SIRPLUS: THE JOURNEY OF THE MAN WHO LIVED WITHOUT MONEY
Making up for the long wait for a new episode, Claudi has an absolute killer interview guest for you.
To many of you, especially those German-speakers and those who've been following the anti-food waste movement, I probably don’t have to introduce him: He is one of Germany’s biggest food activists, he went on a money strike, he’s written a book called “Happy Without Money”, given tons of talks, co-founded the platform foodsharing.de - and now founded an amazing new startup, Germany’s first food outlet called SirPlus.
YES, you are right - I'm talking about Raphael Fellmer (@sirplus.de).
Raphael and I met in November 2017 at the "re:MIND" conference that brought together around 100 influencers who care about sustainability, to discuss what sustainability actually means and how it could possibly work in big multinational companies...
Raphael gave a super inspiring talk, loaded with passion, emotion, gratitude and just so authentic and powerful… I think everyone was totally captured. He is someone I truly admire for his values, his beliefs and his perseverance. If everyone would be a little bit more like him, we could solve a lot of our world’s problems in no time.
WHY WE NEED SIRPLUS?
Raphael and his team are putting heaps of passion into SirPlus - and that’s really really necessary when we look at the numbers: 50% of edible food is being wasted in Europe! 50% !! In Germany, that's about 1 truck per minute - and with the food that's thrown away, we could feed all hungry people 4 times !!
Sounds daunting, but Raphael Fellmer is the living proof that change is possible and everyone everywhere can do something. Want some positive numbers?
Within their first 7 months, SirPlus managed to save more than 400 tons of food from landing in the bin - that equals 1,000,000 meals! That’s huge! Meanwhile, they already opened their 4th outpost and the amount of food that's been saved surely has quadrupled, too.
IN THIS PODCAST EPISODE, YOU'LL LEARN ABOUT:
- the story of Raphael’s 5-year moneystrike & a moneyless journey through Mexico
- what happened that led him to such a radical experiment
- the realization that there are two sides to money & other big learnings
- why he believes so strongly in our generation
- why overwriting what we learned can sometimes take a while
- the what’s, how’s & why’s of SirPlus
- empowering people to be the change they want to see in the world (like Ghandi said)
- the darks side and bright side in every human being
- the blessing of failure & how to grow from it
- why dogma entitlement & need to be replaced with compassion and empathy
- deep trust as a force for good
...and tons of more beautiful take aways. Promise, this episode will fire you up with energy & once you finished listening you gonna jump up and make change happen.
Get ready for Raphael Fellmer from SirPlus!
LISTEN TO THE PODCAST RIGHT HERE:
SIRPLUS - INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT:
CLICK HERE TO READ THE TRANSCRIPT:
C: Hi Raphael, super great to be sitting here with you today, thanks so much for taking out a chunk of your busy day to be on the show! How’s it going?
R: First of all, I would also like to thank you for what you’re doing and all the people listening and for being part of the change that the world needs. It’s really important that people like you take action, spread consciousness and awareness and give great solutions which are integratable into our lives to make this world a better place. So, thank you.
Yeah, it’s busy in our store, for sure. In our first food outlet of SirPlus here in Berlin. But it’s going well and spring is a good season to sell a lot of products. And since we now have over 150 different products in our store, the customers are also always very happy. To find new products, more and more vegan products are also available and organic... which are not only nice in itself, but also with this additional value that they’re all saved and without the customers, without us, they would have been wasted, so it’s very good. And cheaper than normally!
C: You already touched on quite a lot of points there regarding SirPlus, as you said, Germany’s first food outlet, which we gonna talk more about in a bit. I know you’re very short in time and it’s precious, so I wanna jump right in.
Let’s imagine you’re at an event - say at a friend’s birthday - and someone comes up to you and asks you: “so, what do you do?” What is your response?
R: I try to be a responsible human being. And I tried this already for many many years. First, I was just a student, trying to do my best to not pollute so much. But I was flying a lot. Then I realized that actually flying is not so cool, it’s very damaging.
C: I know, I’m guilty and aware of that.
R: Just a flight to the other side of the world and back produces so much CO2 emissions. Actually, our goal to only produce 2.5 tons of CO2 per year is already more than doubled in 24 hours flying.
I was also living in a money strike, did a money less journey from the Netherlands to Mexico. Tried to raise awareness for our society where we waste a lot of resources. May it be clothes, housing, cars, but also food - 50% of food is wasted in Europe. Wolrdwide, it’s a third, so still 1.3 billion tons.
