Episode 73 of the Public Key podcast is here! Each year, over seven trillion particles of plastic are found in the San Francisco Bay Area waterways. Instead of simply recycling and skimming the ocean of plastic, does web3 technology offer a way to create a more sustainable system?
In this episode, we speak to Anna Cummins (Co-Founder and Executive Director, 5 Gyres) and Duncan Rogoff (Founder, DOXXED Labs) to discuss the issue of plastic pollution, the work of 5 Gyres in researching and addressing this problem, and how PFP NFT and web3 projects are a perfect use case sustainability.
Public Key Episode 73: Collaboration on Gyrenauts NFT Project to address plastic pollution and other sustainability efforts
In this episode, Ian Andrews has a deep conversation with Anna Cummins (Co-Founder and Executive Director, 5 Gyres) and Duncan Rogoff (Founder, DOXXED Labs) over the issue of plastic pollution and the work of 5 Gyres, an organization dedicated to researching and addressing this global problem.
The team explains that plastic pollution is not just limited to our oceans and how land pollution is increasingly affecting climate change. They discuss how the collaboration of 5 Gyres and other organizations are using scientific research to drive policy change and reduce the production of plastic.
Duncan explains how web3 and NFTs are a perfect use case for non-profit organizations and how the Gyrenauts NFT collection furthers the team’s plastic pollution reduction while simultaneously supporting the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
What Is an Ocean Gyre?
An ocean gyre is a large system of circular ocean currents formed by global wind patterns and forces created by Earth’s rotation and circulates ocean water around the entire planet.
Ocean gyres circle large areas of stationary, calm water. Debris drifts into these areas and, due to the region’s lack of movement, can accumulate for years. These regions are called garbage patches. The Indian Ocean, North Atlantic Ocean, and North Pacific Ocean all have significant garbage patches.
credit: national geographics
Quote of the episode
“”The more plastic we produce, the more plastic pollution we will have. So we cannot solve this problem through recycling. We have to stop making so much plastic. Period.” – Anna Cummins (Co-Founder and Executive Director, 5 Gyres)
Minute-by-minute episode breakdown
- (2:02) – Anna Cummins explains the mission of 5 Gyres and plastic pollution
- (6:18) – Plastic pollution is increasing globally in oceans and on land and is connected to climate change
- (9:20) – Duncan discusses the power of web3 in building relationships and fundraising for 5 Gyres
- (18:06) – The story, vision, purpose and customization behind the Gyrenauts NFT project
- (28:05) – The potential of ongoing revenue streams for nonprofits in the wake of recruitment and retention challenges
- (32:02) – Building relationships and cross-pollination with popular web3 brands
- (36:43) – The use of data and blockchain-based technology in solving environmental problems
- (39:37) – Collaboration with a global network of organizations to promote sustainability and holding multinational companies accountable for plastic pollution
Check out more resources provided by Chainalysis that perfectly complement this episode of the Public Key.
- Website: 5 Gyres: Empowering action against the global health crisis of plastic pollution through science, education, and advocacy
- Website: Gyrenauts NFT Project: Revolutionizing charitable giving in the web3 space
- Research Paper: How much plastic is in the ocean?
- Article: The true cost of fashion is more than what’s shown on the price tag
- Publications: 5 Gyres research is published in over 25 peer-reviewed scientific journals, papers and studies
- Website: The Giving Block: Tap into the fastest growing donor demographic and start accepting Bitcoin
- Blog: Chainalysis Token Health Report ( Full Report Available Now!)
- YouTube: Chainalysis YouTube page
- Twitter: Chainalysis Twitter: BuildCareers at Chainalysising trust in blockchain
- Tik Tok: Building trust in #blockchains among people, businesses, and governments.
- Telegram: Chainalysis on Telegram
Speakers on today’s episode
- Ian Andrews * Host * (Chief Marketing Officer, Chainalysis)
- Anna Cummins (Co-Founder and Executive Director, 5 Gyres)
- Duncan Rogoff (Founder, DOXXED Labs)
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Hello, and welcome back to another episode of Public Key. This is your host, Ian Andrews. Today we’re going to talk a little bit about crypto, but really about a huge environmental problem that is impacting every listener of this podcast and really everyone all around the world. I’m joined by Anna Cummins, who’s the co-founder and executive director of 5 Gyres, and Duncan Rogoff, who’s the founder of DOXXED Labs. Anna, Duncan, welcome to the program.
