Episode 61: Turning Plastics into Sustainable Products & Lives (Transcript)

June 4, 2020

33 Min Read

[00:00:00] Liz Bothwell: Hi everyone, welcome to Waste360's NothingWasted! Podcast. On every episode, we invite the most interesting people in waste recycling and organics to sit down with us and chat candidly about their thoughts, their work, this unique industry and so much more. Thanks for listening and enjoy this episode.


[00:00:26] Liz: Hi, everyone. This is Liz Bothwell from Waste360 with Ian Rosenberger founder and CEO of First Mile and Day Owl. Welcome, Ian, and thanks for being on the show today.

[00:00:37] Ian Rosenberger: Thanks so much for having me.

[00:00:39] Liz: We usually start in the beginning, and you have a pretty interesting background. Could you tell us a little bit more about that? And how you found yourself in the world of sustainability, products, and solutions?

[00:00:51] Ian: Certainly, yes. I came at it from an angle that I really never expected to end up in sustainability. I went to Haiti after the earthquake in 2010. At the time, I was in marketing and in television production, so a completely different industry. I started my career at MTV as a producer on the Video Music Awards, about as far away from what I'm doing now as I think you could possibly get.

The earthquake in Haiti was 10 years ago now and I went down, originally, to take photos. The idea was that I was going to raise some money by selling the photos, and then donate that money to some non-profit. Really, I had no concept of what was in store for me. I got to Haiti about five, six weeks after the earthquake and it was a war zone.

A lot of people don't realize, but the size and magnitude of that earthquake makes it one of the largest natural disasters in, not just the western hemisphere's history, but human history. 300,000 people dead over the course of the quake and one and a half million people homeless and if we put that up against where we are with COVID right now, you can start to see the scale of what all that means. But it wasn't talked about because Haiti is a poor country, we tend to gloss over things like this in low-income countries and low-income communities, particularly with people of color.

I just fell in love with the country and the people. I fell in love with the culture and what became immediately clear to me was that everybody that I was coming across, meeting, and becoming friends with, was really not all that excited about the non-profit system that existed, and still exists to a large extent. A lot of handouts, a lot of, "Here's immunization. Here's clean water. Here's food," but not a lot of people saying, "Here's an opportunity to go to work".

As a guy who grew up in a blue-collar town, outside of Pittsburgh, the dignity of work and putting food on the table was something that I grew up with. It was pounded into my head, so this idea of dignity and work was really interesting to me. It was clear to me that the Haitian people that I was meeting, that it was important to them, but they didn't have access to it. I started looking around, I saw a lot of plastic on the ground and a lot of people that needed jobs. I came home and googled, "What can I turn plastic into?" That's where the whole thing got started.

[00:03:29] Liz: Amazing. Can you tell us a little bit about your friend Tassy and how he changed your life?

[00:03:36] Ian: Yes, certainly. Tassy is my brother now. At that time, he was a 19-year-old stranger. On that first trip, I met him and a bunch of other people, but I met Tassy and he stood out because he had a really big tumor on the side of his face that was growing in such a way that eventually it would kill him.

It's one of those things- and this happens over and over again, not just in low-income communities around the world, but also in low-income communities in the United States, where there's plenty of preventable- at the time, would be small interventions that could keep people healthy, but because people don't have access to good health care, small things become big things in a hurry and this is what was happening with Tassy. The tumor he had could have been taken care of, and would have been taken care of had he been born in the U.S. when he was 10 or 11 years old, but instead, it grew over the course of 10 years and it became this giant, unavoidable problem in his life.

On my second trip, Tassy asked me if I could help him figure it out. I didn't know what the hell I was doing, so I said, "Yes." Came home and asked a bunch of friends, some of which were doctors, and said, "What are you thinking?" We raised some money, got him up into the states, and got him sorted out. That actually led to the creation of our first organization, which is a non-profit called WORK. Tassy was our first family member, but we now have about 500 family members that we serve.

The extension of our work goes from the time that we meet that family in the neighborhood that we work in, intake all the way out through the graduation of that family, which is where the two heads of household are placed in good, dignified jobs. The work for the non-profit and the for-profit really do go hand-in-hand. One being social and one being economic.

