Tripulse Changemaker Hub is a platform where we showcase individuals or organizations from anywhere in the world who are actively working on something that creates a positive impact in the world: On our environment, animals and wildlife, to other people or society at large, to people’s fitness, health and wellbeing (physically, mentally, spiritually). It’s someone who lives the Tripulse “Be Better” spirit and inspires others through their actions to do so too.
By featuring their stories and lifting their voices, we want to share what inspires us to "be better” and hopefully motivate many more people. Feel free to share these stories! Everyone can make a positive difference, big or small, but if we are many we are stronger.
One such changemaker is Lili Dreyer who is the founder of the Danish shoe upcycling brand VAER. She has a vision to change the shoe industry for the better by makings sneakees from materials that would otherwise go to waste. Lili answered our questions:
What’s your name?
Where do you live?
How old are you?
As I am writing this 26, but I will be 27 on the 22nd of November (11/22-22, what a cool date).
What do you do that creates a positive impact, what’s your mission?
We give new life to discarded textiles by upcycling them into cool sneakers.
Why do you do it?
It takes so many resources (water, energy, labour etc.) to make clothes, so we want to do everything we can to prevent them from going to waste. Unfortunately, there are so many textiles out there, that for some reason or another cannot be reused (e.g. because of production mistakes, holes or something else) - this is where upcycling comes in. We can give these “imperfect” textiles a new life, use them as they are, and make them into sneakers. For us, it is common sense.
What’s the biggest challenge in doing what you do?
The biggest challenge is how unstandardised the textile waste is. Normally when you produce clothes or shoes, everything comes on rolls where the textiles are exactly the same, you can order as much as you want in any colour and material you like - and it fits exactly with the production methods of the factories. With textile waste it’s a whole different story, there is no place where you just go and order textile waste, there is so much out there, but no centralised place to get it. Luckily we have some awesome textile waste partners such as Elis and Salvation Army.
How do you keep motivated when things get tough?
As cliche as it sounds, I have found my purpose (textile upcycling) and that is what keeps me motivated. When times get tough and I reconsider if it is worth it after all, I just have to think about how much unused potential that textile upcycling has and how many textiles we could save if we succeed in making this truly scalable.
Sustainability for you is…(please complete the sentence)
Circularity, and balance. The way we produce and consume as a society has been out of balance for a long time. We produce and consume much more than we need to and at a pace where our planet cannot keep up. Nature is circular, but we have broken this circularity with our fast paced convenience culture, where we use endless amounts of resources to make products that we only use for a short period of time - to just throw them away. It is madness. Sustainability for me is that we regain balance and start thinking circular again.
What’s your favorite way to stay active and healthy?
Football - yay! I have played football since I was 6 years old, and it just makes me so happy to play and have fun with my teammates. Staying active and healthy has to be fun in order for me to stick with it, and football is the perfect solution to that.
Where can we educate ourselves more on the mission or topic you’re working on (digital platforms, magazines, books, documentaries, movies, podcasts, websites etc)?
When it comes to upcycling, unfortunately there aren't too many educational sources (except for super nerdy stuff like scientific articles). But when it comes to inspiration to get started with upcycling yourself, I would recommend to follow awesome upcycling influencers (such as the Norwegian Jenny Skavlan @jennyskavlan) and if you understand Danish - the organisation Re:wair (@rewairdk).
When it comes to sustainable fashion in general, I always recommend the movie The True Cost, which I think is just awesome in highlighting the issues in the fashion industry.
Where can we find more of you and the great work you do (Social Media, website, blog, etc)?
First of all, I would check out our webpage (https://vaerupcycled.com/), where you can explore more about upcycling and how we make it happen. To join our upcycling universe, you can follow along on both:
Uh, and remember to join our newsletter :)
What is your personal motto?
Uh that is a difficult one, I actually don’t think I have one. But if I should choose one that I really like, it’s this one: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” from Margaret Mead.
It is very easy to feel overwhelmed about the magnitude of the climate crisis - and people are quick to say that as an individual, you are powerless. But quotes like these show that hell no, small groups of individuals can create an enormous amount of change!
Who is a person who inspires you to live a more active and/or sustainable life?
My sister inspires me to eat more plant-based (she is vegan - and I am trying my best to be vegetarian). Living a more active lifestyle is very much internal motivation, I want to be good at what I do, and in order to be a good football player, I need to stay in shape.What’s your definition of “be better”?
Being better for me is very individual from person to person. I think in general it is to work with yourself, getting to know yourself better and working with the challenges you have to become happy and live a balanced life. Of course I also have to add sustainability in there, I think that is an important part of “being better” as well, taking care of our planet.
Which question do you wish we’d ask you but haven’t?
Hahaha good question! Maybe it would be a question about what has surprised me the most about my start-up journey. The answer to that would be how lucky I have been in having the people I have had and have with me on this journey as co-founders, team-mates and interns. I am absolutely blown away every day about the fact that they put so much heart and soul into VAER and I am honoured to be on this mission of unleashing the power of textile upcycling together with them.
Wanna get inspired by yet another changemaker? Check out Julia Beyer from Suntribe, Nele Doerk from Runnerfeelings and Daan from Plogsack, who all live the Be Better spirit in their own unique way.
Know a changemaker we should get in touch with?
If you identify yourself as a changemaker or know someone who does, please reach out to us on firstname.lastname@example.org - we’d love to connect and are always interested in featuring inspiring people who are making our world a better place.