Member Spotlight: Bioneers, Cafeteria Culture, EcoPlum, & Sway

Plastic Pollution Coalition is proud to represent a unique coalition of businesses and organizations that are addressing the plastic pollution crisis head on. From a wide range of sectors and focuses, our Coalition Members are aligned in their mission to build a world free of plastic pollution and its toxic impacts on communities and ecosystems around the world. To uplift and showcase their work, we are launching a monthly Coalition Member Spotlight blog, giving our readers an inside look at some of these influential change-makers. Our first edition features four visionary leaders that are driving systemic change through groundbreaking cross-sector collaboration, zero-waste programs at schools, plastic-free e-commerce, and material science. Check out Bioneers, Cafeteria Culture, EcoPlum, and Sway below and visit their sites for more information.

Bioneers

Plastic Pollution Coalition

Bioneers is an innovative nonprofit organization that fosters and propels breakthrough solutions to the world’s most pressing environmental and social challenges. For 30 years, they have called for systemic change and transformative shifts away from extraction, exploitation, and pollution to move towards interdependence with nature, establishing what they call a “network of networks,” driven by the values of justice, diversity, democracy, and peaceful co-existence. From programs focused on Restorative Food Systems or Women’s Leadership to podcasts such as Indigeneity Conversations or the award-winning radio series “Bioneers: Revolution From the Heart of Nature,” their work inspires connection and builds community across a host of interconnected fields. 

In early April, the organization hosted its 34th annual Bioneers Conference, their flagship event, to bring visionary leaders and thousands of civically active attendees together. This year the conference was held in Berkeley, California, and included key speakers such as Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal and writer Rebecca Solnit followed by afternoon panels, interactive sessions, community conversations, and presentations. One impactful session was “Plastic Pollution: Truths and Myths from Wellhead to Waste Incineration,” moderated by Shilpi Chhotray, co-founder and Executive Director of People Over Plastic, featuring inspiring panelists Yvette Arellano, Founder and Director of Fenceline Watch, KT Morelli, Campaign Organizer for Breathe Free Detroit, and Martin Bourque, Executive Director of the Ecology Center. 


Cafeteria Culture

Cafeteria Culture (CafCu) is an environmental education nonprofit that merges community science, civic action, media production, and the arts to inspire young people around the United States to achieve zero-waste, climate-smart school communities, and a plastic-free biosphere. They center solutions that are driven and informed by youth, predominantly from lower-income and communities of color, creating opportunities for young people to collect data, debate policy, and lead programs and initiatives in their own communities. CafCu provides a host of easy-to-integrate resources for educators, such as their Microplastic Madness video and toolkit, a learning hub for facts and figures about plastic pollution, remote learning resources, games, and more. 

The organization partnered with school food directors and students and effectively eliminated half a billion styrofoam trays from 16+ school districts in the U.S. Their Plastic Free Lunch Day initiative is building on this success and aiming to remove all single-use plastics from public school food service to prevent plastic pollution and safeguard childrens’ health. On April 19, 2023, their most recent Plastic Free Lunch Day, millions of public school students across the U.S. participated in climate action right in their school cafeterias. If you are an educator or work in school food service, share this video short with your students and school-wide community to bring everyone on board, then use their free resources to get started at your school or district.


EcoPlum

EcoPlum provides sustainable options for companies and organizations to purchase branded gifts. With the goal of reducing the environmental impact of corporate gifting, and in particular, reducing plastic pollution in landfills and oceans, EcoPlum uses rigorous standards for ecological and social sustainability in their products and operations. Some of the product sourcing criteria they use to uphold those standards include: USDA organic, fair trade, fair labor, biodegradable, renewable, recycled, reclaimed, reusable, sustainably harvested, Made-in-the-USA, handcrafted or artisan, energy-efficient, ethically sourced, other third-party eco-labels, women/minority-owned, B Corporation, and socially conscious. Gia Machlin, President & CEO EcoPlum, is a member of the Women Presidents Organization. She is also on the advisory board for Enterprising Women magazine and was one of a select group of award-winners for their “2020 Enterprising Women of the Year.”

EcoPlum President and CEO Gia Machlin made headlines in April before she co-chaired a newly created mentoring program to advance the growth of young women’s entrepreneurship. The Young Enterprising Women Mentoring Forum is a series of events designed to provide high school girls with an opportunity to connect with inspiring women entrepreneurs in the STEAM educational fields through interactive panels, roundtable discussions, breakout sessions, and more. The company recently updated its visual identity, including a “brand” new logo, website with enhanced features, and a 100% increase in its Sustainable Swag® product line.


Sway

Sway is a biomaterials company based in Oakland, CA, offering seaweed-based, home-compostable replacements for flexible plastic packaging, which accounts for almost a third of all packaging. In fact, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that of the 9 billion pounds of polyethylene films generated annually by Americans, only 11% is recovered, the rest of which is polluted in landfills and our environment. Following the principles of regenerative design, Sway is working to forge the material and cultural dimensions of a plastic-free future with an emphasis on sourcing materials that do not harm lands or soils but rebuild and restore Earth, and truly and benignly degrade in nature. 

In March, Sway won the prestigious 2023 Tom Ford Plastic Innovation Prize, the only global competition focused on creating scalable and biologically degradable alternatives to traditional thin-film plastic polybags. Winning this prize, in addition to a wave of recent momentum and press coverage (Grist, Fast Company, SF Chronicle), has moved Sway closer to being able to replace harmful plastics and “bioplastics” at scale. They recently partnered with Graf Lantz to release their revolutionary packaging material to the public. And back in August 2022, alongside a stellar panel of innovative PPC Business Members, CEO and Co-founder Julia Marsh spoke about seaweed as a solution. View the webinar here: “Will Mushrooms & Seaweed Help Replace Single-Use Plastic?

Does your business or organization align with our mission to build a world free of plastic pollution and its toxic impacts? Apply to join our global movement.

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