This past week marked yet another successful annual NewCo conference in Austin, TX. This year, the conference featured some of the city’s most promising mission-driven companies and organizations. NewCo’s overall mission is to identify, celebrate and connect the engines of positive change in society. NewCo hosts a number of conferences globally, wherein people are able to attend informational and interactive sessions hosted by a variety of companies and startups. NewCo Austin expanded its conference this year from one day to two days because of the demand from the Austin community for more sessions. With over 90 innovative “NewCo” companies featured, the city was certainly abuzz with excitement, movement and inspiration.

 


NewCo’s overall mission is to identify, celebrate and connect the engines of positive change in society.


 

I attended a session for a company called fitppl, which reminded me that staying true to your brand statement, especially when your brand is tied to a certain type of cause, can be difficult today. I met Patrick Schecht, the founder of fitppl at a bar in downtown Austin where I had ordered a cocktail that happened to come with a straw. Patrick came up to me and said, “why are you using a straw? Seems completely unnecessary. What’s more, is that this very straw, which is made of plastic is probably going to end up in an ocean, in a turtle’s nose.” And with that he pulled the straw out of my drink and tossed it in the recycling bin and muffled something along this lines of, “well isn’t that just great… and there it goes.”

I’m sure many of you have seen the extremely upsetting youtube video of the marine biologists that pulled an almost fossilized plastic straw that was imbedded in it a sea turtle’s nasal cavity. It is certainly hard to watch, to say the least. And if the turtle video didn’t touch your heart, allow me to provide an example that is more anthropocentric example of the extent of this problem. Microplastic nurdles (pre-production resin pellets) many of which are too small to be seen by the unaided eye, make up the majority of oceanic garbage patches. These nurdles are frequently mistaken for food by filter feeders and other marine life, which means that they eventually work their way up the food chain and eventually end up on our dinner plates.

However, many of us, whether we are at a bar, coffee shop or restaurant, are handed plastic cups, straws or silverware to use and rarely ask the waiter or waitress to exchange the plastic for recyclable or reusable material. Even less of us think to bring our own containers around with us. With respect to ingesting microplastics, they are almost impossible to avoid – which is why so many of us test positive for bisphenol A (BPA).

BPA is found in mainly polycarbonate plastics which has been used to make certain types of plastics for over 50 years. Studies have linked BPA exposure to everything from infertility to certain types of cancer over the years. The 2003-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III) conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found detectable levels of BPA in 93% of 2517 urine samples from people six years and older.

O.k., enough with the heavy. Let’s all take a moment to look at a turtle that doesn’t have a straw stuck up its nose:

 

 

Patrick’s company, Fitppl, strives to educate people on the dangers of environmental degradation through offering them the chance to buy products that are sustainable, recyclable and healthy. “I had two motivating factors for starting fitppl: passion and purpose,” says Patrick. “I believe that there must be true passion driving your life’s work. I also believe that, as well as providing quality products to customers, a responsible company must serve the best interests of the its customers as well as the community and environment at large.”

Patrick’s products are made from all-natural ingredients and are vegan, non-GMO and gluten free. The packaging is simple, recyclable and the superfood and plant protein powders come with a wooden spoon inside to easily scoop and be reused elsewhere in your kitchen. Through his Ditch The Plastic campaign, Patrick is working to expand his product line to include other recyclable products – all of which are at an affordable price.

For Patrick and by extension fitppl, the company mission is to promote a healthy lifestyle as well as inspire a sense of environmental consciousness in people. Fitppl’s Ditch the Plastic campaign was inspired by his travels in Thailand where he witnessed first-hand the negative impacts of water pollution by plastics.

“The degree of man-made pollution present in what used to be a pristine ocean environment was, quite simply, shocking to see. That trip to Thailand took my thinking to the next level: from a company I wanted to start to something I had to start.”

Patrick credits his success thus far to the innovative, supportive and mission-driven culture in Austin.

“The community has been immensely supportive of the fitppl mission from the start,” he says.

 


Check out fitppl here to learn more about what you can do to help!

 


(Unaltered) Photo by Horia Varlan via Flickr with CC License.