[00:05:45] Liz: Absolutely. I love that your focus, really from the start, has always been on creating jobs, health, safety, and infrastructure. What do you think made you see the big picture here? Was it the time that you arrived and the devastation from Haiti? Or is that just ingrained in you or a combination?

[00:06:05] Ian: Yes. I was really inspired by a couple of people, actually, in the non-profit world and then eventually, in the for-profit world. But I was originally inspired by Dr. Paul Farmer who was the founder of an organization called Partners In Health. Dr. Farmer bases his work and the work of his organization on this idea of accompaniment. It's just a fancy way of talking about how, as opposed to leading the poor, white and shining armor approach, or our poor black brothers approach. Instead, walking alongside them. Accompaniment is literally the idea of walking alongside somebody else.

The extension of that idea extends it to a place where you can't walk alongside somebody else unless you walk all the way to wherever that leads you. Partners In Health, I think, talks really beautifully and really walks the talk of accompaniment and sticking with the people they serve until they don't need them anymore. I was really fascinated with that idea, still am, and spend a lot of time studying it.

Also, like I said, I'm from Pittsburgh. There's a legend in our town, a guy named Bill Strickland who started an organization called Manchester Craftsmen's Guild. He set up shop in the north side of Pittsburgh, where after the steel notes closed, a road was built there, was cut off from the rest of the community. His whole focus was around jobs, so I combined these philosophies. Partners In Health is the idea of accompaniment, and serving the poor until they don't need us anymore. This idea of employment, what that can do for a person, and their dignity.

Those two things really came together for me to crystallize what I believe about this work. I studied race and ethnic relations in college, as well. I was overwhelmed during school with the idea of dialogue, and how to create good dialogue. I think those things all came together and that led me to this place where I was like, "Okay, I really believe in the idea of work. How do we get as many people as possible back to work, and then get out of the way?" It's not just about coming in and saying, "We want to do this", then forcing it on folks, but instead saying, "Can we help you get a job if that's what you want?" It just so happened that plastic ended up becoming the primary vehicle for us to be able to do that.

[00:08:47] Liz: Amazing. Can you tell us a little bit about Thread?

[00:08:52] Ian: Yes, certainly. Like I said, all these people I was meeting, we were serving now a couple of dozen folks that were in the same situation as Tassy and we were in a place where we were out of resources. I had dried up all of the donations that had come after the earthquake, the world had moved on from the quake, and while we had this small non-profit, it was not nearly enough to do the heavy lifting for what we wanted to do for the communities we were serving.

We were also getting overwhelmed with people asking about, "Can we get involved with this?", on the service side in Haiti. I came to a place where I was desperate and it was like, "What can I do to get the folks that I'm serving, to a place where they don't need the resources of donations and can instead, cycle those resources on themselves?" It became really clear to me that we just need to figure out a way to put people to work.

I mentioned earlier that I've taken a bunch of videos and pictures when I was in Haiti the first time. If you go back to my photos, the two things you see in every single picture are folks that look like they're in apparent poverty and a lot of trash. I was like, "Well, maybe there's an opportunity to combine these two things", and with the amount of waste in infrastructure that places like Haiti operate with, I saw that as a natural resource, or an unnatural resource, probably more correctly.

Ultimately, I came home and googled, "What I can turn plastic into?" I found that there are a lot of really beautiful things that waste can be transformed into. At that time, textiles were chief among them from my point of view, so I started trying to figure out how I can turn plastic bottles into fabric, and so, that adventure began and the story of Thread began.

[00:10:57] Liz: Wow. That is amazing. I do love that you really did see waste as a resource and a business opportunity almost right away. Can you share how much plastic you've diverted from landfills and oceans so far?

[00:11:11] Ian: Yes. This year we'll divert our 100 million bottles. We've got now, because of the jobs and the revenues people are earning in country, I think we're up at this point between revenue and dollars invested in these communities, around six or seven million dollars that are going into the communities we serve. The folks we serve have extended out to about 3,000 people at this point and I like to think we're just getting started.