C: Phew… And the money strike actually went on for 5 years, right? And it means that you actually lived without spending money, or without earning money?
R: Yes, both. I was not accepting money and not spending money. So the goal was - it was not a hunger strike, but it was a strike to raise awareness. There are several things which are really not well right now and which need to be changed. And that we shouldn’t wait for politicians, we shouldn’t wait for companies to change. We should really take the steering wheel into our hands, take the responsibility which we have.
Because we are the privileged ones here in Europe. We don’t have to look for food every day to survive like hundreds of millions of people in the world. We have education, we have internet, we have possibilities to make a difference in our daily lives to reduce our carbon footprint. But also to think about solutions for the world how we, as humanity, as a whole can cope with this very big challenge to fit us - over 7 billion people, and we’re just 1 species of millions - in this marvellous, but very unique planet in this universe.
And I think this is a little bit our challenge, which we should take pretty serious and take action. In small, but also in big scales. If people work in companies and maybe this company is even destroying the planet - but if you can make a difference in this company, it has a huge impact.
And the same goes for your diet. For sure you can wait until your canteen offers a vegan organic food, but you can also just say “I’m gonna eat this way now” and this changes also your canteen. And this changes also how supermarkets are buying food. We as consumers have so much more power.
C: Exactly! That’s what I’m always saying. We shouldn’t wait until governments do something. Because if we set a sign, and there’s a critical mass reached of us consumers, then ultimately, the government and the companies will follow. So I love that approach and I love your approach, that you really spread this and try to empower each person.
Can you now take us back to the moment that changed everything for you? What happened that suddenly made you aware of all the insane amounts of food waste and other failures of our system and then ultimately led you to start the money strike?
R: I always tried to be responsible like I said…
C: Did you grow up like this?
R: Yeah, partly, but my parents taught me to eat animals for example. Just like we humans often do what we learned to do. We speak the language, we adapted a culture, we eat what our parents and grandparents eat. So we do behave in many ways not because we think it’s right but just because we copy our friends and family and our ancestors.
We are now this generation which has the possibility and also the necessity to leave conditional behaviours behind and find our true path, where we find our heart within the same vibration as our actions. I think this is very challenging and difficult sometimes.
But more and more people are really waking up and changing their lives. It sounds silly but maybe just changing your diet from meat to plants. There’s actually this huge cultural shift taking place, on an individual level, but right now there are millions of people just in Germany who are changing their diets to a vegetarian diet already. And 30 years ago, vegan was not even present in their heads of anybody. And now there are almost a million people who already voluntarily choose to eat this way.
That’s why I also have a lot of trust and belief in humanity, that we can be the masters of our soul, we can be the masters of our destiny by waking up and starting really to change.
So for me, I was a student, flying around the world, enjoying and trying to save the world as well, but I was more egoistically really looking at my pleasures. Not doing any big social things or environmental things. Then, before going to Mexico, I was in an airplane and I realized that I cannot just fly to Mexico and fly back. That’s completely the opposite of what I want to embrace with my life, which is to protect the planet, to protect our home - because we are just guests here on this planet. So that made me really think. And then the money strike, the money less journey from the Netherlands all the way to Mexico was 11 months until we got there…
C: How did you get there then, if you didn’t fly?
R: We used the cars and the boats and ships etc. which were going into this direction or that had some space. We wanted to show with this journey that food waste is actually an international problem and that, with everything we throw away, we could feed all the people four times over! And then, there’s not only food waste but also other resources which are wasted and we can actually not continue like this. If we don’t change then humanity will have some really really deep troubles, which you can already see here and there already. But we really need to take action now.
That’s why, on this journey, I decided that I’m not just gonna do this for an experiment but I’m gonna go on a money strike later to raise even more awareness, go into the media and really raise awareness. To empower people to be the change they want to see in the world, like Ghandi said.
C: Yeah, yeah, yeah! And I mean you’ve done an awesome job with this. You’ve been in lots of media, you’ve written a book about it, you’ve just been really really present with this.
What would you say, on your way, was one of your biggest challenges? And how did you overcome it?
