5 December 2012, 08:42
I’ve spent a bit of time with Will.i.am recently, & I think I can safely say that he has changed my mind about what it means to be green. (He also refers to me as “GAHHHLA DAHHHLING”, but that’s a story for another time!)
Being green & thinking about sustainability has never really been at the forefront of my mind. I’m proud to be from New Zealand, a country that runs on renewable energy & for whom recycling is a way of life — but I think I took that for granted. It was so much a part of how we lived life that I didn’t think much about it. Maybe I was sheltered or naive, but I never stopped to consider that it might be different elsewhere.
For example, my husband & I separate our trash from our recycling every day. There are two bins for recycling at the front of our building, but when our super prepares it for collection, he throws it all together in the same garbage bag. There are a lot of people in our building, our recycling bins fill up quickly, & yet it’s all being hauled off to the dump. That is so frustrating!
Even if you are actively recycling, it can sometimes feel like all those plastic bottles & magazines disappear into a black hole. So few of us actually know what happens once our recycling is trundled away. Where does it go? What happens to it? What does it become?
Some of it is turned into product… But most of it is pretty “granola” in design. What about people who want to own cool stuff? You shouldn’t have to choose between buying a “good” product or buying a good-looking product…
I’m not the only one who thinks this way. Will.i.am — you know, that rapper, musician, songwriter, singer, entrepreneur, actor, DJ & producer guy — does too. He took a look around at the products being made of recycled materials & saw that the reason they weren’t more popular is because they simply weren’t cool! Whether for good or for ill, most of us will choose form over function (or social good). If it doesn’t look like something we want to wear, carry or use, we’ll probably buy something else. He knows that you can harness consumer demand to force a shift in industry as well as behaviour… & that’s awesome.
So Will scheduled a meeting with Coca-Cola (yeah, those people who generate more plastic bottles than any other company in the world). During the EKOCYCLE launch, I spoke to a bunch of Coke executives, & they all told me that as the company with the best brand-recognition in the entire WORLD, they know that they create this problem… & they know they also have the platform to create massive change, & do massive good.
“In 2010, I went to Coca-Cola with an idea. What if we could change the cycle of traditional recycling — taking a plastic bottle to make another plastic bottle — & instead build a sustainable community that cares about the planet enough to wear how they care? What if people began demanding the products they love to be made out of sustainable materials?” (Will.i.am)
Enter EKOCYCLE. EKOCYCLE is a programme which uses a resin, created from recycled materials, to make entirely new things. I cannot express how cool this is: through the EKOCYCLE process, they turn plastic bottles, for example, into this kind of fluffy, foam-like product which can then be used to replace plastics or other materials.
So you know how practically everything is made of plastic? With EKOCYCLE, we can replace that with recycled material. SO AWESOME!
One of the coolest things about this is that this isn’t just about recycling a Coke bottle. It’s about beer cans, empty coconut water bottles, even Coke’s direct competitors: just using anything that can be recycled to create this resin which can be repurposed to make cool products that people actually want to own.
Will knows cool shit. I mean, look at the man’s glasses! So EKOCYCLE have teamed up with companies like Levi’s, New Era, Casemate, MCM & Beats by Dre to create the same products you love — just with recycled plastic as part of the makeup. Even better, a quick look at the label will tell you exactly how many plastic bottles (or their equivalent) are in each product.
Levi’s are doing a pair of 501s with eight recycled bottles inside! Beats by Dre EKOCYCLE headphones have the equivalent of three whole bottles inside them. This is no small thing.
The best thing? The products don’t look any different. They’re not any more EXPENSIVE. In fact, they cost the exact same price as the regular product. So if you can choose between a standard pair of jeans, or a pair of jeans which actually does social good; if they cost the same, & they look the same… Wouldn’t you choose the pair that makes you feel virtuous, just by putting them on?
I can attest to the quality of the products, too. I got a pair of Beats by Dre EKOCYCLE headphones & have barely taken them off. They look sick & they sound magnificent!
“Is waste waste because we wasted the opportunity to turn it into something else?” (Will.i.am)
Coke isn’t a perfect company, & recycling isn’t a perfect process. In a totally green world, no one would ever buy anything new… but that’s never going to happen. Nothing is ideal, & most things never will be, but that shouldn’t stop us from making an effort in the meantime.
After a certain point, that need for perfection simply becomes procrastination.
I’m really excited about the possibilities that EKOCYCLE can generate. This is literally about creating a new material out of something we already use, & using that new material to create everyday items we’d buy anyway. It is so genius & so groundbreaking. I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to get involved!
(I also — in case you couldn’t tell from our copious photobooth pictures — had an amazing time at the EKOCYCLE launch, & made LOTS of new friends!)
I’m super-excited to be a part of this: to spread the word about EKOCYCLE, to work with Will & Coca-Cola to make it easier for us to recycle, to brainstorm ways to make being green more fun, cool, desirable & aspirational.
What do you think? How do you feel about EKOCYCLE? Is it something you can get behind? What kind of products do you think EKOCYCLE should make next? I just had a brilliant flash about an EKOCYCLE iPhone… !
Love & repurposed plastic bottles,
This post was made possible with the support of Coca-Cola. While this is a sponsored piece, the thoughts, opinions & extreme enthusiasm (!!!) are entirely my own.