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.


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 August, we are featuring PPC Business and Organization Members with programs or products designed to prepare students, parents, guardians, and teachers to go back to school plastic-free for a healthier year ahead. 


With kids in many parts of the world going back to school this month, parents and teachers are doing their best to set them up for success. When it comes to school meals, students can bring their food from home, and buy or receive from school. Unfortunately these meal options are often associated with lots of chemical-laden single-use plastic—from one-serving plastic food packaging to throwaway plastic trays. 

Children’s meals shouldn’t be filled with hazardous plastics. Ahimsa is a woman-founded and-owned company that makes sturdy, toxic-free, completely plastic-free, stainless steel foodware products for children. Not only are their dishes and meal sets safe, but they are intentionally designed to make it easy for parents to portion out healthy serving sizes, while engaging kids in a sensory mealtime experience since the dishes are made with bright colors. From sectioned “balanced bites” plates to their cafeteria line, Ahimsa products are third-party tested to ensure the highest standard of safety and effectiveness, and Ahima recently became the first MADE SAFE certified children’s foodware company. 

Dr. Manasa Mantravadi, Ahimsa’s founder, is a board-certified pediatrician, a mom of three young kids, and a passionate advocate for children’s health and environmental sustainability. She is on a mission to empower parents, guardians, and teachers with evidence-based information and to help create a safer, kinder, and healthier future for all kids. She will be moderating Plastic Pollution Coalition’s upcoming August webinar, “Going Back to School Plastic-Free”, and is currently petitioning the USDA to pressure officials from the National School Lunch Program to move away from plastic to protect the long-term health of millions of children. 

Beyond Plastics

Beyond Plastics is a U.S.-focused organization pairing the wisdom and experience of environmental policy experts with the energy and creativity of grassroots advocates to build an effective movement to end plastic pollution. Based at Bennington College, Vermont, Beyond Plastics works toward institutional, economic, legislative, and societal systemic change to prevent plastic pollution and its many harmful impacts. The organization was  founded and is led by former Regional EPA Administrator under President Obama, Judith Enck, who brings a wealth of knowledge and policy experience. 

Beyond Plastics acknowledges that ending plastic pollution requires change from everyone, from individual behavior changes to corporations taking responsibility to governments implementing effective policies. Beyond Plastics is also committed to environmental justice, supporting solutions that support communities impacted by injustice.  To support change and engage communities and individuals, Beyond Plastics holds virtual grassroots organizing trainings, provides free, public resources about issues related to plastic pollution, and rallies for passage and implementation of more effective legislation.

The organization has now grown to encompass grassroots subchapters all across the country as part of their Beyond Plastics Local Groups and Affiliates program, launched in February 2022. This July, rePurpose of Washington state became the 100th group to join the Beyond Plastics grassroots network, and groups like theirs hosted events for Plastic-Free July that called attention to the hazards of plastic and the systemic reasons for the plastic pollution crisis. In addition to their July events, the national group has recently delivered a 27,600 signature petition to the EPA, calling for a ban on toxic vinyl chloride (a chemical which fueled this year’s toxic train disaster in East Palestine, Ohio).

Find out ways you can take action in your local community and engage with Beyond Plastics, or sign up to learn about plastic pollution in Judith’s fall class—which is open to the public through September and October 2023. If you are a parent or guardian doing back-to-school shopping this month, you may also want to check out Beyond Plastics’ Plastic-Free Back To School Guide!

Earth Guardians

During the back-to-school season we want to uplift the work that youth groups are doing to address the urgent and interconnected crises of plastic pollution and climate change. Earth Guardians are a global, youth-led organization that inspires, galvanizes and trains diverse youth to be effective leaders who advocate for environmental and climate justice. They do this by using art, music, storytelling, civic engagement, legal and direct action to advance solutions to the most challenging issues we face as a global community. Earth Guardians’ core staff is 80% Black Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) youth, and includes Emmy Scott, Earth Guardians’ newest and youngest executive director.