We're now in Haiti, in Honduras, and in Taiwan with our direct supply chains. We've built enough study supply chains in- and this is plastic waste supply chains, in Bangladesh, India, Vietnam, and Indonesia, we expect very much to be in the Philippines this year, although COVID has pumped the brakes a little bit. But the idea now for us is, "What have we learned in the communities that we've served so far? And how can we use that to serve more people?"

Now our clients with Thread, now that we've been able to develop fabrics and other materials for big companies, we've got great, great clients. We've got brands like Converse, Reebok, Puma, Unilever, HP, all of these brands now. Some of the biggest brands in the world are using our stuff, now the trick is how do we leverage all this really incredible talent and resources that come with a big multinational, and get them to really lean into the idea of the ocean plastic crisis?

More than that, the fact that the front lines, or maybe more appropriately, the last line of defense of plastic going into oceans is the poor and it always has been. Those people, the ones who pick up trash and turn it into other things, who collect waste throughout waste routes, who go door-to-door, those folks are the ones that are actually saving the rest of our asses, as it were. Because they're the ones who've collected recycled material from the very beginning, and they're the only ones right now who are doing the heavy lifting of saving the oceans.

[00:13:32] Liz: Right. We were talking about COVID a little bit in the supply chains, how has that affected what you're doing in your supply chain?

[00:13:42] Ian: In every way. COVID has been the ultimate roadblock, I think. Haiti, and the other countries that we serve, Honduras especially, these are things that in the United States we didn't get a good jump on. Honduras-- I just talk to our field manager there on Friday and they seem to be really serious about containing the virus. But in Haiti, the infrastructure is such that it makes it almost impossible to not get out of the house, remember a lot of us have the ability to order things online and have things delivered, even though that system has been strained, that's impossible for the poor.

That infrastructure has been tested even on the best days. Now when COVID happens, it puts the people that are already in danger on a good day in even more danger. We've diverted a lot of our resources to help people understand how to make sure that their hands stay clean, how to social distance. Resources for the non-profits that ever work are few and far between right now, because we have so much going on here in the United States and 25% unemployment. Like everywhere else, it affects everybody but just like everywhere else, it disproportionately affects for black and brown community.

I know I keep talking about race throughout the conversation, but I would be remiss if I didn't. I think that race and poverty play enormous roles in the waste systems around the world, not just in Haiti but in the United States and other countries we serve.

[00:15:32] Liz: Absolutely. For you as a leader, how has COVID changed the way that you're leading? Or what have you learned from this?

[00:15:41] Ian: Oh God, that's a great question. I think I'm definitely still learning. I'll say, I think I played the first part of this pretty wrong, we've been really proud. Thread has grown, we used to just create First Mile supply chains for waste and turn that into stuff for big organizations, we've still really proud to do that. We call that work now, First Mile. About 18 months ago, we started thinking about our own direct-to-consumer products made out of our First Mile materials and we did that. We were very proud to release our first product into the marketplace this past year, it's called the backpack and that product line is called Day Owl, just like Night Owl.

COVID, through everything, into a complete all-the-balls-were-in-the-air, a jumble. Early on, I took my attention as a CEO and I turned it entirely to making sure the company stayed above water, "How do we get access to the payroll protection program? How do we get access to other interest-free loans? What's the process to get that money into the organization?" I really ignored my own team. If I'm being complete candid, I felt like my responsibility is to make sure the organization was still running. I think at times, it was very easy to forget the people that were in their homes, lonely, scared, thinking about those things.

A lot of companies got really good at hitting on Zoom, getting together, and making sure that they were having a really good time or as good a time as they could throughout this process, and really focused on their culture, where I just focused on keeping us above water. Certainly, we're still above water, we made a transition and we started manufacturing PPE, so we've manufactured about 80,000 face shields so far and we're about to move into face masks. We've got 125,000 face masks coming out in the marketplace over the summer.

We have to remember sometimes at what expense, it's hard for people to be on islands in their own homes, I think I overlooked that early on. Like most leaders in this situation, I think we get some of it right and we get a lot of it wrong, we hope that the good outweighs the bad when it all comes out in the wash. But we'll see.