Thanks so much for having us.
Anna, let’s start with the big picture. I think you’ve been a social activist your whole life, but talk to us a little bit about what 5 Gyres is. I’m going to guess that most people listening to this podcast, this is the first time they’ve heard of the organization. The mission seems so important. Talk a little bit about your approach to helping solve this problem and maybe even go into some details on what the challenge is.
Sure. Thanks so much. And yes, many listeners here might be new to the organization, 5 Gyres, but I think today in 2023, most people have a sense that the issue of plastic pollution is a pretty massive issue. Now, when we got started in 2009, there was a little bit of information known about plastic in the North Pacific Gyre, but not very much known about the scope of plastic pollution globally. So that was really our impetus in 2009 to start The 5 Gyres Institute, to expand the research, literally go to all five of the world’s oceanic gyres, and for those unfamiliar with that term, a gyre is just a circulating current system in the ocean. People might’ve heard about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch or the Texas sized island.
Really what we have in the world’s oceans, and this is after doing 15 years of research, is a plastic smog. We have studied plastic pollution around the world, not just in the oceans, but in the Arctic, in Antarctica, in consumer products. And scientists are doing a lot of research about plastic in the human body. And what we have found is that plastic is virtually everywhere. It’s in the air, it’s in our water, it’s in our products, and it’s in our own bodies. So our goal as an organization really is to do scientific research to better understand the scope of this problem so we can use that data and science to drive policy change. So that’s just kind of a quick overview.
That’s amazing and spawns a bunch of questions. So I’ve definitely heard of the Great Pacific Garbage pile? You used a term there that I’m not remembering.
I used the term patch, but we’ve worked really hard to spell that-
And I can tell you why, but I’ll let you continue first.
Well, so that’s what I’ve heard of, and you said, “Well, no, this is not just contained within the Pacific Ocean. This is actually happening in all the oceans.” So that was a new piece of information for me, but dig in a little bit on why we shouldn’t just think about it as the garbage patch and need to go a little bit deeper into the context.
Sure. Well, first of all, this was the ultimate tragedy of the commons finding plastic in the oceans. It’s not a place that people thought to go look until the late nineties, one of our mentors, Captain Charles Moore, was sailing across the Pacific. He was actually doing a race from Hawaii back to LA and took a detour through the middle of the gyre, and in the center of gyres is where the winds and the waves kind of shut off, and you get these glassy expanses of ocean. Beautiful. But that is where the plastics concentrate. So people just weren’t seeing this issue.
When the research first really came to light, people talked about a patch the size of Texas, like an island, which sort of brings to mind a visual that you could walk on it, you could plant a flag on it, and you could skim it and scoop it and net it out of the ocean. Well, that isn’t the case. It’s not really a patch at all. It’s really a smog of tiny particles of plastic, too small really to be filtered or skimmed out of the ocean without doing tremendous damage to our ocean’s ecosystems. Really, we have to stop this problem further upstream.
What we found in doing this global research, because that big question had not been answered in 2009, how much plastic is out there? Where is it? So that was our mission in starting 5 Gyres to literally go out to all five subtropical gyres, the North and South Atlantic Oceans, the North and South Pacific Oceans and the Indian Ocean, and to bring folks along with us to bring other scientists, policy makers, CEOs of companies, journalists. So to bring these folks out to see the problem firsthand, roll up their sleeves, do the science with us, and then go back to their communities to be ambassadors. That’s just a little bit about the origin of that term patch and why we’re now calling it a smog.
Fast forward a little bit from 2009, what have you learned over the last 14 years as you’ve been researching the problem? Can you contextualize it for people that maybe haven’t been thinking about this closely or only seen the garbage patch headlines and haven’t dug a layer deeper?
