Younited Cultures was founded by Andra Slaats and Iulia Mugescu. Andra is a Romanian immigrant who moved to Vienna. She encountered lots of struggles moving here and with Younited Cultures they want to shine a positive light on immigrants and show that they have value. They are doing this by selling colorful scarfs with a message. Each scarf tells a succes story of an immigrant.
In Austria there is a big debat going on at the moment about the new minister of the country. With the elections recently two candidates where facing each other, one extreme right wing and one left wing. Migration (the refugee crisis) is also a topic of discussion in the election program so it’s clear that there is still a lot of work to do. Andra believes that immigrants have a positive impact on the society and economy, it brings in a lot of youth and human capital. The scarfs can contribute to better understanding of the migrants and hopefully to a good end of the debate going on in Austria.
The Wohnwagon (literary translated: living wagon) is best described as an off-grid caravan. It’s a 25 square meters living unit and provides all the utilities you need and has the same comfort as a normal house or flat. The makers Theresa Steiningen and Christian Frantal wanted to make a political and philosophical statement about how the future of sustainable living could look like. They started this idea a couple of years ago and made it reality.
What is special about the Wohnwagon is that all the aspects (heating, energy production, water filtration) are sustainable. Solar panels to power the house with electricity, a battery to store the energy, natural insulation and a composting toilets are just a few of the Wagon’s impressive green list. After two years of use the energy needed to produce the Wagon (coming from the production of the solar panels, batteries etc) is reduced to zero and you life Co2 positive.
The costs of a Wohnwagon are between €50.000 and €150.000. The costs are high because high quality materials are being used which are all produced locally. For example for the insulation local sheep wool has been used which are more expensive then the chemical insulation you would normally get. A well-thought decision as the makers believe that the future of living has to be fully sustainable.
The Vollpension is a unique lunchroom in the center of Vienna, Austria. The employees are all elderly people (65+) who otherwise have no chance on the labour market.
The idea started in 2012 after an idea by the Stitch brothers. The brothers came from the countryside of Austria to Vienna for studies. They saw two things: young and older people don’t go together in Vienna and good cake’s are not available in the city, you get that at your grandma’s place. I don’t know what the topic of their research was but finding out that there are no decent cake in the city is an important finding. The answer to this is the Vollpension.
It started as a try-out tour in a foodtruck through Austria. Grandma’s used to sell their best cake’s at festivals, meetings etc. It was a huge succes and people wanted more. So they started a pop-up restaurant in Vienna. Again the succes was overwhelming but the contract for their temporary location ended. Fans started Facebook groups and petitions to ask for a permanent location. And so it happened.
Right in the middel of the center they found a location which suited their needs. The Vollpension feels and looks like your grandmothers house, it’s warm, antique, spacey and cosey. The decoration consists of photo frames, puzzle paintings and medicine boxes. The cake’s are delicious. They come in many sizes and varieties and are freshly baked by the grandma’s.
So what has this lunchroom to do with sustainability? A lot. Sustainability is not only about saving energy of recycling waste but the social side (or human sustainability as they call it) is also a huge aspect. The Vollpension brings people back to the labour market where normally they wouldn’t have a chance anymore. Most of the employees have low pensions or no employeer wants to take them. Some of them just feel like they still want to do something. At the Vollpension they give those people a chance to get an income or do something they really like.
Shades Tours is a social tourism business, founded by Perrine Schober. They organize tourism activities in Vienna guided and moderated by homeless people. The organization works closely with different social institutions. The tours are guided through these institutions so you get a better idea of how homeless people life. For example you’ll learn how a homeless shelter works, see how the food distribution works, get information from a streetworking organization about various topics in homelessness such as prostitution and alcohol & drug abuse. The guide is the link between all those aspects and tells how he experiences his time as a homeless and how it works in Vienna and the reasons for homelessness in the city.
The tour guides and are given the opportunity to earn an income and a work experience as a first step towards their reintegration into the local labour market. In the beginning Shades Tours was actively looking for guides but now the homeless find the organization too. Proving that the concept is working.
When you will stay at the Magdas Hotel as a guest, you won’t notice quickly that there is something special going on here. From the outside it looks like any other hotel and the rooms, although they are nicely decorated, don’t stand out of the normal picture. It’s the social aspect that is unique in this business.
The Hotel was founded by Caritas (known as Cordaid in some countries), a social NGO. They founded the Magdas three years ago. Their goalswas not to maximize profit but to maximize openess and humanity. All the employees are refugees who come from 14 different nations, all with different backgrounds. The Magdas develops these people and giving them job opportunities. They get long-term contracts and many possibilities to develop themselves and get certificates. They are free to leave whenever they want and take the certificates with them so they can start working in another place.
Sustainability has an huge social aspect and this is a great example of it. The Magdas also took care about the other parts of sustainability. In the beginning they had 1.5 million euro to open the hotel, which is almost nothing in this industry. Normally a hotel can spend 10.000 euro to rebuild a room, Magdas had €1.500 and they needed to think of creative ways to make it comfortable. Together with an up-cycling artist they made a plan. As the location used to be an home for the elderly, there was already furniture. The artist took everything out of the room and made new chairs, tables and closets from it. Other furniture was gathered with an crowdsourcing campaign. This makes every single room unique.
The slogan of the Magdas is “An hotel like no other” and this is very true. If you could chose, wouldn’t you pick this hotel over any other, standard hotel? If ever in Vienna, be sure to visit this hotel. They deserve your business so much more than any regular standard hotel.
I interviewed Sarah Barci, marketing manager of the hotel. She talks about how it all started, the problems they had to start it and their future goals.
The Magdas Hotel is a business like any other but there social and sustainable approach is quite unique. The employees are (former) refugees and they collected their furniture through crowdsourcing. I met Ira who is the founder of Die Mutmacherei, an initiative that promotes sustainable projects in Austria.
In the evening I went to the Erdgesprache (Earthtalks), the biggest sustainable event in Austria this year, probably no coincidence that I was here just at this time. There were talks from Celine Cousteau, the granddaughter of Jacques and a journalist of The Guardian.