organoid? When you were founded, where you’re headquartered and kind of what the company’s mission is?

Florian Foger: Yeah, it’s a pleasure. Organoid has been founded in a barn almost more than ten years ago in 2012. Right at the beginning Organoid was busy experimenting with organic shapes and creating all natural and sturdy elements. Eventually demands were popping up to slightly change this approach and to set the focus on decorative elements for the interiors and this was basically the start of Organoid Natural Surfaces just as you know it today. So even though the puffs have slightly changed the ultimate goal has always been the same. We want to do something meaningful, sustainable for people and connect what belongs together which is humans and nature. So this has always been our biggest drive and this is also anchored within our company’s philosophy.

Jessica: That’s fantastic and you’re located in Austria?

Florian Foger: We are located in Austria, actually right in the most western part of Austria in Tyron. We are based right in the heart of the Alps so we have plenty of nice mountains right at our backyard.

Jessica: Very nice. Well we’re looking forward to coming to visit as you know. Well can you talk you know, being in the Alps you’re kind of in these you know you’re situated in these fields and that’s kind of part of the connection to the company right? So can you talk about the materials and how they’re used, applications?

Florian Foger: Yeah, we’re using rapidly regrowing natural raw materials such as alpine hay, diverse petals and blossoms, moss or leaves and we press them on various backing materials. The fine surfaces are maybe used as an ecological wallpaper or as a “biolaminate” and on top of that we have great acoustic absorbers and we even do flooring.

Jessica: So basically you’ve got these rolled sheet goods with natural elements on them. Like you have moss wallpaper, real moss wallpaper. Real hay wallpaper, rose petals, lavender, cornflower all laid up on these beautiful sheet goods, or rolled goods that can be used for paneling so like behind you. What is the material behind you? What’s the backer and what is the natural element?

Florian Foger: Well behind myself there’s actually quite a new surface we do. That is the Wildspitze Light. Wildspitze is basically the name of the surface itself which is also the highest mountain of our area here and it’s also the place where we are harvesting the hay from so talking about the hay itself I mean. We try to process everything that nature gives us and the hay comes from eighteen farmers that we work with. They are harvesting the hay at certain altitude and there are various reasons for that. So first of all, we have short delivery routes, we try to work as as sustainable as it can be. The farthest meadow is a distance of fifteen kilometers away from our factory and there are on top of that there are some additional reasons why we want to work with that particular hay. It comes from a certain altitude so there is the altitude of proteins slightly different than down here in the valley. So we get the robust and constant fibers we need for our production. Parallel to that we do our parts and bits to make sure these meadows are still being cultivated.

Jessica: Okay, so then to the other side of you is the lamp shade. What is that material?

Florian Foger: Yeah here you can see how great our customers can be. So we do have some partners doing lampshades. We do have partners using our surfaces for frames of glasses or for sunshades. So there are a wide field of different applications for our surfaces.

Jessica: And is that also though is that the Wildspitze? That shade?

Florian Foger: That would be the Almwiesen or it’s the alpine hay which gets combined with various different petals and blossoms. So here we’re going to use heather, we have cornflowers in there with red rose petals, we have sunflower petals and also the the flagship natural raw material we use and the one we are known for which is the daisy.

Jessica: So you can get it either that really kind of dense material or the light which is what’s behind you right? Where you just use less organic material across the the face of the rolled goods?

Florian Foger: Exactly exactly. That’s what we do. We do have our so-called Premium surfaces and basically the characteristic of that surface is the fact that we’re using a high raw material coverage so The backing material is not visible. Whereas, with the light versions, the backing material is part of the visual appearance itself.

Jessica: And that what is the backing material typically?

Florian Foger: So here we’re using, or the most common baking material we use is natural flax fleece which you probably know as linen. And Jessica you’re probably the same in summer you are wearing wearing your linen trousers and the reason why you do it is because the material itself is preferable and so it’s also our backing materials. It’s not only biodegradable but also preferable, that means rooms can breathe.

Jessica: Okay, and then in that that linen kind of flax is actually kind of almost like a light brown in color?

