Ocean Love: Getting Started on Sustainability
One of our goals for Pufferfish is to make products as sustainably as possible. We love the beach and want to take care of it the oceans for our kids and grandkids to enjoy, too. We call it Ocean Love. You can read more about what we're doing here. The reality of actually *doing* sustainability, though, that has been a crazy adventure.
The simple reality is that plastic is killing our oceans. So our goal was to use some of that problematic plastic to make our products, to give it a second life and to keep it out of our oceans.
While it felt like the right thing to do, it turned out to be a dramatically more work, not just a little more! We literally thought that we would just ask some factories to use some recycled plastic and that would be that. We were so wrong. It was so much more work that we had to really debate if this was a central part of our identity, of our mission. And we decided that it was. If we were going to make awesome products, we were also committed to making them as sustainably as possible.
One of the biggest surprises was that we thought it would be relatively easy to get recycled plastic. We visited a local recycling center where all the post-consumer plastic is sorted, and the *daily* volume was astounding. We also read articles about how the U.S. used to ship all our recycled plastic to China, but China's not accepting it anymore so most of it goes to landfill.
We thought then, naively, that there would be a TON of great recycled plastic on the market, then, for us to use. Nope. It's surprisingly hard to find. Sourcing high quality recycled plastic was a huge challenge, further exacerbated because we couldn't use just *any* plastic. We needed a plastic that would be super strong, and a lot of recycled plastic is really flimsy. We spent hundreds of hours exploring options, getting introductions, talking to experts at some of the biggest companies on the planet (like HP and Adidas to name a few) about what they were doing. It was a huge challenge.
Then there was the problem of the manufacturers. The factories that make things already have plastics they use, so when a tiny brand-new company wants to make a product that no one has ever made, AND they want to use a custom plastic, well, the factories mostly say 'no'. And even if they say yes to making something, most of them are flat-out confused when we say we want to use recycled plastic. Like, why did we want to do that? Virgin plastic is cheaper. And the factory doesn't have to figure out how to make stuff with it. And and and.
Most surprising of all, most of the factories said that no one had ever asked them about using recycled material before! We were blown away. With all the news about sustainability and all the effort we as consumers go through to sort our recycling from our garbage, nobody was even asking the factories to use recycled plastic? WOW.
Maybe we should have walked away from the whole 'recycled' thing at that point, but we didn't. We doubled down. We made so many phone calls, spent so much time researching, investigating, and asking. And eventually it worked. We found the plastic. We found the factories. And what we ended up with in the end is AMAZING. We are super proud of what we've created.
It's a great start, but it's also just a start. The more we have done, the more we have learned, the more we realize how much more there is to do, how much better we can be. It's one of the most exciting parts of building Pufferfish, the opportunity to make great products, and to make an impact on the supply chains and on the planet. We are excited you're on the journey with us!