Ep. 01 — Cyrill Gutsch
Welcome to In Good Company, a series where we pass the mic to innovative individuals, friends, partners and companies within the climate space.
First up is Cyrill Gutsch, founder of Parley for the Oceans, a global organization dedicated to protecting our oceans from climate change and threats like plastic pollution and overfishing.
Taking an innovative approach to ocean conservation, Gutsch and his team collaborate with companies, governments and individuals to form partnerships and start initiatives that raise awareness for the current delicate state of our oceans while simultaneously working to end the destruction on them. We sat down with Gutsch, an investor and a friend to us at AIR, to chat about new materials, questioning standards and the possibilities of a plastic-free world.
When did you decide to dedicate yourself and your work to the oceans?
Parley started 10 years ago in a meeting with Captain Paul Watson of Sea Shepherd. He was arrested in Germany, and I was there visiting. We met, we spoke, and I learned that the legacy of my generation could be that we leave behind a dead sea. That was such a shock, especially since nobody was discussing it. I called my partner in New York, and we decided that day, June 16th, 2012, to start Parley for the Oceans.
At Parley, we believe that phasing out plastic is one of the biggest industrial challenges because our life on this planet right now is based on plastic. Plastic is a design failure, it needs to go, but there is a step in between. We started collecting trash all around the world [and] we called it Ocean Plastic®. That is happening now in 30-plus countries. We’re collaborating with governments now like Maldives, Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, the Dominican Republic. You need to first intercept the material. That means you go to areas where often there’s no infrastructure, and you collect that material. Then you have to sort it, wash it, and flake it down. We then melt the flakes into pellets. You can turn a pellet into any plastic application.
Tell us about Parley’s belief that “purpose is the new luxury.”
There’s nothing stronger, faster, better than fashion, art [and] design to transform society because the creative community touches the heart. It touches the instinct and hacks the rationale.
That’s why, for us, purpose is the new luxury, really. There’s nothing more exciting than saving lives. There's nothing more exciting than driving the new.
“Purpose is the new luxury. There is nothing more exciting than saving lives; there is nothing more exciting than driving the new.”
— Cyrill Gutsch
What does being a futurist mean to you?
I believe in the power of ideas. I believe in optimism, creativity and collaboration, and I believe in eco-innovation. I believe these old technologies, old materials [and] old business practices, are responsible for ruining our planet. We have to find a way out of the toxic age that we created and invent materials that are in collaboration with nature. Nature is the true high tech.
What is your biggest why?
Friends keep asking me, why are you doing this? The question doesn’t even form in my head because there is no alternative. Once you know what is happening…once you realize that, you can’t unsee that. I decided that I [was] going to dedicate my life to protecting the sea. And to be honest, that’s the whole planet; we are living on a planet ocean.
What’s your ideal possible future?
When I picture the future, I see a world that is blue, beautiful and not polluted by plastic, by fossil fuel-based emissions, by nasty, ugly chemicals. I see a world that is in harmony, where humans learned to live in collaboration with nature, where humans learned to unlock the secrets of nature.
Describe your hope for the future of the planet in one word.
One word that describes for me future the best is empathy.