[00:18:19] Liz: Great. It's unlike anything we've ever seen before, because you can't even compare it to previous recessions or challenges really. I give you all credit for leading the way that you are because you have to pivot and it's almost daily. You have to be fluid in the way that you treat people and the way you react. Good luck, I'm sure you're doing great.

[00:18:42] Ian: It is definitely daily, yes. I agree with you. It changes it every day.

[00:18:48] Liz: Now, do you think that people will come out of this pandemic ready for a real change where our planet is concerned?

[00:18:56] Ian: No, I do not. I think that people will come out of this pandemic ready to get back to, "Normal." I don't actually think that we should depend on the individual to be the ones to solve, not just the waste crisis but climate change and every other crisis that we face, of which there are many and they are serious.

I believe that it is the responsibility of corporations and businesses to change their practices, just to address a consumer who wants to buy better, but right now doesn't have that option. I think business actually, in many ways, has shifted the responsibility of cleaning up the planet on to the consumer for too many years. I think it's the responsibility of the consumer to put that pressure back on organizations.

The biggest plastic producers in the world, the biggest litterers in the world, are the same people who introduced the concept of a litterbug. I think when somebody makes something, at least I was taught, my dad said, "When you go camping and you throw something on the ground, you bring something with you, you're responsible for taking it back out of the environment." When you create something, that thing becomes your responsibility.

When you create a plastic bottle, you fill it with soda and you put it out of the world, you do not transfer the responsibility of that plastic bottle to the consumer, that responsibility is yours. People will argue with me on this, but I would recommend if you're going to the lengths to produce that piece of plastic, and you're doing it because it suits the bottom line of your organization, because it's cheaper and easier. Then you're all the more responsible for making sure that it comes out of the environment.

Any company that does not have both a reclamation plan and a long-term plan to eliminate single-use plastics is abdicating their responsibility as corporate citizens. Yes, every person has to do what they can to recycle, but in the United States right now it's very hard to recycle. Waste Management, New Republic, the infrastructure that we have around waste along with the relationships that exist or the lack of relationships that exist around China taking our waste back, the consumer can do everything they can to recycle and it still doesn't make its way into the recycling stream.

We need to be talking more about circularity. I can go on forever, I don't want to drone on, but it makes me mad, frankly.

[00:21:40] Liz: I don't blame you. I think you and other people are helping us to see the light. Speaking of sustainable products, can you tell me a little bit more about your backpack? I love that you seem to have thought of everything, from the packaging to the materials and, like you're saying, taking it back when you're finished with it.

[00:22:02] Ian: Yes, sure. The reason we started to make our own stuff, and we didn't come by it lightly because the question we had all sitting around the table with one another was, "Do we really want to create something else and put it out into the world?" Because I think Yvon Chouinard, who founded Patagonia, talked about it. No company is zero waste, no company is completely sustainable, every company does some bad, and that amount of bad is unavoidable, it's the price of commerce.

However, if you're going to decide to put something out into the world then you should make it as good as possible. We were getting sick of how slow the sustainability movement was going when it came to director consumer products. We saw better materials starting to happen, that's great, but ultimately circularity is still almost being avoided from large organizations.

In the true spirit of, "If you can't join them, beat them", we started to create products that we believe have circularity written into their code. For example, with our backpack, we made it out of our first model materials, it's as recycled as it can get and continuing actually even to get better as we go. As we design it, the idea is, "Let's get it out in the market and continue to make it better and better." It's designed to last for twice as much time and carry twice as much weight as other backpacks in its market because I believe that durability is the first rule of sustainability.

When somebody's finished with it, they can send it back to us. We'll take it and we'll make sure that it gets back out into the marketplace, either as a refurbished good or, if it's unable to be used again, then we'll break it down and recycle it. The upshot for us is that products have to last longer, we have to plan the obsolescence of planned obsolescence. I hope we have to be essentially no-holds-barred in that regard.

