Take a walk on the green side: Globetrotting ex journo creates online map of world’s best places for eco-friendly products
As the planet faces up to the grim reality of an unprecedented environmental crisis, one Polish woman has struck back against the looming catastrophe with the creation of Ethy (ethymaps.com), an interactive map that aims to present eco-friendly venues found around the globe.
Though still in its early stages of inception, the website – which will ultimately be rolled out as an app – stands to become the most comprehensive such tool on the international market.
“As far as I know,” says founder Julia Mafalda, “this is the only instrument with such a variety of places. Yes, you get maps featuring vegan restaurants or other eco-friendly enterprises, but you won’t ever really find them grouped all together. As someone who likes to have things stored in one place, it made sense to create something where you could find eco-friendly initiatives housed under one umbrella as opposed to ten different apps.”
Raised one hour from Warsaw in a forested area that she describes as being “surrounded by nature”, Mafalda later mastered in Italian philology before working as a journalist and photographer for a variety of titles including Harper’s Bazaar and the Los Angeles Times. Originally attracted by Warsaw’s capitalist and consumerist vibe, the 31-year-old sought a career change three years back and took a job as a copywriter for an ‘ethical fashion initiative’.
“For me, that’s where it all began, that’s when my mindset really started to change,” she says. “I did a lot of research about the ethical fashion industry and soon found myself opening my eyes to all other things that were ethical: food, furniture, etc.”
It was on her travels, however, that the idea for Ethy crystallized. “Google Maps simply wasn’t enough,” she continues, “I realized there was a need for a comprehensive database of all things ethical, a place where the owners of such ventures could have a platform for their services.”
Further motivated by the number of likeminded people she found herself meeting, it was a weekend in Scotland two years back that proved to be a seminal moment. “That was when I stepped back and said ‘aha’,” she adds. “We visited the lakes and forests and I found all of my memories of childhood just flooding back – it was like a scene from Lord of the Rings, with every tree looking so completely beautiful.”
By Mafalda’s own admission, prior to that her chief interest lay in the human side of ethical. From thereon, though, her attention shifted to more environmental concerns, a move that would form the basis of Ethy’s ‘planet-first’ mission.
“My relationship with nature changed there and then, and I’ve since even been on a road trip around Europe during which I was cleaning forests and beaches. It made me realize how little pleasure there is in visiting the seaside nowadays what with all the litter and dead birds; but it’s not just animals we’re harming, it’s ourselves – our own kids.”
Ethy seeks to redress the balance. Launched in a beta version last month, Ethy Maps showcase a diverse mix of eco services ranging from grocery stores, hairdressers and laundromats to restaurants, spas and hotels via more unexpected directions such as shoe repair and tailors. Promoting planet-friendly locations, brands, people and communities, the service has been defined by its detailed use of filters that allow users to pluck out mountain stays with vegan food or eco stores with zero waste policies.
Further, it’s hoped that Ethy Life, a dual-language blogzine focused on ethical consumption and production, will debut this month, with Julia stressing that this will be different to what’s come before. “It’ll be more accessible to the public in that it will be less technical,” she says, “while it won’t shirk scientific issues, it’ll be lighter in its form.”
Recently a winner in the ‘Zero Waste’ category of the Young Living 5X5 awards – a prize she will officially be handed in a ceremony next week in the States – Julia is optimistic that the Ethy brand will be embraced by the public. “Ideally,” she says, “I want this tool to be used across the world by all those who want to take a stand against climate change.” With users able to add their own recommendations – all of which are then verified by Ethy’s small team – the ambition envisions the creation of a ‘glocal community’, a target that will come a step closer to being realized when the app is unveiled this coming September.
Already there are strong indications that Ethy has what it takes to go ‘big’, with Julia particularly enthusiastic about Poland’s own eco path. “The younger generation in this country is very trend focused, which isn’t a bad thing given that ‘saving the planet’ is now considered cool,” she says. “In some ways, you could even draw parallels between the Polish youth of today and the children of the Warsaw Uprising: they see themselves as fighting for a better future which is something that’s very encouraging.”
“If there’s a problem,” she continues, “it lies with the people my parents age – they’re the ones who don’t really care or are too set in their habits. But in many ways, that’s the core of Ethy’s philosophy. I want to give them a tool that can help change their attitude; the blogzine will help educate people in a way they can understand, whilst the map cuts out any excuses people might give about not knowing where to go that’s eco-friendly.” In a country that appears deeply divided over issues relating to the environment, Ethy have sounded a strident rallying call for those on the green side of life.
For more on Ethy and their mission, check: https://www.facebook.com/ethy.life