Operating from a bottom-up, decentralized model of distributed leadership, Earth Guardians empowers youth-led intergenerational groups, or Crews, from around the world. These localized chapters drive initiatives in their own communities, while contributing to the global Earth Guardians movement as a whole. By offering financial and educational support, leadership trainings, and a speakers bureau, the international team supports Crews’ grassroots efforts to put power and resources directly into the hands of frontline youth activists—especially those who come from historically underserved communities worst harmed by pollution, climate change, and injustice.

One of Earth Guardians’ major projects is the Choose Action Now (CAN) Campaign, meant to encourage youth leaders around the world to host events that call attention to the urgent need for climate action, in the wake of inaction from world leaders during COP. This global day of action inspired 70 events that took place during COP 27 in November of 2022 as part of a global day of action. You can find a long list of educational resources and one-pagers from Earth Guardians with project ideas that you can launch and lead in your local community here

Wisdom Supply Co.

Back-to-school shopping can be daunting with so many school supplies typically made of or wrapped in single-use plastic. PPC Business Member Wisdom Supply Co. is a woman founded and run, certified B-Corp that is on a mission to change purchasing habits around school and office supplies, offering plastic-free, reusable, refillable, and nontoxic alternatives made from regenerative and truly recyclable materials. 

From zero-waste planners to unlacquered colored pencils, Wisdom Supply is replacing toxic products made from and wrapped in plastic. In doing so, founders Heather Itzla and Nicole Kozlowski aim to disrupt what they call the “shelf-to-shore pipeline,” referring to the amount of pollution and subsequent environmental destruction created by plastic school and office supplies. These activists-turned-businesswomen are dedicated to scaling systems that prevent plastic school supplies, like vinyl binders and plastic pens, from entering the global waste stream. They also aim to change narratives behind status quo back-to-school shopping that are wasteful, health-threatening, and unnecessary for learning. 

Heather will be discussing the importance of going back to school plastic-free, including the health implications of toxic school supplies in Plastic Pollution Coalition’s upcoming August webinar. In 2024, Wisdom Supply will be transitioning from a B-Corporation to a nonprofit organization to more effectively serve schools.


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 Plastic Free July, we are featuring PPC Business and Organization Members focused on building plastic-free, nontoxic reuse and refill systems to help end plastic pollution.


FillGood storefront in Berkeley, California. Photo by FillGood

PPC Business Member FillGood in Berkeley, California, is a wonderful example of a local business providing its community with zero-waste home, bath and body products, all easily procured through their storefront or via home delivery. With more than 400 sustainable options, including 130 bulk products that can be refilled, owner Stephanie Regni aims to offer a plastic-free replacement for every product that people use daily. Some of FillGood’s bulk suppliers include other PPC Business Members, such as Meliora and Plaine Products

Refill shops are an essential part of the systems we need to end plastic pollution globally. The personal care and beauty industry alone produces more than 120 billion units of plastic packaging every year. Although “chasing arrows” labels often mislead consumers to think plastic packaging can be recycled, most plastic is not recycled, and instead is incinerated, or is piled up in landfills and natural spaces. Supporting local refill shops helps build plastic-free communities. Find a refill shop near you that offers plastic-free products and refill services for common items in your daily life.

Plastic Free Future

Alejandra Warren of Plastic Free Future and Koy Hardy of Fresh Approach. Photo courtesy Plastic Free Future

Plastic Free Future is a non-profit organization launched by Alejandra Warren in 2020 with a mission to reduce and eliminate plastic pollution through outreach to systemically excluded communities and by promoting reusable alternatives. Plastic Free Future produces, synthesizes, and communicates science-based information with a particular focus on underserved communities, youth, and policymakers. In addition to the consulting services and programs they offer, their website also includes a map of reuse businesses around the world that offer either reusable takeout incentives, bulk refills, or reusables for on-site dining. 

Alejandra is a leading voice in the global movement to eliminate single-use plastics and accelerate a truly circular economy. In 2018, she co-led efforts to pass the first single-use plastic ban in San Mateo County, California, and since then has been working on bilingual outreach and technical assistance to restaurants and other industries to switch to reusable alternatives in compliance with foodware ordinances. She has also been heavily involved in the Global Plastics Treaty negotiations, urging delegations to address the multi-generational harms that plastics inflict on low-income and communities of color from the moment plastics’ fossil fuel ingredients are extracted through refining, manufacturing, shipping, storage, use, disposal, and pollution. Her recent involvement at the second session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC-2) focused on advancing holistic solutions including seriously curbing plastic production and investing in community-based reuse and zero-waste systems

As a recognized activist who centers historically marginalized voices in her local and global efforts to stop plastic pollution, Alejandra was named the 2022 Activist of the Year at The Reusies. You can hear more about her work on a recent Upstream Podcast episode, and support her efforts by signing this petition to urge the US government to take a stronger stance on the Global Plastics Treaty.

