Sustainovation: 8 Small Businesses and Start-ups Igniting Change in Hamburg


Welcome to the exciting world where small businesses are not just about making money—they're also champions of the planet! Imagine start-ups that are not only hitting it big but doing it in a way that's kind to our Earth. We're diving into the stories of these green heroes—the sustainable small businesses and start-ups that are turning business into a force for good. Forget the boring stuff; these guys are proving that you can be both super successful and eco-friendly. So, get ready for a deep dive into the world of these cool businesses. We'll check out their secret strategies, learn about their green magic, and discover how they're not just changing the game but making sustainability the new cool.

Southern Shores

We are starting off strong with a familiar favorite! If you tuned into Season 1 of our podcast, “In Port and Learning,” then you will remember the Homfeld brothers and their founding of Southern Shores, the only company in Germany producing 100% sustainable yoga accessories! In addition to using all-natural materials, such as eco-friendly plastics and cotton, they are also dedicated to protecting the ocean and marine wildlife. Their support for the Clean Beach Initiative, whose main mission is to clear the beaches in Barcelona of plastic waste, really exemplifies the depths of their commitment to the environment!


Looking to navigate the city sustainably? FreeNow has got you covered! This app, which aims to make travel more sustainable and efficient, allows riders to book taxis, as well as energy-efficient options such as e-bikes, e-scooters, and e-mopeds. It gets even better – although FreeNow was founded in Hamburg, it has now expanded to nine different countries and over 100 cities. Whether you’re into riding solo, carsharing or getting some fresh air while you zip across town, there are plenty of options for you with FreeNow.


In a world of fast fashion, it can be a challenge to find the intersection of sustainability and fashion. As a science-based fashion startup, J-040 makes this possible. Their use of natural UV protection on their textiles was inspired by the company founder, Jennifer Johnsen, who suffers from lupus, an autoimmune disease that increases sensitivity to UV rays. The production of these kinds of this protective wear is crucial for people living with conditions such as lupus, vitiligo, and albinism. Johnsen has found a way to produce them, while avoiding the use of potentially harmful chemicals! Her goal is to be able to create an entire collection of clothes that protects the skin from head to toe and to use some of the proceeds to support Lupus research efforts.   


Speaking of clothes, do you have old clothing that you need to get rid of? Many of us know that donating and buying clothing secondhand is not only sustainable but also a great way to support those in need. Recyclehero is a start-up that services not just Hamburg but Cologne, Berlin, Frankfurt, Bonn, and Munich as well! At no cost, they collect clothing and recyclable materials (glass, paper, and mobile phones) from select postal codes in these cities. You can also donate your Pfand to those in need. And if you are looking for ways to learn even more about recycling in your community and those like it, they have a blog that you can check out. Recycling and helping the planet has never been easier.


We’re not quite done with the fashion world yet. It’s time to explore yet another company producing sustainable clothing and this time we are headed to the beach. MYMARINI is making quite splash on the shores of northern Germany as an “ethical surf and swimwear” brand. Although it is hard to truly know the impact that the production of a certain product has on the environment, MYMARINI delivers full transparency with their yearly impact reports that detail many factors from how much crude oil the company saved as well as how much they spent in charitable donations. Now that’s what we like to see!

In Guter Gesellschaft: Zero Waste and Vegan Café

Yes, you read that right…Zero. Waste. If this sounds like a new concept to you, it’s because In Guter Gesellschaft is the first of its kind. In addition to exclusively serving vegan food, this café only uses products that are packaged in ecofriendly packaging and prepares dishes with fresh ingredients. By encouraging guests to bring reusable straws and cups, their goal is to set an example for the world of gastronomy. They even go the extra mile by offering a zero-waste workshop to help people learn more about how they can join the movement. You too can be a big part of this change!


Renewable energy sources and the maintenance of the machines that produce this energy is a big topic for many companies in Germany. Annea is making their approach simpler by using AI and physical modeling to helps companies manage their machinery. Through the application of predictive condition monitoring and digital twins, they pave the way to sustainability by using advanced technology. This small but mighty team is committed to not only protecting the environment but ensuring that other companies feel that this is an attainable goal for themselves too!


Last, but certainly not least, we have yet another start-up leading the sustainability movement in Hamburg. Traceless creates a material that is sure to be beneficial to our planet, as it is plastic-free, plant-based, and bio-circular. With a wide range possibility for this material, such as cutlery, packaging and adhesives, this biodegradable invention is surely “uniquely sustainable.” By bringing innovative science and technology to the forefront, Traceless provides an alternative material that reduces plastic pollution, fossil fuel usage and the use of harmful chemicals!

There are so many ways to give back to our planet and these heroes are really making that possible in Hamburg. If you want to support these companies, be sure to check them out! You can learn something new, help people in need and be a part of the collective that is positive impact that we are having on our environment.

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