We're not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, the supply chain is difficult, it's still hard to get sustainable products into the marketplace in a way that compete, but we're doing our best. We find that people really love the backpack, which is great, they love the price point; which at this time, when folks are out of work we wanted to create something that acted like a $300 bag that was able to exist for half that price. We were able to do that. It was an experiment that we hope is going to turn into something that leads to a whole host of circular products.

[00:24:42] Liz: That would be great. I know, like you said, you don't want to put anything out in the market just to do it, but are you working on anything else that you could talk about?

[00:24:50] Ian: Yes, we are. We're going to release a face mask this week, that was something that became really clear, our customers were looking for a face mask. There's a lot that is going on right now, obviously people returning to work, our core value, our core promise to our customer with Day Owl is that they feel ready, and that's what the backpack exists for, to help them feel ready at any moment throughout their day.

We felt that face masks was a way to make sure our customers felt ready. That's something that's coming into the market, like I said, this week. Then we're certainly looking at what our next larger products are. We sell a pouch that goes along with the backpack, it's been really popular, you do that and then all the incidentals that go inside the bag, [unintelligible 00:25:38] things like that. That's also made out of our first [unintelligible 00:25:41] materials.

Honestly, I'm thinking right now about back-to-school, Christmas, and what people would refer to as buying seasons. I'm seeing old retail, like J.Crew and brands like that go bankrupt during this time. I'm wondering what is the consumer expecting out of brands like ours right now, where is that person to ask. When we started thinking about advertising our backpack during quarantine it felt weird, it was like, "People aren't even leaving their apartments, how are we going to advertise them something that is designed to leave their homes?"

I think we need to come to grips with the idea that the new consumer in 2020 and beyond is not going to have as much money, but has the same expectations for sustainability. I think brands like ours need to be ready to meet that person. I think lots of stuff in the store, but we're in the middle of planning it right now.

[00:26:48] Liz: That's great, good luck. What other brands are you working with through First Mile?

[00:26:57] Ian: Yes. Goodness. Well, you can go to our website and check out all the brands we're working with at a particular time at firstmilemade.com. We work right now with Unilever, with HP; HP put a laptop out with a small amount of recycled plastic from our supply chain in it.

We've really been proud of the Puma work lately. Puma's been a really terrific partner, they care really deeply about sustainability, they care really deeply about going big in that regard. Puma, they produced not just a line of shoes, but a line of clothing as well and they're growing that relationship with us. The stuff looks really great and, honestly, I think they care so much about it that they have actually invested as a sponsor in our- we do a run across Haiti every year. It works not just Haiti anymore, but Haiti it's still our ancestral home from a company perspective.

We do an ultra-marathon that Puma sponsored this past year, they sponsored the run across Haiti. We've been really proud of that relationship too. You can go on the site and check out all the brands and the leaderboard. Aerie is been great, they're an American Eagle company, that's a Pittsburgh brand that we love.

I think recycling, and sustainable materials isn't in that very difficult place for the next couple of years. It's great to see the brands that we serve step up, and I expect that they'll continue to do so.

[00:28:31] Liz: Absolutely, that's fantastic. What do you see as the role of the waste and recycling industry in all of this, Ian?

[00:28:40] Ian: God, that's a loaded question. I feel that in the waste and recycling industry there's a lot of talk around formalization of low-income people. The formalization of waste pickers, how do we get those people and make them employees of our organization? I think there's a very manifest destiny overtone to the idea of formalizing waste pickers. I think waste and recycling companies have to get on the same page. Companies can't make a profit from tipping fees and be disincentivized to get involved with recycling.

I think that we have to push legislate- I'm not necessarily a policy guy, it's not my background and I'm definitely not an expert at it, but I think there are areas where policy that force organizations to recycle first before they put things in landfill, to recycle first and make sure that can get back into the supply chain, even just altruistic, it's good business sense. Frankly, I believe it's a moral imperative.

I don't see that right now, I've seen there's been some legislation that's been introduced before COVID, I think was dead on arrival in this Congress in the United States, but this is where I think that low-income countries have a real opportunity to lead the way when it comes to policy around recycling and waste. There's some countries who cares very deeply about this because their countries are tourism destinations. You look at Indonesia, who cares a lot about whether or not people come to Bali, huge source of income, and they care a lot about whether or not there's trash the ocean, so there's some massive incentive to get on the same page and ensure that plastic stays out of the oceans.

