From Alissa Stevens: “Ready for a trip to the multi-useiverse? Chief of Staff and Sustainability Garr Punnett took CZW and I there in their latest co-branded episode. Rheaply is a leader in the journey toward a global circular economy, an economic system based on the principles of designing out waste and pollution of products, keeping the materials in use, and regenerating natural systems. The single-use or single-life consumption model is the most efficient system human beings have ever created, AND it means that waste is produced with every single thing we humans interact with on a daily basis: Think about the life your toothbrush had before it got to you and where it will end up when you dispose of it, for example. What would the world look like if we were to embrace a “shared economy” with peer-to-peer access to goods and services? Garr gives a hint: optimized resources lead to less waste, cost and “baggage” of possessions ? more efficiency, productivity, empowerment and connection. Listen to the full episode for some mind-blowing moments and to find out how you can witness these catalytic moments of behavior shifts in your everyday life.”
Get Real Podcast with Alissa Stevens
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Get Real podcast transcript
Alissa Stevens (00:09):
Hey, everyone. Welcome to get real, a podcast to empower you with sustainability. Knowhow so you can improve your quality of life while doing your part to protect the planet. I’m your host, Alissa Stevens and eco-preneur, Star Wars nerd, and relentlessly positive champion for transformation. Join me as I delve into global sustainability issues, break them down, and most importantly provide you with actions so you can be an eco leader in your everyday life for today’s episode. We want to thank our partner CZW companies for zero waste, which helps businesses, investors and governments transform operations and manage risk while driving growth, enabling a well-ordered transition to a low carbon circular economy. In this episode, we are talking with the asset recovery company, Rheaply all about circular economy and economic system based on the principles of designing out waste and pollution, keeping materials in use and regenerating natural systems. We’re discussing why circular economy is important for consumers, the supply chain challenges to circular economy and how all of us can adopt a more circular mindset day to day today, our guest is Garr Punnett. He is Rheaply’s chief of staff and sustainability. So as chief of staff and sustainability, he has led Rheaply by leveraging his unique experience in production sales and climate tech to assist large academic government and fortune 100 enterprise partners in building technology that empowers zero waste and circular solutions.
Garr Punnett (01:44):
Yeah. That about sums it up. Hello.
Alissa Stevens (01:47):
Hey, how you doing? Glad you’re here with us today.
Garr Punnett (01:50):
Yeah. Thank you. I always love talking about circular economy, uh, trying to really break it down so that people understand not only the root concept of what we’re shooting for, but how it can apply to really everyone’s lives, whether you’re just buying things at the store or what you’re really trying to do in terms of rethinking how your operations might be more circular.
Alissa Stevens (02:12):
Love it. So let’s start there. Let’s do some circularity 101, cause for a lot of listeners, I would assert this as people may be familiar with it, or it may be the first time they’re hearing the word circularity, or they might’ve heard it five or six times, but have no idea what it actually means. So let’s break down the fundamentals of circularity. What is it in layman’s terms? And what’s the operation?
Garr Punnett (02:34):
I think you’ve really already hit on it. The idea for the circular economy is to make sure that we are done extracting resources out of our environment, extracting the limited resources out of our environment, trying to make sure that that value that we are extracting stays within our economic systems as long as possible and gets spun, whether that’s remanufactured, recycled, refurbish, that all of these things that we’re extracting, turning into goods can be either held in terms of their value or processed differently instead of being put into landfill. So the whole idea, how do we get rid of this linear system? How do we make sure that we’re not taking resources out of the environment, turning it into a good, using that good, and then throwing it away. The most efficient system outside of flipping a switch and getting light, the most efficient system that we’ve created as like mankind is throwing something in a waste bin and it disappearing from your life.
Alissa Stevens (03:41):
I love that word efficient. Yep.
Garr Punnett (03:45):
It is amazingly efficient and inefficient. And so the circular economy idea here is how do we make sure that those resources aren’t being wasted eventually the next step here is how do we make sure that that is a more regenerative system so that the extraction of these materials and resources from our environment no longer has to take place. The environment can heal because our planet and our ecosystems are incredibly resilient. So if we’re not directly impacting that and we’re using the resources that we’ve already extracted, the planet can heal within circular economy principles. We can make money with the things that we’ve already have
Alissa Stevens (04:24):
And people can save money, right. Using less to begin with.
