Member Spotlight: Cruz Foam, Etho Capital, & Fenceline Watch

Plastic Pollution Coalition (PPC) Members come from a wide range of sectors and are aligned in their mission to build a world free of plastic pollution and its toxic impacts on communities and ecosystems around the world. The Coalition Spotlight is our monthly blog to uplift and showcase their work, giving our readers an inside look at some of these influential change-makers. For September, in honor of Climate Week NYC happening this month, we are featuring PPC Business and Organization Members who are taking action on climate through their work to address plastic pollution.

Cruz Foam

Over 40% of all plastic made is used as packaging, which is almost always nonrecyclable and replete in toxic additive chemicals. One of the worst forms of plastic packaging for the environment is plastic foam, made from styrene, a petroleum-based chemical that only breaks into smaller pieces over time and causes widespread harm to marine environments and human health. Each year, the world produces more than 14 million tons of polystyrene, used for single-use protective packaging and insulation during transportation of products and after use is rapidly discarded. PPC Business Member Cruz Foam is addressing this issue by creating a regenerative replacement to plastic foam that has the potential to revolutionize the packaging industry and prevent further environmental degradation in the process. 

Cruz Foam is a company based in Santa Cruz, California, that provides durable, strong, and completely biodegradable packaging products for companies to use while storing, transporting, or delivering their goods. Their innovative solution is made from chitin, the world’s second most abundant biopolymer next to cellulose. They derive their material from locally, ethically, and sustainably sourced shrimp shells, which prevents waste in the seafood industry and helps support coastal fishing communities. The finished product is industrial and home compostable, and has passed ASTM D6400 and D6868 compostability standards—but the work doesn’t end there. Cruz Foam products are continuously and rigorously tested in both laboratory and real-world settings to ensure that they are using the most responsible practices from sourcing to disposal. They also are committed to decarbonizing their operations as much as possible. 

Cruz Foam’s products range from Cruz Pack curbside recyclable envelopes to Cruz Cool insulated boxes and Cruz Cush customized packaging for things like electronics, although the company is constantly innovating to address packaging challenges. Recently, Cruz Foam has partnered with Ventana Surfboards & Supplies and other local companies such as Verve to bring their product to market and begin replacing toxic plastic packaging.

Etho Capital

Plastics are made from fossil fuels and cause climate-warming emissions at every stage of their existence, so we must support and invest in companies that are setting science-based targets to decarbonize. Etho Capital is a financial technology company that is paving the road for investors to do exactly that. They are an active investment manager who has put together a flagship fund known as the Etho Climate Leadership U.S. ETF, which ranks publicly traded companies in their respective sectors according to climate emissions per dollar invested, only selecting the companies that score the highest. 

Unlike other funds that use environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors to package “sustainable” investments, they set themselves apart through significantly higher standards, taking into account Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions. Scope 3 emissions are the harder-to-track, supply chain–related emissions from a company’s operations that are usually left out of climate-themed investments. The Etho team found that Scope 3 climate impacts account for over 85% of the climate footprint for many equities, which is why these are so critical to take into account and is part of why sustainable investing has come under recent scrutiny. Additionally, they filter and remove companies in fossil fuels, weapons and tobacco, and those that have clear red flags associated with plastic pollution, safety violations, toxics, and animal cruelty. These ESG screens ensure that the companies in their funds are better for people and the planet, and Etho has proven that they also generate consistent financial returns. 

Etho Capital is building investment vehicles that go beyond “net-zero” to what they call “climate-positive,” taking into account both upstream and downstream emissions and ESG factors. They provide investors with a simple way to make money by rewarding companies that have prioritized truly sustainable practices and have done their due diligence of understanding, reporting, and mitigating their climate impact.

Fenceline Watch

To understand the link between plastics and climate, simply take a look at a petrochemical facility. Most of these multi-billion dollar plants take fracked gas or oil and turn these fossil fuels into the building blocks for conventional plastic products. In the United States, the petrochemical industry emits 232 million tons of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions annually, the equivalent of 116 coal-fired power plants, and is rapidly increasing in production. These facilities not only emit greenhouse gasses into the air, but also massive amounts of particulates and other toxic chemicals, with tragic repercussions for the communities they are based in. These communities are 67% more likely to be communities of color, making plastics production and fossil fuel processing a serious environmental justice issue.

Fenceline Watch is dedicated to the eradication of toxic multigenerational harm on communities living along the fenceline of industry. Based in the home of the largest petrochemical complex in the nation, the organization is led by people of color. Fenceline Watch serves as a watchdog group documenting chemical disasters while advocating to protect the public input process from a growing fossil fuel industry increasingly focused on increasing plastic production. As an organization comprised of individuals who witness injustice from petrochemicals in their community daily, Fenceline Watch is calling for systemic change that will hold industry accountable and protect and restore vulnerable communities affected by extraction.

Their work encompasses a range of community-based support programs, from addressing language barriers to public participation to responding to chemical disasters that unfortunately occur nearly every other day, on average. Some of their recent work includes leading a petrochemical “teach-in” webinar about how to track toxic releases using U.S. Environmental Protection Agency databases through Environmental Justice Screens; conducting workshops to teach their community members how to file reports on odors, flaring, and fires; and organizing with community members against redistricting, which would have divided four fenceline port communities that are predominantly people of color. A few months ago, their director, Yvette Arellano, delivered a powerful statement to the delegates at INC-2 urging them to consider emissions tracking for the full life cycle of plastics and the needs of communities impacted the most from petrochemical production.

Listen to Yvette’s story and learn about the fossil fuel industry’s petrochemical lifeline in this Matter of Degrees podcast, and consider attending one of their upcoming events on September 12 and October 24–25. You may also take action to support their work by volunteering or donating. 

Climate Week NYC is upcoming next week, and the third negotiating session of the UN Plastics Treaty is happening in Nairobi, Kenya, this November. It’s time to push representatives of the world’s biggest plastic polluter—the U.S.— to take strong and urgent action on the interconnected issues of plastic pollution and the climate crisis.


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To Stop Plastic Pollution