“Cargo bike sharing and zero waste are a perfect fit.”
26.11.2020 | Sustainability
Tara Welschinger runs “FOIFI” and “ZOLLFREI”, Zurich’s first zero-waste combined stores and cafés. The stores act as meeting points for people who have discovered a more sustainable mindset for themselves. Tara uses the carvelo2go sharing platform to hire out three Riese & Müller Packster 60 cargo bikes, the predecessor model to the Packster 70. In this interview, she gives us an insight into host-based sharing and explains how we can all live more sustainably.
We differentiate between three forms of E-Bike sharing: host-based or station-based sharing, or free floating. This article deals with host-based sharing. A sharing platform, like carvelo2go in Switzerland, is the link between the E-Bike manufacturer and a person responsible for lending and return of the bikes (host).
The borrowers benefit from host-based sharing because they have fixed contacts on site. Benefits can also come from the type of host, for instance bars or restaurants stay open longer and so the bikes are also available for a longer period of time.
For five years now, electric cargo bikes belonging to carvelo2go have been an integral part of the Swiss road traffic scene: the company now has over 330 cargo bikes available for the transport of goods and children in 75 Swiss towns and cities.
carvelo2go is thus the world’s first and also largest sharing platform for electric cargo bikes. The platform is operated by the Mobility Academy of the Touring Club Suisse (TCS).
The E-Cargo bikes are produced by the German premium manufacturer Riese & Müller in Mühltal in the central Hesse region.
Tara, you set up FOIFI, the first zero-waste store and café in Zurich and are still running it today. How did you become so committed to zero waste?
Once upon a time, I was simply a normal hedonistic, consumer-orientated, urban woman, for whom continued education took me to the Executive Board of a large agency. However, on one of my last trips through Southeast Asia, I suddenly noticed how much waste ends up in the environment. Mountains of waste in the sea, on mountains, just lying around everywhere where there is dense tourism and Western advertising has a serious impact. On my trip to Africa, I saw piles of old clothes – six football fields worth of them – and I became deeply aware of the impact my consumption, my wasted resources and the cycle in which we find ourselves is having on the world and our habitats. So I found myself wondering: how can I change my lifestyle to conserve resources? Because I wanted to integrate this into my everyday life. I don’t lead a Thoreauesque lifestyle. That’s why I’ve gradually adjusted my daily life to zero waste one bit at a time. In doing so, you become aware of the waste that you are causing. You pay more attention to ingredients and ensuring that packaging is plastic-free and reusable. I started with food, which is the simplest, and gradually the zero-waste approach spread to my entire consumption. Of course, the switchover was extremely time-consuming.
How did the people in your life respond to your challenge?
I noticed that something always resonated with the people I told about my solutions – for instance, beeswax wraps for packing fresh food. The idea behind the FOIFI store and café is therefore about more than just providing plastic-free and natural basic products. At the same time, it is a meeting place for zero waste, where guests can sit down and exchange ideas. You can really absorb the atmosphere here and immerse yourself in the issue. “FOIFI” is the Swiss German word for “FIVE” and is inspired by the “5Rs”: Re-use, Re-fuse, Re-duce, Re-cycle und Re-design.
How does the partnership with carvelo2go fit into the picture?
We would like to work climate-neutrally and have done away with our car. It was obvious that we needed to build up this kind of partnership. We became aware through a plumbing company of the possibility of using an E-Cargo bike to transport goods. Over the course of a few weeks, the team visited us in the café and we discussed CO2 reduction and logistics using an E-cargo bike.
As a result, we applied to become a host for carvelo2go. We offer a major benefit being a store and café: we are open every day for ten to twelve hours and can flexibly deal with the rental and return of the Packsters during these hours. Sharing and zero waste are a perfect fit for each other, particularly in our restricted space in Zurich.
Can you tell me a little more about the people who rent bikes from you?
In my experience, they are urban, bike-friendly people who like to cycle a lot. They include many families who want to go on trips, or even people who would like to transport bulkier objects. A father immediately comes to mind who regularly picks up his children from school on the cargo bike. He buys jelly babies in the store while he is arranging to rent the bike. Then he takes the children on a little trip and brings the bike back after two hours or so. These are super-cool experiences for the children, whizzing this fast around the place. And the dad can ride further and make as many stops as he wants to. It’s simply stress-free for him.
My partner and I have also managed without a car for five years. Apart from the three Riese & Müller carvelo2go bikes, which we can use for free for 25 hours each month, we also have our own private E-Cargo bike. We use whatever is there.
How do you rate the infrastructure for E-Cargo bikes in Zurich?
Every cyclist finds Zurich a difficult city in which to cycle. Unfortunately, the city focuses on cars. Alternatively, there is a very well-developed public transport network. The most recent votes in the city have revealed that residents wish to improve the cycle routes. Many of the cycle routes are too narrow especially for a cargo bike. Nevertheless, there are an incredible number of people riding their bikes. And more and more people are taking up cycling.
After growing up in the Swiss canton of Grisons, Tara travelled extensively following her apprenticeship as a chemistry lab technician, starting in New York. She then put down roots in Zurich and worked in various corporates, SMEs and agencies in the fields of communication, events, consulting, management and coaching, and the went on to gain a master’s degree.
In 2017, she set up her own business with her partner Christof Studer and founded the agency Staibock & Leu AG – concepts for living sustainability. The result was the FOIFI zero-waste store and café and in 2019 the ZOLLFREI district café right in the heart of the FREILAGER 2,000-watt district of the city.
Tara lives with Christof and her cat Felix in Zurich. They like cooking and eating and enjoy passionate and vocal discussions about socio-political and sustainability-related issues – their friends also have to join in.
Travel continues to be Tara’s passion to this day.