Garr Punnett (04:29):
Absolutely the circular economy is not directly related to any organization. It is applicable to businesses as much as it might be applicable to consumers use less, save more. And ultimately you’ll start to feel the impact that you’re not having on the environment, not having on your communities, around you, having not having. Right. Yeah. And I think it’s, it really comes down to, um, everyone has these moments where they realize the impact that they’re no longer having, because not only do you feel the difference, there’s a very much an emotional response to it where it might be something as simple as not using water bottles anymore, not using paper towels in the same way. They’re using them, looking at how you’re saving jars and saving food in ways that you haven’t before there will be an emotional response, you’ll feel a difference. And then you’ll also notice a difference in your wallet and that almost is compounding.
Garr Punnett (05:26):
And that will just accelerate your exploration as a consumer to not only go from your kitchen, maybe where you’re like, Oh, I saved money on not using paper towels. I no longer buy water bottles. I saved my food scraps for XYZ. I can really feel the difference of using more of my food, eating more of my food. You’ll take that. And that will be a snowballing effect. What happened with me personally is I went from my kitchen to my bathroom and started to rethink, all right, shampoos, where am I getting my shampoo conditioner, bars of soap? What types of toothpastes do I need to use cotton swabs over some other sort of example. And these are just, again, compounding very relatable and easy to solve, frankly, problems that can open you up to new opportunities to reduce your impact in your own home.
Alissa Stevens (06:15):
You know, I, I moved apartments recently and hadn’t done so in a few years. And though I’ve been partaking in ways to develop a more circular lifestyle for years, even just that exercise of pulling out everything I had. You know, you think about the fact that every single thing you touch, every single thing you buy at the store, every single thing you use everyday, when you wake up your toothbrush, your toothpaste, your shampoo, your conditioner, everything you cook with, the things that you eat, every single thing that you touch every single day has to go somewhere. And so I think that notion of really getting mindful about like part of circularity is just getting mindful about the process. Like, what does it actually, what is this product, this toothbrushes journey. It goes from the manufacturer to the store to my hand. And then where does it go? So even just, I’m excited to break this down a little bit more for people. Can you give like maybe like one example of something people use every day where you know, that what’s the circular model of it so people could see, Oh, all right.
Garr Punnett (07:26):
What I love about breaking this down is it comes down to moments of almost personal audit. Totally. Yeah. I’ll break down a big move I had towards not using boxes to move personally. I’ve been on the move to different cities for all my life. So there was a moment where I was like, why am I using cardboard boxes? Why am I using these things that are disposable or ultimately break down over time? Why don’t I just invest in something that I can have long term? And so with that, I bought these giant plastic bins and these are heavy duty. Yes. They’re plastic. The plastic is not the enemy completely. That’s another episode. Yeah, exactly. That’s a whole other episode. It’s trust me. I can go on and on about how plastic is again, next to the internet. One of mankind’s greatest inventions. It’s got a lot of problems, but that’s also systemic issues.