R: There were for sure many many challenges. I think one very big challenge was for example in Brazil where I was trying to get a ride with my friend. We were waiting and were travelling there for several days. And nobody gave us a ride. There was this point of thinking “okay, maybe this is gonna fail”. But failing is also good, because you learn a lot. There I realized that life also sometimes gives you a mirror and I was with my friend in a very difficult situation and I just somehow saw or perceived it, unconsciously or whatever. But it just didn’t work this hitchhiking. Then my friend got robbed. Then we got to another gas station and waited for 5 days and that was really terrible. Because you offer yourself when you hitchhike and if people don’t take you, that means also that they don’t trust you. So that was a very hard moment.
Another very very big moment of trouble was at the end of the money strike. I have two wonderful children and her mother, my wonderful marvellous wife Nieves who I love a lot. And she bared me in all these years, which wasn’t always easy. I was very dogmatic, very extremist. So there, to open my heart and to open my limited view, that everything needs to be without money and I wanted to embrace this moneyless world with all my actions, and also in my personal life… I was a little bit too extreme. And my wife helped me to let go and to see money more as a nice thing. That you can use money and you can destroy the world, create slavery or whatever. But if you give the money to the right people, so they can follow their heart and their vocation and create change and create impact to make this world a better place - then money can actually really help to make a difference.
This was a huge step. It was like a mental prison in which I was. I mean this was the money strike, but often people tend to build their own prisons and we need to learn to go also a little bit more with the flow. There’s people who eat only vegan food, sometimes they also tend to be radical. Others are not good and I am better and if you’re not yet vegan then you haven’t understood something… But we need to have more compassion and empathy, to understand that we grew up like this and we live in a society that’s hard to change and to let go from your behaviour which you got taught by others and your family and your friends. Maybe you’ve been stigmatised in your circles of friends or whatever.
Everybody needs his own time and to support each other for every little step and to see more - and I think this is important - the positive side in it. Don’t always look on the dark side. And we all have a dark side… and we always have a bright side. There’s the song “always look on the bright side” 🙂 And it’s very very true. We can stand up every morning and cry and we can shoot ourselves because it’s so terrible. But that will not help any animal. That will not help any human and neither the planet.
So I believe it’s really more: okay, realize that the shit hits the fan already. And now, take action and make a change, with a positive attitude and vibration. Because, if you are vegan and you are not happy…
C: ...then no one wants to be like you!
R: Yesss! It’s not really good advertisement. It’s the contrary.
C: Exactly! There’s so many points in there where I live exactly that. And I see it in my own experience. By just showing people that sustainability and going green and living consciously is FUN. And really looking at the positive side, also regarding food - I 100% agree with that. No one wants to be with someone who’s dogmatic or aggressive. If people realize, okay, I can do this step by step, but I don’t have to change 180° straight away. Just being encouraged… I’m so with you in this.
Let’s talk about gratitude a bit. You already talked a bit about your wife. One thing I remember when we met, at the re:Mind meetup, one moment that really touched me was when you started talking about your wife, like you did now, how much she supported you. As you just proved, you have an enormous ability to see the good in people and I love that. Of course, gratitude, being humble and grateful is really important.
What is it that makes you see all this, that makes you so humble & grateful? And what are you most grateful for right now?
R: ...Thank you for asking. I mean, that’s a very beautiful question and believe that just for being here on this planet is a gift for me. To have a healthy body and mind. To have a family, we have two wonderful kids who are healthy, I have my wonderful wife, I have parents who live, I have friends, I have even a job where I can almost live from 🙂 and kind of a vocation, where I feel that everything I put into SirPlus, our impact startup with this wonderful team…
<< To really see that we can dream and then we should plan and we can do and we can actually create things and transform the system - that for me is very powerful and beautiful to see >>
Yes, we can. Yes, we can change this world! This makes me very very happy. And I have to say that also this moneyless journey and the moneyless living afterwards, that made me realize how privileged we are. How much luck we have. We have no war here in Europe for many many years. We have always enough food, we have education, we have mobility, we have a system, which for sure has many negative things, but overall is still better than 80-90% of other people in the world, where everything is corrupt, people have to look for food, there is brutality, violence… We have a very privileged status here and should use this now to say: I have this situation and what can I do for the others. For our brothers and sisters - we live on the same planet, have the same destinies. We all want to live here, we all want to live in peace.
I also understand that there’s so much more that connects us as humans. There’s so much more that we have in common than separates us and there’s so much more we can do to light that bright side in us. We should really focus on what connects us, brings us together. So yeah, I’m just very very happy and grateful for my life and everything that I said.