Yeah. A couple of the things that we’ve learned over the last 14 years is, one, the problem is increasing. And that’s not rocket science, but we just came out with a paper a few months ago that was the most comprehensive global estimate and looking at trends over time. So looking at all of the data that we have on plastic pollution. I want to get more into data later, I think that’s where web3 could really drive some impact in this issue. But looking at the data over time, finding that the trend has been increasing, and it really comes down to a simple fact, Ian. The more plastic we produce, the more plastic pollution we will have. So we cannot solve this problem through recycling. We cannot solve this problem through netting and skimming plastics. We have to stop making so much plastic. Period.
Another interesting thing that we’ve learned is that as huge as the plastic problem in the ocean is, it is dwarfed by the problem of plastics on land. The biggest problems with plastic is that, A, it’s made from fossil fuels and directly related to climate change. That’s something that we’ve really been highlighting more in the past five to 10 years as a movement. Second, community health, public health and environmental justice are one of the biggest problems with this because as we drill more for petrochemical products, the communities that are most impacted are those that live nearby and that is always marginalized communities and communities of color. So there’s a lot of problems related to plastic. Most of them are upstream in our lands, the connection to climate change and then the oceans are all the way downstream.
I live in a community where they recently rolled out, I guess it was a few years ago now, like a bag tax on plastic bags. You’ve seen a fairly significant decrease in retail outlets in use of those plastic shopping bags. But I sense that if this is a global trend and it’s increasing over time, the plastic bags are not what’s really driving this. It’s clothing where you have synthetic fibers. I would imagine a large amount of industrial uses, probably not your consumer at home use that’s driving the bulk of this. But am I guessing wrong here or am I directionally correct?
No, you’re on the right track here in that plastics are ubiquitous. Packaging is really a big driver. So the bags, the cups, the forks, all the stuff related to our food and beverage industry. But then it’s also look around your room. Anyone who’s listening, just take a quick scan around and your eyes will land on something plastic. So it’s virtually our communities are inundated with it. We’re trying to put across the concept of sectors. And you brought up textiles. That is a huge sector contributing to the problem, but it’s also agriculture. It’s our packaging, it’s medical waste, it’s fishing gear. So our science team came out with a paper very recently looking at 17 unique sectors. What we have to do is really use science and data to determine where’s the biggest source of the problem and how can we design interventions that fit that? Because the way you solve plastic bags is going to look different from the way you solve microfibers from textiles.
I think that’s probably a great point to transition over to Duncan and chat a little bit about, okay, fascinating problem. Something we urgently need to address, I think, as a civilization. What in the world does this have to do with web3 and why are you on Public Key? So Duncan, maybe introduce yourself a little bit and then talk about how you’ve gotten involved with the organization and how that’s led to this thing called Gyrenauts.
Yeah, absolutely. That’s a big question. I can give you a little bit of background for sure about everything, I guess. First off, I am a motion graphics guy, 3D artist and designer. That’s how I got started in web3 and NFTs in the first place was just trying to make and sell some art. But very quickly, I realized that the reason that anything I was making was selling at all was not because of the quality or caliber of it or that I was some sort of prolific once in a generation artist or anything. It was mostly because of the relationships I had made and built with people in the space and that they wanted to support me in continuing these endeavors. I think that really sort of exemplifies the way I think that web3 connects consumers and people with businesses or organizations and why I think web3 is such a powerful tool for things like fundraising and community building. We talk about community all the time.
So many moons ago, last January I think, we launched a project called ETH.r Brews and we grinded it out. It took us six months to sell out our project, but we were able to raise some funds and we wanted to make a donation with those funds. We found the website, The Giving Block. For people who don’t know it, TheGivingBlock.org, it’s a great website. It showcases a lot of NGO organizations who accept crypto as donations. We came across 5 Gyres and we thought their cause was really admirable. We like that they were crypto forward and crypto savvy, but we didn’t want to just find their wallet on a website and make a donation because to me, again, the purpose of web3 and why we’re all on Twitter and Clubhouse and having this podcast is to build these relationships is to meet people.
So we decided that we’re not just going to make this donation, we’re going to invite them to Twitter spaces and we’re actually going to get to know this organization that we’re donating to and getting to learn more about them and introduce them to our community and vice versa. So we had Anna and Casson in Twitter spaces and they were incredible guests. They were really smart and cool and interesting, and I was just totally blown away by their level of knowledge, not only about plastic pollution and all the work that they’re doing, but about everything crypto and web3 in general, and just their general passion and interest for the space really shone through.