Garr Punnett (08:21):
Those are, these are, these are breakdowns in how we deal with plastic. So there’s another episode. You’re exactly right. So, but I bought, I bought these giant containers and these containers not only saved me money. I mean, I’ve moved four times since I’ve had these containers and they make my life easier. They’ve saved money. They allow me to move much more efficiently. And those are simple examples actually, you know, I’ll give an example here. The most recent was my shampoo. I don’t mean to sort of push a brand here. I don’t know. I hope that’s all right. But I really love what is doing. It’s a higher price point, but the, at the volume of which I use these products, it works. I can make something lasts a lot longer and it’s intentionally plastic free. Yeah. That’s what’s most appealing is I can go down to the store. I can buy maybe two bars. It’s going to last me a couple months. This is where it’s those types of examples where everything you touch, just as you said, there’s a moment to rethink. There’s a moment to take it a step further and say, where do I think this goes? And it’s very often, it’s going to be in the ground, especially with where the state of the recycling system is in our country. These days,
Alissa Stevens (09:34):
Favorite examples of a circular model is we’re both wearing them right now. Headphones part of circularity is lessening waste from the get-go. So eliminating packaging, eliminating single use packaging, all of that kind of thing, but there’s also disassembly. So if you’ve got, there’s a couple of brands in Europe, they basically have engineered their headphones to where, when people are done with them, they can send them back to the company and they’ll take it apart and disassemble the pieces and, you know, refurbish them and reuse them. And that’s awesome. I mean, when we’re done with things, a lot of times we maybe have some attachment to it and then it sits in your closet or it sits in the garage and just there’s this clutter everywhere. Right? So I love the idea of being able to give something away and know that it’s not just going to go sit somewhere else. It’s actually going to be.
Garr Punnett (10:25):
And I think what you’re getting at is something that we try to hit home at Rheaply, which is almost this personification at treating something, an asset, a piece of property, a good, maybe has a personality and that when you’re keeping it, when you’re keeping it and you’re putting it away, that that item is lonely. That item is sad. It’s not being used anymore. And once you start to think of it like that, and it’s, it’s not achieving what it was built to achieve. So you should let it go and then give it over to the proper parties that will allow it to either maintain its value, maintain its life cycle, or be able to disassemble it, turn it into something else responsibly. And I think to your point, there are lots of companies in Europe that are focusing on modularity when it comes to products.
Garr Punnett (11:14):
And that’s something that in the States we’re not doing so well, uh, modularity often lends itself to, um, an idea that you’re only replacing components of, of a certain asset. There are, there are certain sort of almost ownership norms in the States that we, that we can’t let go of just yet, like, it’s this idea that we never want to lease something because leasing something doesn’t mean that it’s not ours. It’s we don’t own it. It’s this sort of American mentality of this is mine. I own it. I paid for it. And it’s going to be mine for as long as I’ve won it. And that doesn’t really lend itself to more sustainable circular economy practices because then once you want to get rid of it, well then whose is it? And I think that’s where the breakdown happens is it might, it’s really nobody’s until you give it to the right people, but it’s going to end up in landfill.
Garr Punnett (12:05):
And these types of leasing models, modularity type conversations, also we’re in direct conflict with right to repair priorities or policies. And that’s something that we are not advocating. And I say, we very generally in the United States, they are not enormously successful here. They’ve been sort of fought at every level, but it’s something that’s gaining more traction overseas along with also extended producer responsibility mandates, right to repair and extended producer responsibility, both fall in line with how the consumer on a right to repair is able to make sure that the asset that they have, the, the item that they have can stay in value the longest and can actually serve its purpose. Extended producer responsibility, more directly relates to an organization’s responsibility to oversee the value and the end of life for the asset that they manufacture and put out into the consumer world. So that allows that’s legislation that basically says, Hey, anything that somebody produces and manufacturers, you are responsible for the impact associated with that item as it goes into the world. And so therefore you were incentivized to bring it back into your ownership, back into your business model so that you can either maintain it, turn it into something else that also has value or recycle it properly back into components that you might be producing or manufacturing to put back into the consumer world.
Alissa Stevens (13:32):
Uh, tell us about replace products and what your product services, all of that, because I know that part of the foundation of repli is a shared economy. So there’s the shared economy. And then you also have a digital reuse marketplace and asset exchange managers. So how are you guys solving some of these problems? I don’t like the word problems, opportunities,
Garr Punnett (13:55):
Opportunities, always opportunities. Rheaply’s goal is to scale reuse across organizations. We want to do that in a couple of ways. Right now our flagship product is called our asset exchange manager. This is a platform in which colleagues internal to an organization can exchange items of value to the organization. I’m not going to name any names here, but you might have a pharmaceutical company who every year invests hundreds of millions of dollars in new equipment, new assets used in typical processes in their day-to-day operations. That’s a normal growth pattern for any company that wants to try to achieve more and ultimately grow their market. Share. What we’re trying to do is link that growth back into more circular principles of sharing, maintaining value internal to your organization. So we go to this organization say, Hey, you should use our platform because our product or service really is allowing colleagues to exchange again, exchange items of value to one another.