Plastic Free Restaurants

Nacho Day at Forest Park Elementary (Fremont Unified Schools CA). Photo by Plastic Free Restaurants

Building the reuse systems we need to end plastic pollution requires a shift away from toxic cultures of disposability and wastefulness that define our current global economy and lifestyles. It might feel difficult to escape these cultures: Consider, for instance, the fact that Americans produce, on average, almost 5 pounds of “trash” per day. Such wastefulness is encouraged by industries that make single-use products and packaging, and is reinforced by policies that prop up these harmful businesses rather than incentivize businesses that tap into circular, nontoxic, plastic-free solutions. Plastic Free Restaurants (PFR) helps eateries, schools, institutions, and event spaces transition to reuse by subsidizing the purchase of reusable replacements, thereby eliminating petroleum-based, single-use plastic. 

To date, Plastic Free Restaurants estimates it has eliminated more than 9 million (and counting!) single-use plastic items from 67 restaurants and 29 schools in 7 states across the U.S. by subsidizing the purchase of 31,409 reusable items. Because they are a remote 501(c)3 that is volunteer driven, 94% of their entire budget is able to be given in subsidies to schools and restaurants to switch to reusable foodservice ware. For schools, their subsidies apply to the full cost of a reusable item, and for restaurants, the subsidy amounts to the price difference between the reusable replacement and the current cost of the single-use plastic item. If cost is a barrier to transitioning your school or restaurant to reusables, PFR can help eliminate this hurdle. 

Case studies from PFR’s partners at Rethink Disposable have proven that after reusables have been purchased, eateries, schools, institutions, and venues save money in almost every instance, even after accounting for increased labor, utility, and infrastructure costs. If you are still skeptical about costs, PFR will help do a personalized evaluation of your needs, and an estimate of how many months it will take you to hit the break-even point. Visit PFR’s resources page to learn more, including ways to volunteer, and apply here for a subsidy. 


USEFULL’s stainless steel to-go cups and containers. Photo by USEFULL

USEFULL is a tech-enabled circular economy solution designed to eliminate single-use plastic food and beverage packaging. They work with businesses, organizations, universities, and communities to conduct inventory assessments, provide technical support and training, and implement plastic-free reusable systems—helping to achieve zero-waste and sustainability goals while making it easy for people to transition away from single use. 

Building a reuse economy requires not only a shift in public behavior, but also scalable systemic solutions. When engaging with participating reuse businesses, you can check out and return the to-go food/drink packaging you’ve acquired anywhere within the network and receive notifications that remind you when your item is due for return by engaging with the USEFULL app. The app also enables participating businesses and entities to do inventory management, late fee administration, and conduct impact reporting. As a result of these features for both users and administrators, their convenient tech-centered approach has led to an astonishing 99% return rate. 

At USEFULL, their philosophy is that you can’t solve plastic pollution with more plastic. Their insulated stainless steel to-go cups and containers are dishwasher safe, plastic-free, customizable, and can be circulated for a minimum of three years before needing to be replaced. Because these items are designed for durability, they are lower impact and more cost-effective than reusables made of plastic—which ultimately do not help address the core cause of plastic pollution, which is more plastic production.

USEFULL is female founded and owned, and in 2023 alone has secured four new partners: St. Olaf College, Good Earth Natural Foods, Island Eats, and the City of Middletown, CT. It has saved each partner an average of 20—50% in costs by ditching compostable or single-use plastic alternatives for plastic-free reusable containers. USEFULL recently partnered with PlasticFreeMarin to launch their services in Good Earth’s FairFax and Mill Valley Cafes in Northern California. Visit USEFULL’s website to learn more about how their system works

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.

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.


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 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 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.