Florian Foger: Yeah, it comes with a natural brown because it doesn’t get colored or bleached in any way.

Jessica: Okay, and then some of your materials do have a white backer and what is that?

Florian Foger: Yeah, we also do have surfaces which are coming with white backer which is our so-called Eco-fleece. That material is made of recycled textile and set of those fibers.

Jessica: Okay, so you know healthy natural materials on these very natural backers and rolled goods that you could you know you apply like wallpaper. So you guys have some great videos on your website that show how easily these materials are applied. And we’ve had some really interesting applications here in the US. We had one lady make a bed frame out of the alpine hay because she wanted to feel like she was sleeping in a meadow. And we have a lot of retail customers try to incorporate Organoid because they’re trying to bring you know nature into the space and you know if you’re walking around New York City it’s kind of nice to walk into a store that has you know these natural elements because you don’t get a lot of that in the outside. So we have a lot of interest in your in your product just to like I said bring nature into a space and create a more comfortable environment for people and of course they’re focused on sustainability.

Florian Foger: Yeah, that’s that’s correct and basically our surfaces are being characterized by the fact that they do not only look but even smell and feel just like the initially used raw material and that is exactly what our customers normally appreciate and value.

Jessica: Yeah, I think people are so used to in the design world and in the interior environment, it’s so visually focused, but your products are so interesting and then they’re tactile, visual and you can smell so it truly is an experience working with Organoid surfaces.

Florian Foger: Correct correct. So we basically deliver our surfaces as natural as they can be. We do not seal them in any way, they’re just all natural. So our customers cannot only benefit from the natural looks of the surface but also from the tactile and also from the scent of the surfaces.

Jessica: And also can you talk a little bit about the binder because a lot of people have questions about that and I know it’s, I don’t want the ingredient list, but can you talk about kind of what that’s comprised of?

Florian Foger: Well, that is basically a question we’re getting asked in a very regular pace and that is also one of the secrets of our success. I’m not happy to tell you, to share the ingredients list but I can tell you it is 100 ecological binding agent. Yeah, it is food safe. You could actually food it but it is important to mention that we are not processing any foods.

Jessica: Right, right. Got that. That makes sense. So obviously you know there’s this kind of human element in the interaction and that is kind of the latest shift in sustainability in general is kind of occupant health and buildings and things like that. So a lot of designs are being tailored to you know make the occupants as healthy as possible and that’s viewed as sustainable. What sustainability initiatives do you guys have? I mean I know Europe is so much more advanced than we are over here. But from a carbon footprint or an energy water standpoint. How are your operations sustainable beyond just using the natural materials?

Florian Foger: Well I mean in addition to our local material sourcing we do follow a 0 waste strategy. We produce climate neutrally here in our factory. We’ve just electrified our fleet. We’re using green energy to to energize our building here. So there are a few initiatives going on in that regard.

Jessica: Right? And then of course all your materials are natural so they’re naturally a carbon sink right?

Florian Foger: 100%. So I mean I keep on saying we do not only produce in a climate neutral way, but if you keep in mind that the hay is still binding some CO2 I would say we’re even a climate positive company.

Jessica: Yeah, yeah. I agree. I agree. And then you just mentioned something about the hay…Oh okay, so we’ve talked about hay too. The other question I get asked a lot is about allergies but you’ve had the materials tested, correct?

Florian Foger: Well, I do suffer hay fever, if I pop up in our production the day they are producing the hay I would have an itchy nose right immediately. But because of our careful production process and how we produce the surfaces we can make sure that the surface itself is anti-allergy and once it leaves our factory. So I do have it in my office. I won’t have any problem at all. That has been proven not only my office but in hundreds of hotel rooms we did in last couple of months and in theory also in terms of certificates.

Jessica: Okay, and then, some of the other materials, I mean I know the hay is is from these specific fields, local and stuff. What about the other materials? Are those all generally post-industrial as well?

Florian Foger: Well basically not all of them but a big part of the raw materials we process and the surface or the materials we cannot source locally here in our area, they are being leftovers from various different industries so leftovers which would alternatively get burned or disposed that is what we upcycle, bring back to life and make something beautiful out of it.

