As a kid, Garrett loved all things nature. Over time, he lost that childlike wonder for plants and animals until recently when he began to rediscover it. This led to a particular interest in sustainability, and a few weeks ago, Garrett traveled to Australia to learn more about ways current researchers and innovators are tackling ocean health. This is his Inspiration Grant story.
So my interest in sustainability and ocean health in general comes from two things. On one hand, the dread around, you know, the potential end of our planet. And on the other hand, a love of plants, animals, nature and everything in that sense. I chose Australia as the destination for my grant partly because of what a old colleague once said to me. He mentioned that he likes to take his daughter on vacations to places that might not exist when she's an adult. His first example was the Great Barrier Reef. This was five years ago and I still remember that snippet of a conversation. What can I do about it? Where can I make a difference? What opportunities might I be able to take advantage of or bring to the next level?
In terms of some memorable encounters while I was out in Australia, one of the first ones was really with, it was actually my first meeting, with Planet Protector Packaging. Their objective is to make styrofoam boxes in shipping obsolete. The way they were creating this circular economy from leftover wool from Australian sheep farmers. They take those scraps turn into this product that not only is great for insulation, but also for protecting a package when it's being thrown around. I was like you're hitting this on so many ways, like, why isn't it catching on? And they, said the hardest part was change management. You're getting these folks who've been working with styrofoam boxes for 30 years and they're just not interested in even trying to change. Even if it is cheaper, even if it is easier, even if it is better for the environment, convincing them to do that was one of the hardest challenges. I just wasn't thinking about change management as being one of the biggest issues there.
It was actually my last meeting where I just heard a lot of next level creative ideas from the Nature Conservancy. One of my favorite examples was there's this invasive species of sea urchin in southern Australian waters and it's causing all sorts of havoc. But if you go catch this sea urchin and create some sort of aquaculture environment in not too long of time, you can transform it into sushi-quality uni, and sell that uni. Which I think was awesome, you're solving this ocean health issue by creating delicious sushi.
Down the road I think that I'm really gonna try to keep in touch with the folks that I've met over the course of this project. I really think that it's about over the next couple years, just keeping this stuff in mind and keeping my eyes open, my ears open for where this opportunity might pop up for me to join a company at an early stage. These are things that I'll keep in mind over the next couple years and hopefully be able to act upon.
Coming away from this trip, I would want people to really see the immense creativity that goes into a sustainable product. You know, we've been doing something a certain way for fifty or a hundred years and it's not working. It's polluting our oceans. It's destroying coral habitats. It's impacting our lives. I want them to see how taking a creative and realistic approach can change that, can make a difference.
The Levy Inspiration Grant Program is made possible through the generous support of Larry and Carol Levy and is managed by the Entrepreneurship program at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. To learn more about the Levy Inspiration Grant Program and other ways we support student entrepreneurs, visit our website at kellogg.northwestern.edu.