EMA September Newsletter
EMA's First "Future Innovator of the Year" Winner Won't Stop Until Every Product is Made From Sustainable Materials
Two years ago, six brave entrepreneurs pitched their game-changing ideas to our panel of esteemed judges at the first EMA IMPACT Summit. The stakes were high, as competitors were not only after the $50K grand prize but the illustrious title of being the first company to win our EMA Future Innovator of the Year Contest. After two rounds of grilling from our judges, Thread International took home the winning title. Thread showcases what IMPACT is all about: a business solution to a ubiquitous environmental problem, in this case, plastic pollution, that benefits a community struggling economically. In other words, it's a solution that works on many levels.
Thread creates clothing and accessories from recycled plastic, creating work in job-starved countries that struggle with plastic pollution such as Haiti. Since winning at our EMA IMPACT Summit, Thread has continued to grow. Here at EMA, we care about all of our IMPACT Innovators and do all we can to shine a light on their important work.
We sat down with Ian Rosenberger, CEO, and Founder of Thread, to check in on how they are doing.
You were the first winner of our IMPACT Future Innovator of the Year Contest. How did winning help your company? Where are you now compared to when you won?
EMA's Future Innovator of the Year Challenge was great visibility for Thread. We enjoyed the process and were blown away by the other companies involved. More than anything, having people in the entertainment industry that care about the same things we care about: using business to create a planet our grandchildren will be proud to inherit, makes it feel like we've got incredible high profile people who have our back.
In terms of progress since we've won, Marmot, Reebok and Aerie have all signed on as clients making tees, women's workout shoes, and leggings, respectively, and we recently launched the very first product of our own, a backpack, that we're proud to say is doing great on Kickstarter.
What motivated you to start Thread?
I went to Haiti after the earthquake there in 2010. I made a bunch of friends, and I just got sick of seeing them unemployed while also seeing how much trash was going into canals, the landfill, and the ocean.
How can recycling help job-starved countries such as Haiti?
Recycling can help all countries! When we throw stuff away, we're just throwing away GDP. If you haven't read the Nat Geo issue this summer on plastic or checked out their Plant or Plastic? effort, you should. This is a big effing deal. Anytime there is that much raw material just sitting around there is a big opportunity for industry and jobs. This is going to sound weird, but until it's banned (which it most definitely should be) we have to start thinking about plastic as a renewable resource.
You just launched a backpack made from recycled canvas. Tell us about that.
Yes! We're really proud of the backpack's progress. I can't tell you the number of times I walk off planes and see people in front of me that look great otherwise and then have this ratty/boring monstrosity of a backpack on their back. I'm in love with how it looks and more than that, we spent 8 months making it WORK for people. The result is a bag that looks good, but that can really meet you and your busy day head-on in 2018 (that's why we created the wine pocket).
Our original goal was $45,000 in 40 days. We're about to reach $400,000 and think we can hit $600,000 by the end of the campaign on Sept 19. It's been a long six weeks, but if we hit it, that means another 120,000 bottles saved from landfills and the oceans!
We have big plans for this product and what follows it. We're just so disappointed by what's being offered by the apparel industry right now. There's a lot of lip service to good materials and good supply chains, but there is still a massive need for more companies that make stuff that looks great, fits you at every moment of your day, and that you don't have to worry if it hurts the planet or the people on it.
You’ve partnered with major brands such as Reebok and Timberland. Do you see a shift with these big companies in how they approach sustainability?
Seeing the work that Reebok and Timberland are doing is admirable and they've been good partners. Speaking about the larger industry though, we just need 1000x more of stuff like this. We shouldn't be making one or two products out of good materials. All products should be that way. There is not one good reason not to do it. If we can make this leap, we can use an industry that traditionally has been among the most polluting on the planet (which is saying something) to clean up the mess, which would be huge!
I recently heard somebody say that "The future is here, it's just not widely distributed yet" I love this idea; it applies here. We just need more! Banning straws is nice, but it's not enough. We wouldn't have to make stuff out of plastic bottles if Pepsi and Coke stopped manufacturing them. I promise I could find other things to use to make backpacks and shoes and shirts!
Why should startups and young entrepreneurs attend the EMA IMPACT Summit?
It's a terrific atmosphere. We find ourselves in a really strange and disconcerting time. It's energizing to be in a room with people who can see over the horizon to a better world. That room is powerful and can change the whole world. I love atmospheres like that.
Relive the excitement of last year's EMA IMPACT Summit with our photos and videos. Stay tuned for exciting announcements regarding the 2019 Summit!
2018 "Future Innovator of the Year" Winner Featured in Business Insider
Speaking of the success of our Future Innovator of the Year alumni, last year's winner, WatchTower Robotics, was recently featured on BussinessInsider.com. Founder You Wu has ambitious goals to get his leak-detecting robots in the hands of field technicians in every single city around the world.
Why do we desperately need better leak detection in our water pipes? According to the article, "The American Society of Civil Engineers' 2017 "Infrastructure Report Card" estimates that there are 240,000 water-main breaks in the United States each year, equivalent to wasting more than 2 trillion gallons of treated drinking water annually. About 20% of clean water worldwide is lost daily, according to WatchTower Robotics."
It's horrifying to think that we are losing 20% of our clean water every day. Thankfully, You Wu has developed a solution that is making an impact!
EMA Board Members Call For an End to Oil Exploration in Portugal
Last month, EMA President and CEO, Debbie Levin joined Board Members Ed Begley Jr., Ashlan Cousteau, Philippe Cousteau, Frances Fisher, Daryl Hannah, Wendie Malick, Amber Valletta, and Shailene Woodley in signing a letter to the Portuguese Prime Minister calling for an end to all oil exploration.
800 people, including activists from 80 countries, took part in an aerial art action calling for Portugal to drop plans for off-shore oil drilling and to support a just transition to a regenerative 100% renewable energy economy.
Portugal has a history of avoiding fossil fuels, which is why it would be so disappointing to see them start drilling. According to tamera.org, "Portugal has never extracted oil or gas or built nuclear power plants and is known as a haven for green power. Currently, there are still 5 active contracts for oil and gas drilling: 3 concessions for offshore deep-sea oil drilling and underwater fracking off the Alentejo and Algarve coast held by Eni and Galp, including one off the coast of Aljezur, and 2 for gas drilling on land in the Leiria district, held by Australis." We can't let this happen! Portugal must continue to be a shining example of climate leadership.
Please Share The Video and Sign the Letter!
Social Sunday Highlights
Each Sunday, the EMA community shares an optimistic story on social media. From a new plastic ban to a conservation win, these stories are meant to give people hope among a news cycle that's too often doom and gloom. Please share our message along with EMA and our Board Members to help us reach the most people!
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