Garr Punnett (15:09):
So we might say organization, a pharma company, a stop, double buy it. We’ve actually identified on our platform that you have multiples of the same asset that you’re buying through your normal procurement channels. Our software allows you to get better visibility into that double buying then allows colleagues to access those used, but still good research equipment or other types of various assets around the organization. And then procure that from a neighbor who might’ve been down the hall that they’ve never talked to. And if they have talked to the odds that they’ve talked to them about the asset that they’re not using kept in their back closet, it’s very low. So we’re connecting these colleagues over the assets that are available for, for reuse. Now this again, will decrease procurement costs. It will also decrease storage costs. So the great American pandemic, other than COVID right now is the fact that our use of storage in the United States is absurd.
Garr Punnett (16:13):
We buy more and we then just hold onto it and then put it into an external facility where we then can just have it live there. And then we pay for that to live there. The storage, the storage business is, is booming. And so it is no different on the business front as well. So companies will pay for storage for items that they’ve already bought, where they will just allow them to live there until their asset life diminishes and the asset depreciates. So the value is no longer really there for the organization. So that’s just wasted money letting an, an item, sit there without actually using the value. So we, we then allow colleagues and we allow organizations to retrieve that asset from warehouses, retrieve these assets from backstory rooms, closets, wherever they might be put away. And now you’ve got more space for other things, or you don’t have to pay for the space at all.
Garr Punnett (17:06):
And you’re just a more efficient organization actually using everything that you’re buying to the most efficient degree and then getting rid of it. And so from our asset exchange manager, we then work on how can we connect these organizations to getting rid of these assets when they ultimately really don’t want them and putting them to their next purpose. So they might have an asset that’s five to seven years old, it’s gone through its normal depreciation cycle. And we can help them get connected to either liquidation platforms or frankly nonprofits or school systems or universities that might actually want that asset because they’re okay with it being five years old, they would just rather be able to use it for their own internal purposes and obtain at a, at a steep discount or frankly, even a donation. So we’re trying to make sure that again, decrease that procurement costs manage that sharing and then get rid of it in the most sustainable way. And that’s what our products allow organizations to do.
Alissa Stevens (18:03):
I love this, you know, what I’m hearing, what I’m really hearing is that it’s really just about creating conversations and dialogue. Right? Right. And it’s through software, but inherently it is creating these conversations of, of things that already exist. It’s like maybe it’s just a human condition that we reinvent the wheel, just because there’s no dialogue. We don’t know any other way, or we’re not being curious in, in conversation with each other. Right. And the other thing is that I think people put labels on sustainable efforts, right? It has nothing to do with a particular, uh, way of life or political affiliation or anything like that. Nope. It’s business one Oh one,
Garr Punnett (18:43):
This is a solid return on your investment. And if you invest in us, we want to return that value back to you by proving that there are things in your organization that you are not fully utilizing and you will get more value out of those, then you’re paying Rheaply. That’s, that’s the crux of our argument to your point on the connection element and the personal element. It almost speaks again to that, that emotional component part of Ripley’s offering is not just all that we’re able to save you. It’s how are we connecting your colleagues to one another in a way that breaks down the departmental silos set up in your organization. And by connecting these colleagues, one in a, not only are you creating a more connected environment where people feel more inspired to share, connect over assets and ultimately be more sustainable, you’re breaking down these sorts of barriers that get set up just by legacy systems.
Garr Punnett (19:41):
As a company grows, these are natural occurring things where departments sort of get siloed out. People don’t talk to each other in the same way. Yeah, exactly. Things get a little more, less efficient. And we’re just trying to sort of cut through the noise a little bit, connect peers to one another and get people trading these assets that might be a value. This is also applicable to not just fixed capital assets. We work with a lot of consumables. And when I say consumables, I might mean anything from chemicals and reagents to a box of used pencils. And what’s funny is the reagents that we might work with and I’m using another pharmaceutical example, but the reagents we might work with are purchased at an economies of scale. So they’re purchased at a volume that will make a price point, a price point, more palatable for an organization, but ultimately they may not use all of the supply they just purchased. And so there might be a purpose to a surplus. They might have added stock. That’s something that actually, most people are just okay with wasting
Alissa Stevens (20:44):
Like a fixed cost. It’s like, Oh yeah, it’s just exactly.