Jessica: Okay, and then as far as customization because you’ve done some really neat projects where you’ve used some bio based goods from the project site and you’ve made them sheet goods that connect them to kind of the location where, I think it was a hotel, and it was some of the material that was native to that area. They were able to create Organoid panels.

Florian Foger: I guess you’re referring to a project in Switzerland last year that was not a hotel. It was a restaurant and the restaurant owner, and I mean I really like this project because they did not only use a whole I mean the whole variety of the products we offered. They did the flooring, they did acoustic upsole, they did the wallpapers, everything has been incorporated in this project. But the fact, why I really liked that project was the idea behind and what the architect and interior designer wanted to achieve. So the owner Mark he basically wanted to implement his personal values, his personal ideas, things he are standing for, not only into his cuisine but also into the design of his restaurant itself so he wanted to be humble. He wanted to be local. He wanted to be down to earth in using natural elements and eventually they sent us their own hay, we made the surfaces out of it and they got it returned to Switzerland.

Jessica: That’s fantastic and and when we post this, we’ll include photos of that if that’s okay because it was really a beautiful project.

Florian Foger: Yes, please do so. I can also send you a case study which I created a couple of weeks ago.

Jessica: Yes, please do.

Florian Foger: Another project I mean we were also talking, it was in Swiss we were talking to a or we were approached by a big chocolate manufacturer. Probably the biggest one all across the globe. And he wanted us to make a floor using his leftovers from chocolate in the there, the cocoa beans and we did the flooring.

Jessica: Cool. Yeah, like yeah, that’s fantastic I’d love to see photos of that too.

Florian Foger: Yeah, we do have it also in our Look Book already. So if you open page, probably page 60 or something you can see the floor.

Jessica: Yeah he knows the page. Ah, so okay, so you mentioned the flooring and the hotel and those are using kind of some, those are two custom applications. What are some of your other favorite applications that are really just a unique way of of using Organoid material to create something really unique?

Florian Foger: Well, that’s a tricky question. I think I have to say I do not really have a favorite project or favorite application. Thinking about it, the projects I like most are the ones I randomly spot somewhere on Instagram or on social media and just seeing our customers expressing that joy they have with our surfaces. So those are little things that make me happy.

Jessica: That’s great. Yeah, it’s always nice. You know you don’t realize what you don’t know until you see it on Instagram and usually it’s a beautiful photo so when you come across those it’s very inspiring so we like to see those too. Okay so with Organoid, and we have it here in the US, first, can we just tell everyone what your website is?

Florian Foger: Yeah, our website is wwwwww.organoids.com

Jessica: Yes okay, so Organoids so o r g a n o i d s. And I always go back and forth between saying Organoid and Organoids when I’m talking about the website or not. Yeah so what are the biggest challenges that you have because this is a unique product. And you can liken it to wallpaper but if someone’s trying to compare it to you know, basic wallpaper you’re comparing apples and oranges because this is really the unique experience experiential product versus you know, just something visual. So what challenges do you run into when promoting the brand?

Florian Foger: Well, there are a few challenges and I mean talking about them in general, I have to say we do receive fantastic feedback on our surfaces. But as they are that unique and innovative and as they are new to most of our customers it sometimes is a challenge to convince people that they can they can apply just like any conventional wallpaper, just like any any conventional laminate. Also we have to inspire them, share projects with it so people just get a better idea of how Organoid can be used. And to do so we have just launched this new lookbook just to get an idea of what they can do with our surfaces or what has been done already.

Jessica: Yep, yep, the Lookbook’s fantastic and we’re sending that out to our A & D.

Florian Foger: Yeah, it is also available on our website so you can just download it from there.

Jessica: Yep, yep, and then the last thing I want to ask you about is what new initiatives do you have whether it’s new materials that you’re going to be introducing, you know the lookbook obviously is a big initiative. The case studies are an initiative but is there anything else specific that you guys are doing that you want to talk about?

Florian Foger: Well as you know already, Jessica, we just launched new acoustic absorbers which you can just apply or install like any ordinary picture.

