Social Lab on sustainable consumption

"Beyond Waste"

Our Quest: How can we, as key actors of the Arc Lémanique ecosystem, transform the way we consume and produce to lead the transition to a sustainable future?


The origins of this lab

In collaboration with the Sustainable Living Lab, a sister pioneer project launched with the support of Engagement Migros, nested in the Impact Hub Lausanne and Geneva, we are currently co-initiating a Social Lab focused on SDG12. Preparation work has started in 2017 already, with for example Food Hacks and Stakeholder Round Tables on the topic, hosted by the Hubs with the support from collaboratio helvetica.

Erica joined Impact Hub Geneva & Lausanne in July 2017. The vision of Sustainable Living Lab is a world in which business, government and civil society openly collaborate in order to support concrete initiatives that solve the most important challenges of our time. To realise this vision, our convening role provides engagement opportunities in a structure for cross-sector collaboration, contributing to local responses to global challenges. We run two programs currently: the Food Save Challenge, a startup incubation pathway offering support & resources to entrepreneurs bringing solutions to food waste in Lausanne; and Open Labs, monthly workshops to learn practical skills for sustainable living.  

Since September 2017, collaboratio helvetica has been working together with SDSN Switzerland, a platform to bridge the science policy gap around the SDGs in Switzerland, amongst others to support with the design of their Launch on February 15th 2018. In the context of this collaboration, SDG12 was also identified as a key priority for Switzerland and the idea of launching a Social Lab focused on it was born. As collaboratio helvetica is a platform dedicated to bringing people together for more impact, we invited the two threads to be woven together. Since the beginning of 2018, we already had two co-initiation meetings in which the co-conveners SDSN Switzerland, the Sustainable Living Lab and collaboratio helvetica were joined by Marc, founder of Arbolife, an online directory of all contributors to societal well-being.


Why this topic?

The depletion of natural capital is one of the most urgent issues facing Switzerland, and the world. Consumption patterns are a big pain point for Switzerland; it ranks second highest in Europe in per capita waste production.

“With its levels of production and consumption, Switzerland uses about three times the natural resources that are available in the country itself. Such a high level of interdependence entails a commensurate responsibility for global sustainable development.”

Swiss Working Paper 2015, Sustainable Development in Switzerland, Office fédéral du développement territorial ARE

Moreover, most of the impact of Swiss consumption is felt abroad, which has been problematized over 20 years ago.  

“....the major cause of the continued deterioration of the global environment is the unsustainable pattern of consumption and production, particularly in industrialised countries, which is a matter of grave concern, aggravating poverty and imbalances.”

Agenda 21, UN Conference on Environment and Development (1992)

Global natural resource depletion and climate disruption point to the increasing obsolescence of extractive, linear economic models. At the leading edge of innovation are business models that are environmentally regenerative and socially responsive. Decoupling economic activity from the consumption of finite resources, transitioning to renewable energy and designing waste out of the system are essential orientations on the roadmap to a sustainable future. The economy of tomorrow will create economic capital while regenerating human and natural capital. The Sustainable Living Lab is in service of such innovations.  


the approach

The Sustainable Consumption Lab allows the participants to explore all aspects of Sustainable Consumption on a personal, cultural, societal and organisational level - from the most innovative approaches to the established best practices. On this theoretical and experiential basis, we develop structural solutions specific to our participants sphere of influence, which are then tested and further developed. On the way to the prototyped solutions we hence generate learning and new insights, develop our understanding of the topic as well as our skills, and practice collaborating, fostering trust within our larger ecosystem. The direct beneficiaries are the participants as participating explorers and the organisation(s) they work in, and indirectly many more will benefit from the solutions and the changes that will occur.



Our Sustainable Consumption Lab is a 4-months long transformation journey to explore and prototype solutions to this complex challenge. It’s an agile, deep, messy and highly effective process, similar to what is described and illustrated here. 20 explorers have committed to attend four retreats of 2.5 to 3 days and engage in activities in-between, totaling to about 5h/week of their time.
It has both temporary and permanent elements. As a Lab it is always set up temporarily for a yearly cycle. However, as Sustainable Consumption will not be achieved by one Lab within a year, we designed for a more permanent structure of repeating cycles. With this first cycle of the Sustainable Consumption, we want to lay the foundation to integrate further decision makers into the process in the next few years, thus constantly developing the sphere of influence and process quality.



This first Sustainable Consumption Lab Cycle will Start in September 2018 and run until December 2018. Here are the Key Dates: 

The applications open on May 15 and close on July 1. In the evening of June 4th there will be an information session where questions will be clarified. 

Agenda of the Sustainable Consumption Lab:


1. Kick-off Workshop
(Sept 21)

2. Practical Workshop
(Oct 5)

3. Mid-term Retreat
(Oct 27-28)

4. Technical Workshop
(Nov 9)

5. Demo Day
(Nov 23)

6. Review Workshop
(Dec 7)

Setting the stage.

Developing the innovative toolbox.

Connecting to the future.

Refining our prototypes. 

Showcasing our solutions.

Moving forwards. 


Impact & results

Though the concrete results follow the principle of emergence, a Social Lab will generate a minimum of four sets of outputs:

  • Physical: new services or infrastructure, such as the prototyped solutions
  • Human: new capacities and skills
  • Social: increased trust and collaboration
  • Intellectual: new knowledge and learning

Hence, the prototyped solutions will have localised or widespread impact beyond the Lab. Further, this program offers the participants the opportunities to develop new capacities and skills in addition to the theoretical knowledge about the topic, where new insights might emerge. Through the diversity of the participants, there is also a community-building impact, namely fostering personal relationships and trust between the participating organisations, thereby providing a fertile ground for collaborations.

Beyond the Sustainable Consumption Lab 2018, the harvested learnings that are open source will persist, along with a toolbox of different methods and approaches to address such complex topic. 

All in all, the Sustainable Consumption Lab makes a meaningful contribution to SDG 12 and to the sustainable change in our individual and collective thinking and being patterns, thereby supporting the transformation of the Swiss culture in this topic.




Erica Mazerolle is the Sustainable Living Lab lead & catalyst at Impact Hub Geneva & Lausanne. She coordinates this multi-stakeholder platform to enable cross-sector collaboration in sustainable innovation. Drawing on her multidisciplinary background in education for sustainable development, she designs transformative learning experiences to drive purposeful change.  


Cynthia Kracmer is the lead facilitator at Impact Hub Geneva & Lausanne. She strengthens collaboration between international organisations and social entrepreneurs to design and prototype solutions together. She coordinated and facilitated for the SDG Lab, the Gender Equality Hack, Hack4Hunger and various other innovation formats.



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Nora Wilhelm is a Co-Catalysts  at collaboratio helvetica, a platform dedicated to opening spaces for dialogue, experimentation and collaboration to co-create the Switzerland we want to live in. Nora is passionate about activating the full potential of people and organisations, and was recognised by UNESCO for her work as young leader. During her studies in International Affairs at the University of St. Gallen, Nora took on multiple roles in the European Youth Parliament and presided its Swiss node for two years. Oswald gained experience with different companies, inter alia supporting the creation of innovative and collaborative work methods, structures and spaces. 

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Laura Ebneter is a research associate at the SDSN Switzerland