Garr Punnett (20:48):
We spent X amount of money to get the amount that we needed. But I guess 20% of this, 10% of this is just waste. And we’re okay with that. Well, actually we can save that 2010 to 20% of your added stock and share it with your colleague who might actually be able to use that in whatever they’re doing. And why also bring up the box of used pencils is we, we see a lot of stuff like that. We S we see these sort of almost, you know, I’m, I’m not kidding, like sarcastically put on our, on our platform where people are like, I wonder if this has value. And it does, like, you’ll be surprised how quickly things will actually move where the fast, some of the fastest things I’ve seen are items that I didn’t think had value. It might be a 20 year old computer.
Garr Punnett (21:32):
It might be again, a box of used pencils and pens that people don’t want to go through their normal procurement channels to get more pens and pencils. They have to go through their finance procurement, whatever it is, but they don’t want to spend their money on pens and pencils. So if you’re saying, yeah, I can get a box of pens and pencils and not have to deal with the whole system of procuring new pens and pencils. Yeah. That’s an easy decision on the old computer. I saw this with, um, a university. They purchased it off the website purchased for free, um, off of ASM. And I got to ask them why they wanted it, why they wanted it is because they already had an older model of this computer that they were using for an older experiment that they were working. And they needed the parts in this older computer for something that was, that they thought was about to break in their, in their existing machine. And so they got to take that and then reuse it, extract the value out of that asset that already existed internal to their organization, and then put that to new value, a new purpose in, in their existing processes.
Alissa Stevens (22:38):
This is so cool. This is the part, this is what I love about the challenges of, of circular economy. And just, I guess different ways of thinking in general is that you really are using your brain in a different way to think about things, right? And it’s so much of the development that companies and organizations are committed to driving forward has to do with consumer behavior. Every person who works in a business is a consumer. I imagine that that’s a challenge since you are mostly on the B2B side that making this consumer relatable is just as important, if not more important than having the business side, see the opportunity. So, you know, why is this important for a family of five or a college student?
Garr Punnett (23:24):
I think ultimately what you’re talking about in terms of seeing the world differently. So, um, I I’m smiling the, your, your listeners can’t see this because I’m about to introduce a, an idea that my, my team always sort of laughs about. And we, we like this, this term that I’m about to say, but it sort of introduces a new concept, which is when you’re seeing the world differently, you’re actually seeing it through the new lens of the circular economy. And I sort of coined this term that I just find funny where it’s, you’re starting to see the multi-use rivers, the multi-use rivers, which is like this idea that you’re seeing the lens of everything around you. You just see a little bit differently and you can’t ever get rid of it. It’s this idea that once you enter that, that idea and that mindset, you’re just going to start to see things differently, and that will infiltrate your own personal adoption or purchasing of, of things, um, in your own home and with your family, as much as it will infiltrate your idea of the items and assets and value around you at your organization that you work at.
Garr Punnett (24:31):
And so from a family of five perspective, really, this is nothing new in terms of circular economy principles. We’ve got hand me downs, we’ve got swap meets in the neighborhood. We’ve got, um, I was just actually introduced to Facebook groups in which it’s like a no by commitment and you you’ll join. And you’ll, you’ll say, Hey, I need a lunch box and your label will be like, I got a lunch box and they’ll give you the lunch box. And it’s this whole idea that you’re exchanging items in value that are within your community. That’s sort of rooted in your, your immediate geographical location and that same principle as it relates to communities and setting up that infrastructure and making those connections applies directly again to the organizational level. How are you connecting with those around you? How are you actually adopting more personal avenues of, of creating value and sharing value internal to your organization?
