Insights Blog

How doing ‘nothing’ helps this Exasolian be more sustainable

IAmChange - Jakob - Exasol

This blog is part of our ‘I am Change’ series, in which we feature members of the Exasol team making conscious decisions to change their behaviors and live more sustainably. This week, Jakob Braun.

Exasol Junior Software Engineer Jakob Braun is a very modest, self-effacing guy. When we asked him about what he is doing for the environment, his first thought was ‘nothing’. But by most people’s standards, this couldn’t be further from the truth. 

“When I really think about it, I guess I probably am doing quite a lot, but I just don’t think of it anymore as doing it for the environment. I’m just doing it for myself. Take a small thing like traveling by train rather than driving when I go camping.

On the surface that looks like an environmentally driven decision that for many people would add unnecessary logistical complexity to their holiday. For me, once I’ve worked the details out and after I got some practice, it became the new normal. Now, I would no longer want to drive for eight stressful hours on busy roads just to relax.”

Where it began

Jakob’s sustainability journey began during a sailing trip to the Netherlands, organized by German environmental youth organization NAJU, where he met and was inspired by lots of environmentally motivated people with exciting ideas.

“After this holiday I started to campaign for NAJU and joined a number of different work groups. If you’re interested in learning more about anything to do with sustainability and the environment, I would totally recommend doing the same – be it with NAJU or one of the many other organizations around the world who do similarly great work. I met so many great people – including my girlfriend – and learned so much that I try to put in practice today.”

Repair and re-use

One of the core principles Jakob lives by is a belief that buying brand new things uses precious resources.

“Regardless of how environmentally sound a producer or seller appears to be, producing anything creates Co2 emissions, trash, environmental distortion, et cetera. Of course, I can’t exist in society without buying any products, but at those times when I do need to purchase something I always work through a simple thought process and ask myself the following questions: Can I repair the old one? Do I need it? Really? Can I build it myself? Can I buy it used, for example, from a local online marketplace?”

If Jakob’s conclusion is that he really does need to buy the item new, then he’ll do the research and find the highest quality he can afford and look for organic and fair-trade options wherever possible.

“I’m pretty serious about building a lot of things myself, too. My girlfriend and I recently built a sofa from old beams and mattresses we bought secondhand. I did need a few new material and resources, but my thinking is that if I build it and it breaks, I’ll want to repair it so won’t throw it away in a few years because I’ll still be proud of it.”

When it comes to getting rid of things he no longer needs, Jakob is equally as frugal.

“Basically, even if you no longer want something, there will always be somebody out there who needs it. Not always, but my view is that you should at least try. For example, that old mattresses I upcycled was useless for sleeping on, but ideal for my sofa project. So, in return I also try to sell everything I want to throw away. If it’s worth nothing, I’ll give it away for free. That’s still a lot better than throwing it away, especially as I don’t have a car which makes it quite challenging to take bigger items to the recycling yard.”

Jakob at home with his upcycled sofa.

Start by doing something

So, what advice does Jakob offer to anyone thinking of following in his footsteps?

“Reducing your environmental footprint is a really difficult task. It’s easy to give yourself analysis paralysis and achieve nothing. There have been many times when I’ve adopted an idea for quite a while until I’ve realized it probably has other issues that I hadn’t considered at the time. My biggest tip is that technical solutions usually have a lot of hidden aspects, but reducing and reusing don’t. They’re much simpler.”

Ultimately, Jakob Braun feels there is so much we can collectively do.

“My best advice is start doing something small and just keep adding to and improving it. Nobody or nothing is ever perfect, so don’t set unrealistic goals and always try and enjoy the small successes and gains.”