Interview with Sarah van Maarseveen from Ecocreative

Sarah van Maarseveen is the Sustainability & Operations Manager at Ecocreative.

1.Tell us a bit about Ecocreative's story?

Ecocreative is a creative consultan cy devoted to inspiring positive change for a sustainable society. As specialists in communicating messages that bring about positive change, we provide communications, education and strategic support to many organisations at the national, state and local level. Our work is focused on creating engaging brands, stories, products and experiences.

In my role as Sustainability & Operations Manager I love thinking about how the big picture stuff (and our vision) filters through to the daily operations to make sure we do what we’re good at and we do it in the best possible way.

2. Where do you see sustainability factoring in to your work?

The word ‘sustainability’ comes up a lot in our work; it’s safe to say we’re rather passionate about it! Everyone who works in the team shares similar values and we feel that sustainability isn’t an endpoint; it’s about continually improving our practice and the way we choose to live our lives. It’s a philosophy, a set of values in action.

Right from the outset in 1998 the company was founded with the vision of making a difference; a positive social and environmental impact. Our approach considers that the way we operate is at least as important as our work itself. We choose to work with clients who share this philosophy and engage with a network of collaborators who appreciate why this is so important.

Ecocreative has a triple bottom line focus (which means we believe that a business plays a role beyond merely making profit and aiming for ever-increasing growth). Everything we do is focused on contributing positively to transforming the impact we have on the earth’s ecosystems and creating true value for people.

Working across different disciplines allows us to take a more holistic approach and take a fresh look at conventions and assumptions that may impede a more sustainable or authentic outcome. Our work is focused on achievements such as heightened awareness, behavioural change and, ideally, measurable outcomes. As a business we pledge to continuously improve our performance and we hope to learn from and inspire others to do the same.

3. Tell us specifically about what office initiatives you have undertaken to minimise your carbon footprint and maximise the well-being of your clients and staff?

Hmm where to start…As we're all about collaboration and sharing our knowledge of sustainable practices with as many people as possible (and reducing our ecological footprint by sharing resources) we're now working out of our own team room at the city's biggest and brightest co-working facility, Hub Adelaide.

It’s also an ideal location for public transport, and every team member is provided with a contribution which covers 100% of public transport costs, or around half of the parking (as not everyone in our team is able to take public transport).

We believe that designers have a special power - being creative for the greater good. We’re not the only ones who feel passionate about this and together with others around the world we’re an early adopter of The Designers Accord .

We try to minimise our environmental impact, and what we do emit, we offset with NCOS -certifed carbon credits. In doing so, we meet current Australian requirements for ‘carbon neutrality’, abating all direct emissions as well as our power consumption (we run on renewable wind power). As for our indirect emissions, we offset waste to landfill, paper consumption, business travel (including flights and taxis) and half of all employee commuting.

A big part of being active recyclers is that our own post-consumer waste supports manufacturers of Australian recycled products, including paper, plastic, metals, glassware, pigments, even garden products. If a material has already been processed to make the original product (such as a piece of paper or glass) there is an enormous saving on the energy required to make the next generation of products. Also, supporting these industries means that they can offer us a wider range of energy efficient materials to use for our projects!

4. What obstacles, if any, have you faced in your journey?

I think the most difficult thing when you’re operating a business differently, and with a holistic approach to sustainability is that you tend to be more critically looked at then mainstream businesses. We have to work twice as hard to ensure that we are doing the right thing as well as justifying it to a broader audience. This applies to new clients as well as their stakeholders. Often the people we work with need to legitimise a more sustainable approach within their own organisations. Luckily we have become quite good at this and we’ve developed ways in which we can help our clients advocate for their contributions to more sustainable outcomes within their own networks.

In the end, overcoming this is vital, as it will increase the number of businesses who don’t think about their environmental or social impacts, and may not even have considered that there is an alternative way of working.

5. What inspires you to lead a life, and a business that is better for the planet?

Growing up in Botswana I realised how privileged I was, spending lots of time in the bush and also seeing that not everyone was as fortunate as I am. This also made me more aware of the richness that can be found in the diversity of people and the environment.

I went on to study interior architecture in the Netherlands, which I was rather idealistic about, wanting to positively influence the way people feel within spaces. As I worked in the field for a couple of years, however there was little thought put into working with less toxic materials, or designing to material sizes and reducing waste. Furthermore much of design contributes to merely encouraging the consumption we seem to have trapped ourselves into. I decided that it was time to re-focus on my ideals and completed a Masters in Sustainable Design here in Adelaide. Sustainability requires a much broader look than 'business as usual', to enable better collaboration and understanding.

Overall I feel that living in a way that is more in tune with the planet that we inhabit, and build a stronger community take we take part in is a more authentic and fulfilling way of living. It feels much good to know that decisions I make in my life are less harmful, and quite frankly the lifestyle changes that result, make me a whole lot happier!

6. Do you have a message, or a final tip you would like to share with our 1 Million Women community about living a more sustainable lifestyle?

Questioning why we do things is probably the first tip I would give as this breaks through conventions that otherwise would just be taken for granted. Why do we do this? Is it needed? What will this result in? And is there another way of doing something? One of the things I remember questioning are the spikes that are put onto buildings to discourage birds from sitting on them (as of course no one wants bird poo on their facade). It made me think about the crazy relationship we have with nature though, and the way in which design tries to remove us from the environment we’re in.

The other thing I would say is change things one step at a time to make enduring changes that you’re able to implement, it also makes you more aware of the positives that result. Walking to places more for example (sure, it is slower) though you actually start to look at a different level of detail, and you run into your neighbours, and appreciate how many amazing trees there are around you…

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We're highlighting how to make your office more sustainable all throughout February - check out these posts...

  1. -Green jobs for the girls! A guest post by Romilly Madew
  2. -How to green your workplace
  3. -DIY all-purpose 3 ingredient cleaner for your workplace

And don't forget to take part in our monthly photo a day challenge, this month's theme is (you guessed it) sustainable workplace. You can inform, inspire and motivate each other with your amazing sustainable photos and there are great prizes to be won! Play photo a day by clicking here .


Join us in taking practical action on dangerous climate change through the way that we live, the choices we make and the way we spend our money.