Garr Punnett (25:28):
So that’s how I see it when it comes to sort of families and, and how they can connect with one another, uh, with their neighbors, with their communities a little bit more efficiently. And then that gets scaled out to, to multiple conversations we’ve had with governments, which is how can a city start to rethink not only how its citizens are connecting its local businesses are connecting. How can we then connect all of those to the larger organizations, but then ultimately create a more sustainable and resilient ecosystem in each one of these governments. And that can speak to on a grander scale, how do we move, uh, plastics more efficiently? How do we make sure that those aren’t headed for landfill, but they’re actually being utilized by a local business. I want to kind of go back to what you said earlier, which is, this is all about visibility.
Garr Punnett (26:27):
Once you get visibility into the problem, you can try to start solving. There are so many innovators, so many smart people in, in and around us, and that are trying to rethink our systems. We’ve got, um, the disruptors that want to change the way certain materials are used. We’ve got people that want to, um, entrepreneurs that want to create a business to solve a problem. Well, we can only do that if we actually can actually see the problem at hand and that’s reflected not only in Rheaply’s offering to an organization where we can show you how much waste there is internal to your organization, but also on a community level where if you start to get a sense of, Oh, there’s a stream of plastic going from this business to that landfill. But I understand that business B now could use that plastic. If I created an opportunity to change it into the form that they could use. And then that becomes a local business. So if we’re scaling sort of the circular economy out here, visibility from a community level becomes innovation. It becomes economic development. And that’s how, again, this can scale and throughout all of that, sustainability becomes the backseat again to the opportunities to make money and the opportunity to save money across the board.
Alissa Stevens (27:50):
And I imagine so, you know, we’re talking about a community level, I think inherently supply chains, they’re a community in and of themselves. And I, I know that every one in the supply chain has to play a significant role to drive this forward, right? So you have to understand the technologies that exist in the organization. You have to know if there’s a market for those unused assets and purposely design the waste out. And oftentimes the parts of the supply chain, don’t talk to each other. It’s just comes from here, past here, past here, past year, past year. And that’s it. So how do you strike a balance between meeting supply chains, where they’re at versus advocating for that transformation in the supply chain to further the efficacy of what you offer?
Garr Punnett (28:42):
Ripley’s not currently addressing larger supply chain issues. We kind of are in a sense that our three products that we’re really shooting for is going to be focused on an asset management type platform, an asset sharing platform, and then an asset disposition platform. So in those three, they all have unique problems, but ultimately the goal is to connect procurement, to management, to disposition. And for those that don’t know what maybe disposition means, disposition in a, in the most basic sense is a term used for the transfer of ownership of property. So when we talk about disposition and that could mean anything from the selling an item to someone else, but also it could mean throwing that item away. So it’s really the transfer. That’s the getting rid of, but the transfer of ownership. So what we’re building is that suite of products that allow those processes to communicate, we want to be the one-stop solution for everything that comes into an organization and leaves an organization.
Garr Punnett (29:51):
If we can tackle that well, we can scale that out holistically and start to connect supply chains in a way that really hasn’t been done before. That’s what we need to be laser focused on is how do we solve the a to B to C in the United States? Why extended producer responsibility is so heavily fought is because organizations are not incentivized to really take care of these items past there, they’re selling it to their client, but there might be a way that we can build that into their own internal operations where it’s not policy dependent. And it’s, it becomes much more of a carrot model where they’re being incentivized than a stick model where they’re being punished for by, by policy. And so we’re trying to build almost that system independent of a policy shift. If policy gets enacted, we also benefit from that and that’s going to be better for a system, but if we can figure out the economics of it, if we can figure out the chain of ownership, if you’ve got new systems around circular platforms and connections, then we can actually essentially make the economics work outside of policy.
Alissa Stevens (31:00):
That’s I think crucial because you know, policy comes and goes, it changes or it stays forever. And we, in my opinion, we don’t have the luxury of waiting for things. And from a, just a simple empowerment perspective, you know, I think being able to take ownership and take those opportunities into your own hands and actually create something from it is way more empowering. Well, and I think what, you’re what you said about the network effect. I think there’s a compounding effect too, when people start creating that dialogue and you’re just creating compatibility among organizations that historically might not even have a reason to talk to each other or seemingly not have a reason to talk to each other.