Jessica: Yes, yep.

Florian Foger: And one thing that you probably don’t know yet, in May we are going to launch a total of five new surfaces. This basically includes a vibrant new moss surface, we have skeleton leaves and a noble golden backing and a total of three surfaces with a reduced coverage of raw material. So, again, just like the light wallpaper which you can see behind myself.

Jessica: Yeah, will they be called the light collection?

Florian Foger: Yeah.

Jessica: Okay and is the new moss the one that you sent me?

Florian Foger: It is basically a mixed moss version.

Jessica: It’s mixed. Yeah, I Really like that.

Florian Foger: So it is a mix between the light and the dark green moss and because of that mix we just end up having a very vibrant surface.

Jessica: Yep, yep I have a sample of that.

Florian Foger: The moss by the way is again, an upcycled product so they are leftovers from this bushy moss wall production as you probably know as well. And yeah, we talked about this.

Jessica: Yeah. And that’s nice because a lot of those moss wall installations are beautiful but they can’t really handle any sort of interaction, right? Because you know they’re sensitive. But your product it’s encapsulated so it’s much more durable. I know.

Florian Foger: Well I have to admit I love those kind of pushy moss walls. They are facing a similar challenge as we do with our surfaces. People are just getting attracted by the surface they want to touch it, they want to smell it. They just want to to interact with the surface.

Jessica: Yep.

Florian Foger: And with that kind of walls you end up having, as the more people are touching them the more bald and dark spots you’re going to have on that surface. So you have some kind of maintenance and things like that. And what we basically do is using that kind of waste from moss wall production, upcycle them, bring them back to life, make something nice out of it which is eventually also super abrasion resistant.

Jessica: Yep, yeah, so in that you brought up an interesting word which is another question that I get. I’m gonna throw out here as we wind this up: maintenance. So what do I do what if I need to clean my wall? What is the recommended way to clean it?

Florian Foger: How do you clean your walls at the moment?

Jessica: I don’t. I’m waiting till my kids get old enough to stop touching them.

Florian Foger: Ah, no, basically you can you can clean our wallpapers just like any ordinary wall paper. Use a cloth, you can vacuum it. You can just clean it. Just please don’t chat spray them.

Jessica: Ah, yeah, so don’t use any harsh cleaners on it.

Florian Foger: Yeah. And also I mean talking about maintenance, you just have to keep in mind our surfaces are way less sensitive than any white wall or any ordinary wall paper as potential stains are just not that visible.

Jessica: Yeah, yep, and it’s worth letting our listeners know if you want samples just reach out to caragreen.com and you can play with them yourselves. We’ve all had phone cases made with Organoid surfaces and you know we’ve put them through some pretty heavy wear and tear and they hold up remarkably well. So, Florian any other new initiatives you want to talk about or you want to wrap this up?

Florian Foger: Well, I mean basically what is also important to us, we are working now on a whole bunch of new certificates. So by the end of the year we will also want to come up with HPD and or EPD certificates so that is in the pipeline at the moment.

Jessica: Yeah.

Florian Foger: Also might be interesting just to inform that we’re just about to double our production size and also implement new technologies within both our production process and also product features.

Jessica: Great, yeah and the nice thing about Organoid is that you can get you know the rolls are what one point three six meters wide? So it’s about, what is that. four point four feet or something. But you can get any length so there’s no real minimums when it comes to sizes and stuff like that. So whether it’s a small project or a large one, you have a lot of flexibility in those wide widths and it’s just a really neat material to kind of bring the outside in. And I think my favorite two are the moss and the blue cornflower. I just think they’re so beautiful and there’s just nothing like them. And also there are options for the material to come on a translucent self adhesive so you can actually you know it’s clear so you can see through it as well.

Florian Foger: Yeah, just if you want to increase privacy in an open space office, you can combine increasing privacy with bringing nature indoors.

Jessica: Yeah, so a beautiful product, we absolutely love it. And Florian with Organoid, thank you so much for being on Build Green Live Green.

Florian Foger: Thank you, Jessica.

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