I think we should be looking to these countries and these communities as examples of what we should be doing. Indonesia has its own share of problems, but if you can look at each community that's doing this well, I think the right place to look is to the poor, the people who've been doing it for way longer than the rest of us, and put ourselves in a position to listen and to learn from the people who have been good at this for a long time. I'll like to see a lot more of that happen and I don't. That's discouraging.

[00:31:03] Liz: I hope progress will be made because it is a good point, without that we won't solve for this. Do you think we can solve for this plastic crisis in our lifetime?

[00:31:17] Ian: I 100% believe that we can solve for the plastic crisis in our lifetime. In order to do that, it's going to take everybody working together. It's going to take people putting, especially right now, their business interests aside for a split second, just enough time to recognize that the goals they set before COVID are just as important now as they were then. In fact, they're more important.

When the price of oil dips below zero, it makes the economics to hide behind recycling infrastructure, very very difficult because the price of recycled plastic is tied to the price of oil, as I know you know. That means that when oil is really really cheap, it's way easier for brands to buy virgin material, non-recycled material, than it is recycled material. It puts every recycler into a squeeze. We just need ways to make sure that those supply chains are clean, clear, and profitable.

When the price of oil fluctuates the way that it does, and the economy fluctuates the way that it does, it makes it really hard. I will say that I have seen more movement in the past 18 months, before COVID, around materials, recycling, and promises of where they're going to go. I also think that there is work that's being done by organizations that make it their job to be a pain in the ass to these organizations. Organizations like Greenpeace, who are holding brands accountable to these things in ways that those brands hadn't felt accountable before.

It's also really encouraging to see the number of working groups that exist around these problems. I do get discouraged sometimes because I hear a lot of talk and not a lot of walk; however, there is a critical mass being reach, there's good people in every one of the organizations that pollute. I think they've been working their butts off to ensure that their organizations go in the right direction. I think the consumer has to help them along by getting loud and saying, "No, we demand that you make things that are made out of sustainable materials. We demand circularity".

Honestly, I'm an optimist. I believe that it'll happen in our lifetime, but frankly, if we doesn't, we have much bigger problems. I think we are in the red line and we have a responsibility to act yesterday. Not only do I think it's going to get solve, but I don't doubt ever the capacity of human ingenuity and innovation, and that's never been more apparent than during COVID. I hope that we take that idea and apply it to the problems right in front of us.

[00:33:51] Liz: I hope so too. You talked a lot about bigger corporations, is there any advice that you have on the individual level for people who want to do their part to overcome the plastic crisis?

[00:34:07] Ian: Yes, sure. First, buy sustainable, buy what you can at circular, get involved in demanding things that do that. I think that brands are getting better, but they're not good yet. That's hard to search for, so find those things, stick to them, be loyal to those brands. I would say the number one thing we can do is to use less. Living within our means from an energy perspective, from a waste perspective, is the number one thing we can all do that participates in that.

I'm not a vegetarian yet, I'm eating less meat. My wife, and I, our family are eating less meat, we decided to move to a city to use less resources. From a transportation perspective, keep the car in the garage as much as possible. Keep in mind it's not the day to day use, it's not the flow of energy, sometimes it's those big purchases, it's building a house, it's buying a car instead of a used car. It's those types of actions that make the big deal. They can and will help.

Everybody that's listening, that work is hero's work. To do our part is the type of thing we're all called to as citizens. It's a tough thing right now because I think we live in a really tough climate when it comes to being a good citizen, but those are the things I think every person can do. Like I said, we're not perfect, but if we try to be, eventually, we're going to get there.

[00:35:42] Liz: Definitely. Having it at top of mind, right? Education is a big part of it as well. I think that's an ongoing initiative that we could all take part in.

[00:35:51] Ian: Yes, I agree. I will say that a lot of people don't have the luxury to be sustainable, I think it's really important to note that. Anybody who's listening to this podcast probably has the luxury of being sustainable, where they can choose to use less, or to purchase a particular thing, or to buy something online that is a little bit more sustainable, but the vast majority of the world does not have that option. They just don't.