Garr Punnett (31:48):
It’s making those connections. It all comes down to essentially how technology will enable a circular economy. And we will do that by making more connections, drawing more parallels, collecting more data and understanding the problem at hand, the best data that we’ve got so far on organizational waste comes from the Ellen MacArthur foundation for anybody who’s new to circular economy, you’ve likely read something from the Ellen MacArthur foundation. They’ve been sort of the Vanguard of, of anything new and advancing the circular economic message, check them out. One of their recent studies showed that there’s roughly $630 billion worth of materials and assets locked up in organizations waiting to be tapped, uh, for their value. And that’s where Rheaply fits, but that’s not just a Rheaply problem to solve. That’s going to be, how can we ultimately connect the services, connect the logistics and people and businesses and innovators to that untapped potential
Alissa Stevens (33:00):
Almost like a full circle of the cost and benefits of technology because I’ve been until recently, we did an episode with Erickson and that was totally shifted my perspective on technology and this even more so because people talk about technology, creating distance, right, creating separation, creating a lack of human connection, creating communication challenges, and with technology it’s unique in that it can actually create that again in a different way.
Garr Punnett (33:34):
We sort of give a talk on, on what our technology and what technology can do for the circular economy at, uh, I believe it was circularity, which was a great conference that we always attend. And at the talk, our, our CEO, Dr. Gary Cooper, who essentially came up with Ripley out of his, uh, research in trying to find a cure for Parkinson’s, uh, found that he had a bunch of assets that were just lying around. He was trying to share them. So that was really the origin story of, of Rheaply. But ultimately the connection made between what we’re trying to build here at Rheaply and the brain was not lost on us and what we, we drew the parallel for our audience at circularity, where the whole point is to increase one person’s ability to transact with many. And that is not dissimilar from one node in the brain, trying to communicate with many other nodes in the brain.
Garr Punnett (34:32):
And yes, it’s great. When you’ve got a system sort of a circular system of one-to-one relationships, that’s cool. That’s going to solve some problems. But what we really want is potentially instead of 10 stakeholders being connected to each other in a circle, we want, we want three people connected to 20 people in a sort of expanded relationship where like a web, like, it looks like a web. Yeah. It almost looks like, um, there’s a lot of cross-sections, there’s a lot going on, essentially. That’s the idea that one person connected to 20 is more potentially impactful than 10 people connected to one another. And that I think, you know, it really speaks to, it speaks to the barriers, that’s the circular economy and establishing more circular economic systems. There are a couple barriers to success, and I’m always talking about how the barriers to success are time. So the time between the, between, when someone wants something, when someone has something to give, there’s always sort of that, that barrier there, which is like, how do we break that temporal barrier where someone’s holding something and they don’t no longer want it, but someone in two weeks might want it. How do we make that connection happen
Alissa Stevens (35:55):
When that in itself is obviously not linear, right?
Garr Punnett (36:00):
Um, so that’s, that’s time geographically. There are always challenges. So we’ve got spatial challenges that nobody in your community in your organization might want it. But if we can bridge the gap five miles away and connect you to another organization, there might be an immediate need for that thing you have. So we’re connecting geographically, these organizations, and as we establish our communities, as we establish our circular economic sort of system, we want to do that geographically. This isn’t a solution that we want something going from Los Angeles to be transferred over to Boston. We want as much as possible to keep things local, keep things connected into your community local, because those are the most resilient type of systems. That’s also going to really take a behavior change. And the behavior change is saying, all right, I’ve got this, this item. I’m going to go check Rheaply and say, I’ve got this item.
