A sailboat made of recycled plastic? The Plastiki is the brainchild of David de Rothschild, a polar adventurer and scion to the Rothschild family heir. It is a 60 foot catamaran that is potentially an innovative wonder made of recycled plastic bottles and materials crafted from self-reinforced PET. Intended for completion and launch “sometime next month” (or maybe next), the Plastiki is currently undergoing its build off Pier 31 in San Francisco. The intent is to raise awareness for his foundation Adventure Ecology and the work it does via a sail from the U.S. to Australia which will take it through the little-known Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
Sounds like an amazing endeavor with the potential to draw much-needed attention for the harm plastic garbage thrown into our oceans causes. Yet, this journey has all the markings of a Richard Branson stunt, minus the “credibility” – which firmly moves back all those strides greenies have been making in getting the green movement out of hippieville.
I am actually a big fan of Richard Branson, but it takes more than money to draw credible, actionable attention. I absolutely “heart” David for his intentions, but I’d like to take this opportunity to propose a bit of context for his next well-intentioned and ambitious adventure: 1) develop a solid plan that meets the approval of experienced engineers – self-mockery on the liklihood that it will contribute to the aqua-junk doesn’t help focus attention on the cause of waste as resource. 2) establish credible partnerships that can help you spread the word – companies (like P&G or Nestle) that buy into your strategy and can promote your success will actually create impact where the problem starts – at the corporate and consumer level. 3) Which goes to say that self-depracating humor is infinitely enjoyable, but avoid the trappings of a “stunt”. The best story (and video) I read on David was found on a National Geographic Adventure blog dedicated to the Plastiki because it included lots of facts and established some solid grounding for the whole concept. Still the humor of the “we might not make it” (in the video) will only work for the cause – if truly, he makes it. (and I hope he does!)