People who live on the waste piles or in waste neighborhoods. Even people who are living on $5, $10 a day, as the emergence of the global middle class happens, all those people are going to want more things. Those people don't have the choice to buy sustainable. It's really important to reframe the discussion around what individuals can do because most people are just trying to put food on the table. Especially, in the US right now, where one out of four people don't have jobs.

It's really hard to expect a person who can't get to work, or doesn't have a job, to be more sustainable when they're just trying to feed their kids. Frankly, I think that's where my push on business comes in so strong because the vast majority of the world is just trying to live. Yes, we can do our part and we should do our part, but I do believe that that's on the margin, I believe that the biggest thrust should be from those organizations that have the money and the power to do something.

[00:37:20] Liz: Great point. Hopefully, we will see that. Ian, what's next for you and your companies? Any new locations on your radar for building infrastructure?

[00:37:31] Ian: Goodness, yes. We are waiting for the pandemic to be over, that's why we're in DC making masks and shields for folks. We'll be doing that for as long as we need to. The idea is stay alive and keep our people employed. We've been lucky, we've been able to limit layoffs, we've had to lay off one person, but beyond that we've been able to hire some people back as well.

I think just stay alive in 2020 and focus on creating a really good product that when people come out of this thing, that they're ready to face the world and to do really great things. That's why we exist, that's the thing that keeps us going every day.

[00:38:19] Liz: I love that, "Just stay alive in 2020."  We could almost all use that as our own little tagline, I think.

[00:38:26] Ian: [laughs] Yes, isn't that the truth?

[00:38:29] Liz: [laughs] Wait, I have to ask you on Survivor. I can't go along without asking about it. How was that?


[00:38:38] Ian: It was very weird, it feels very small and up against all the many people who were trying to actually survive right now. You got to be Huckleberry Finn for Tom Sawyer, switch Family Robinson for 40 days out on an island. That was cool and I made some really great friends there. Actually, a couple of people that I met have led, directly, to the work that I'm doing now. Every experience is something that you can use and I like to think that learn from. I'm a knucklehead, it takes me some time. Survivor was no exception. It feels like a lifetime ago though, I have to tell you. 15 years ago now. I can't believe it's still on.

[00:39:25] Liz: [laughs] I know, I keep thinking I'm going to introduce my kids to it. I keep forgetting, but it's still on, so there's always time.

[00:39:35] Ian: Yes, there's always time. There are some good folks on that show. I just got to meet a lot of cool people. Like any weird experience in your life, it ends up teaching you more than you think it does.

[00:39:47] Liz: Definitely. To your point [inaudible 00:39:49] last. I'm sure that was a learning experience around that as well. It all shapes your thinking and where you go, so I'm sure it was useful to you.

[00:40:00] Ian: It was.

[00:40:01] Liz: Ian, how can listeners learn more about Day Owl, First Mile, can you share your websites or Twitter handle?

[00:40:11] Ian: Yes. I'll share Twitter and Instagram. The three places to go look, if you were interested in learning about Day Owl, search @hellodayowls on Instagram and Twitter. If you're interested in learning more about First Mile, our twitter and Instagram handles are @firstmileimpact. If you want to hear more about our nonprofit, our work, the run across Haiti, ultramarathon, and the other work that we do to help poor people into good dignified jobs, the handle is dowork.org. Those are the places, check it out.

[00:40:48] Liz: Great Ian. Thank you so much. You've done so much good already, we can't wait to continue to watch what else you do. Thank you, it's been so inspiring. Please, stay well. I hope your family stays well.

[00:41:03] Ian: You too, take care of those dogs and kids. I hope everything is okay there. Please, stay safe. Hopefully, we'll be out of this all very soon.

[00:41:11] Liz: I hope so too. Again, thank you for all that you're doing, you're a true inspiration.

[00:41:17] Ian: Thank you, thanks for having me.

[00:41:18] Liz: Okay. Hope to talk soon, Ian. Take care.

[00:41:21] Ian: Okay. All right, bye-bye.


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