Garr Punnett (36:58):
I don’t need to throw it away right now. I’m okay with waiting 30 days. But that behavior change is going to be monumental because right now, when we don’t want something, we want it out. It is an emotional reaction where it’s like, if I don’t find use in it, I banish it from my existence. Yeah. We’re trying to get people to understand that. Yes, if you give an item onto our platform and you let it sit for 30 seconds, we’re going to find the most sustainable option for that to be disposed of as best we can. You know, if you put an item on Rheaply that might be through a refurbishment that might be through remanufacturing that might be through sharing with a colleague and then last would be recycling. And if it goes through all of those cycles, it probably will end up being recycled.
Garr Punnett (37:48):
And that has to be something we’re okay with just as long too, that it doesn’t end up in landfill. However, there will probably for the foreseeable future always be landfill needed. Just the last, the last point that I wanted to mention was this, uh, this mechanical barrier, which is so often, these systems really began as swap meets, where you bring your thing to a party and you might want to give it away. And you find someone who’s going to take it. You might slip an item around your office and be like, does anybody want this? And so the new mechanical systems are going to become the digital systems. And so far the digital systems that we interact with are people making spreadsheets and they’ll make spreadsheets. And there we call them spreadsheets from hell, because they are complicated. They’ve got multiple sort of, um, items and inputs coming in and out, but we want to replace those spreadsheets into a more digital connected system that really, uh, allows people to communicate and transact value.
Alissa Stevens (38:47):
I can’t wait. There’s a bunch of consumers listening, and there’s also supply chain managers, CEOs. So what can consumers and businesses do to be more circular in day to day
Garr Punnett (39:02):
In the short term, it should be about, I mean, reuse is really the best you can do in terms of extending the life cycle of something. I think from a consumer standpoint, this is something as simple as you have an old, you have an old t-shirt, and this is a super simple example, but you can turn the t-shirt into washcloth. You can do the things that X that maintain the value. If you give your t-shirt to Goodwill, I’m sorry. Goodwill has a great mission, but they get lots of t-shirts. They’re going to send that t-shirt to a developing nation. They’re going to send that t-shirt somewhere else that maybe really doesn’t need it. So you should think about how long you can actually use, not just the shirt, but the cotton in that shirt, the materials in that shirt to its full potential. It’s a super simple example from a business perspective, rethinking what your outputs are like. So you should rethink really what you output in terms of, uh, the materials used and the, the materials that you’re done with, and you should rethink do local businesses. Actually, could they use this? What can I exchange with an organization near me that will allow me to gain more value
Alissa Stevens (40:14):
With that comes data, right? Collecting the information first, before you can rethink it, you got to collect it, right?
Garr Punnett (40:21):
Exactly. Once you start to understand your own sort of problems, then you start to immediately see the opportunities
Alissa Stevens (40:27):
A hundred percent. What do you want to leave listeners with?
Garr Punnett (40:30):
You all can impact, um, the, the world around you much more quickly than you think. Um, you can change your buying patterns. You can support, uh, the local systems. Um, there are local solutions for composting. These are local businesses, right? Local businesses. You’re supporting somebody, their local businesses for composting, local businesses for reusing containers. So how do you establish a zero waste ability to shop? Um, that’s hard, but there are local businesses trying to solve that. And how do you connect with the initiatives around you? Um, whether that’s local farming, whether it’s urban farming, whatever it is, there are businesses initiatives that you can connect with that will leave you more inspired and wanting you to do more, as well as, I mean, maybe this isn’t for everybody, but settling some of that guilt internal where you’re like, am I doing enough? And you have the option, there are things around you that you could, you could work with that would make you feel like, yeah, I’m actually not only am I doing more to help my local community, also the environment I’m impacting someone else’s life by helping them start the conversation, not only with your neighbor, but also in your own head.
Garr Punnett (41:42):
That’s amazing. Thanks for being with us today. Excellent. Thank you, Alyssa. Chatting with you
Alissa Stevens (41:49):
From the bottom of my eco heart. Thank you so much for being with me today. I can’t wait to see what we create together. If you loved what you heard and are hungry for more, don’t forget to click subscribe in this app. Also, I want to hear from you, tell me your burning sustainability questions, or even what’s inspiring you by following me on Instagram @getrealwithas or liking the Get Real Facebook page. Talk to you soon.
Garr Punnett (42:23):