C: Beautiful, beautiful…
I wanna talk about SirPlus now, and first of all: Why did you decide to start SirPlus here in Berlin? What makes it different to other cities?
R: Actually, I grew up in Berlin. I started the foodsaving movement here while I was living the moneyless life. That was 5.5 years ago and now there are 30,000 people active in Germany, Austria & Switzerland. Foodsavers who volunteered to pick up small quantities of food from bakeries, but also restaurants…
C: 30,000 is huge!
R: Yeah, it’s massive and I’m very grateful for every one of them. They are committing their time and energy to save food. And this is something very useful: you need food and at the same time you can do something good for the environment.
<< Because 50% waste in Europe means that we have 50% overproduction. So it’s a very inefficient system >>
So even by saving only small quantities - and we have saved more than 12 million kilograms with foodsharing which is very great… Now, I still live in Berlin and just happened to get together with my very dear friend, Martin with whom I also created a lot of foodsharing together, we’ve been friends since 6 years. And then came Alexander, our 3rd co-founder, so together we started SirPlus.
The idea was that we make a digital marketplace, a secondary marketplace, where for example, the farmer who has 200 tons of potatoes in the fridge for 7 months already. Now the fresh potatoes come in from Egypt and he can’t sell his potatoes anymore. So he can offer his potatoes on our marketplace - and then the potato chips company can come and say, wow, I take these potatoes because they are cheaper, they are more environmentally friendly, I can do something good with them.
The farmer is happy, the potato chips producer is happy, the environment is happy, and we as well, we take a little commission. And for NGO’s we also offer this platform for free. But since this is only for B2B, we also wanted to make food saving mainstream for consumers. So I understood quite well where the loopholes are, where the system is not really functioning well and where a lot of surplus food is created - and that’s happening every day. So we can take the surplus food and give it also into the hands of the consumers and say: okay, you can buy the perfect looking carrot, or you can buy our too big or too small, or not so beautiful but unique looking fruit and vegetables. Or buy products which have passed the “best before” date.
<< Through our SirPlus store here in Berlin, but also through our online shop, we want to enable and empower everyone to be part of the solution. >>
Because we can save a lot of food, but if we don’t find people who then actually buy it and eat it, we have to waste it. So it’s about finding a way where everyone can participate. And after vegan, after organic, after fair trade, we want to make saved food sexy, hip and cool, so that everybody feels like “I do this, not only because it’s cool, but I see a sense behind it”.
At the same time you can save the environment, you can save some money and it just makes sense. This is our goal with the shop and the delivery service. To reach out to everyone and to enable people to integrate food saving easily into their lives.
C: That’s awesome! It’s also incredibly empowering, you just said it. It’s more than “just” a food outlet or a supermarket selling foods. It’s also really about educating the people and really giving them a tool or a chance to be part of this whole thing.
THIS IS SIRPLUS
All photo credit © SirPlus, Maja Seidel, Chloé Desnoy & Ryota Abe
[photo credit © SirPlus, Maja Seidel, Chloé Desnoy & Ryota Abe]
I’m just blown away by the amount of dedicated people I get to meet on this show and in everyday life… It really strengthens me in my beliefs that we can change the world for the better, that it’s not too late & that it’s right to be positive and let positive energy fuel you.
If you enjoyed this episode, don’t forget to hop on over to iTunes and leave us a short review. Your feedback is super important to make the show better and also to spread the messages to more people. Very grateful for everyone who supports us. You’re making our work worthwhile
Now, I hope you have a huge smile on your face, go out there, spread some positive future vibes - and always remember to keep it green!
SIRPLUS - SHOWNOTES & LINKS MENTIONED
BEFORE YOU GO
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That’s it! Thanks so much for listening! Good times are coming & we all have the power to make it happen. So go out & spread some good green vibes 🙂
SPONSOR SHOUT OUT
This episode has been brought to you by re:Blog , an innovative CSR initiative by Otto bringing together influencers who care about sustainability, to share inspiring stories, discuss what sustainability actually means and find solutions how it could possibly work in big multinational companies.
// SIRPLUS //
Wilmersdorfer Str. 59, 10627 Berlin - Charlottenburg
Open: Mon to Fri 9.00 - 20.30
GET IN TOUCH:
Email: email@example.com | Tel: +49 30 49950675
All info & online store: https://sirplus.de
ARE YOU READY TO SAVE LOTS OF EDIBLE FOOD? WOULD YOU GO TO THE STORE OR SHOP ONLINE?
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