This interview originally appeared on Birds of a Thread, a beautiful blog dedicated to ethical design and thoughful consumption. Having covered ethical coffee on the blog before, it seemed fitting to continue the theme and look at how we’re making that coffee too!
Looking for ways to make your coffee habit more sustainable? The Ebb filter has you covered. I recently chatted with Geana Sieburger, creator of the Ebb filter and founder of GDS Cloth Goods, a sustainable design and production studio based in Oakland, California. Read on to learn more about the project.
Tell us a little about GDS Cloth Goods’ new Ebb filter.
Ebb is the studio’s newest product, a reusable coffee filter made from organic cotton for use with specialty coffee. What that means is that I’ve made use of my 10 years working with the textile industry and worked with a few local experts in coffee for development to create a product that works really well and actually has the potential to lure people away from single-use paper filters.
As a coffee lover, I’m already sold. But the objective reader might ask, why a coffee filter, and why the obsession with materials?
I love both of these questions because they give me the opportunity to do exactly what I set out to do with Ebb Filter: to have conversations about where things come from.
That might mean going a little overboard to prove a point: that the disconnect between materials and finished product is currently too great, and that the results of that disconnect have limited benefits. We live in a moment that allows us to have more objects in our lives that we can purchase at cheaper prices. Great! But there’s this illusion, too, that these things save precious minutes in our busy lives. Here’s the thing though: our lives are full of objects that bring no meaning, that tell few to no stories and lose their value in no time. It takes energy, natural resources, and undervalued workers to have those objects created for the few benefits they provide. This is true from clothes to electronics.
So you wanted to create something with a story.
Exactly. I believe wholeheartedly that knowing the maker of our textile goods is as important as knowing where our food comes from. Not only because fibers are agricultural and animal products (or petroleum-based as in the case of polyester, which is still extracted from the ground) similar to food. And not just because our bodies absorb things through our skin so we should be watchful of pesticides and herbicides on fibers just the same as crops we ingest. I believe that the most significant reason to know the makers of our textile goods is because it creates value and meaning, both immeasurably powerful things.
Which brings us back to why a coffee filter matters. People all over the world drink coffee, and even those who don’t still really enjoy the connections and conversations that it inspires. To me, the filter is so much more than a brewing accessory. It’s an expression of values and community.
Can you tell us a little about your personal connection to coffee?
I speak three different languages, and so far my life is marked by the three places I’ve called home–southern Brazil, south Florida and northern California. They are all very culturally different, including their coffee traditions. I drank coffee with milk as a kid in Brazil where there is actually a meal named after coffee. It’s a meal between breakfast and lunch and the main dish is coffee. Then in Miami, I was introduced to Cuban culture which I am wholly grateful to for two main reasons, sweet fried plantains and coffee. Here in the Bay, where I’ve lived since moving out to attend California College of the Arts in 2005, coffee was already something different. For the first time in my life it was an item of luxury, which is strange and complicated. But I also couldn’t avoid being lured by the technicality and people’s pride in specialty coffee. What is this thing that is creating so much community? I thought. There is a value in transparent sourcing that made a lot of sense to me and that is bringing a lot of people together.
Fast forward a few years, and I’m now an active part of that community.
Can you describe your product development journey so far?
Working between a mill in South Carolina and local baristas to develop a fabric for pourover was a really fun process of sharing information about textiles to baristas and information about filtration with the fabric developer. There were days when I wondered if everyone thought I was crazy, but the project persisted. Right now we’re a few days away and just shy of meeting our Kickstarter goal to purchase that fabric.
In a few months we’ll have a coffee filter that invites a variety of people to ask where other materials come from and to pay respect to the workers that made that object possible. In the case of Ebb, it’s farm workers, farmers, spinner, weaver, cutter, sewers and product testers–all people we’ll be highlighting along the way. The result will be a visible community and a product that adds meaning to a daily ritual.
How exciting is this! When this interview was originally published GDS Cloth Goods were still fundraising to make this project a reality, but fundraising has finished and they met their goal! I absolutely cannot wait to start getting these for my friends and family. Don’t forget to check out Birds of a Thread, it’s an incredibly thoughful and beautiful blog, I promise you’ll love it.