So we struck up a relationship after that and a few weeks later they came back to me and they say, “Hey, what do you think about us launching our own NFT project to try to raise some funds to continue the incredible work that we’re doing?” And I said, “I think that’s a great idea.” I think it’s a really great use case for NFTs and web3 and little PFP collections to try to find that community of people who really resonates with the idea of your company or your organization and try to bring them together to support common goal and common interests. So we’ve been working ever since.
Amazing. Anna, what led you to look to the web3 and crypto community as a potential supplement to fundraising I’m sure you were already doing? How did you discover that there was maybe an opportunity here to collaborate with people like Duncan?
Yeah, that’s a great question. Pre-pandemic, crypto was just this sort of dark gray underbelly type of cloud that I never paid any attention to. But then during the pandemic, I reconnected with an amazing woman, Pam Marcus, who is now on our board. She’s an amazing entrepreneur. When we reconnected by phone, she just said, “Crypto.” She said that this is something that she recommends to a lot of young people today. And I said to her, “Well, Pam, I’m not really young anymore. Is it too late for me to pay attention?” She was like, “Never too late.” And then the next day, a friend from France reached out and was bending my ear about crypto and nonprofits while my development director texted me about The Giving Block. And it was one of those things where three times in two days, there’s something to pay attention to here.
Without knowing anything, we joined The Giving Block. And what was great about The Giving Block is you didn’t have to know anything. Basically a backend system for being able to receive crypto, which was instantly converted into USD, and we never really had to lift a finger to understand the world of web3. But it was also around that time that I reconnected with Casson Trenor, who is an amazing activist entrepreneur and really brilliant when it comes to the intersection between the nonprofit world and the world of web3.
After a couple of conversations with Casson, I asked, “Could we bring him on to educate our team, our board, our community, about web3 and start to untangle some of the myths?” So we spent a few months with Casson just diving in. What is proof of stake versus proof of work? What are the real energy demands of crypto? And it was enlightening for our team. I think we had all heard, like many, that crypto is an energy hog, it’s the worst thing for the environment. We realized that the conversation is much more nuanced.
The other great thing we were able to do and are still working on was developing educational resources that we provide as an open source service basically to our nonprofit friends. Because entering into the world of blockchain has been an incredible impact for us financially. It was a source of revenue that I never anticipated, and then it’s also allowed us to connect with folks like Duncan and now you that are really trying to drive real world impact, but looking at are there some alternatives to the traditional financial systems that are in many ways responsible for the very things that we’re fighting?
I would say that we’re still early in our journey. We have definitely learned a lot more than I think a lot of nonprofits in our space, but we strongly believe that blockchain is here to stay and that the more nonprofits can do to educate themselves and to start to make connections to web3 groups, the stronger we are together.
It’s interesting that you flagged the environmental concern was one of the big topics you had to discuss as you were educating the board. Many of the companies I talked to, the first thing that they worry about is criminal exposure, but obviously given your mission being an environmental one, it makes sense that energy consumption would be the top concern to get over. I’m curious, were there any strong objectors who said, “Hey, this just really doesn’t make sense or it doesn’t align with the mission, or this held a really strong concern about going further into the space,” particularly as you started developing the NFT project?
Absolutely, and I think that was one of the reasons we really wanted to do this work with Casson to arm ourselves with knowledge about what is fact versus fiction so we could push back on some of those myths about how all of crypto is an energy hog, et cetera. So we have definitely had objectors. Part of our mission with this is not only to address some of those objections. We’re not going to convince anyone, but for folks who are curious, we can help them along that journey and help to make some deeper connections.
Part of the reason we really wanted to embark on this NFT project, not just receiving philanthropic dollars from NFT projects, but actually driving our own was to even flush out some more of those objections and see if we can show in real time, “Okay, you might have objections with X, Y, and Z, but here’s a project that’s actually generating revenue for 17 nonprofits that are doing real world good.” So I challenge anyone to push back on that.
That’s right. I think the outcome here far outweighs any of the initial concerns. But I love the education angle because I think this is where a lot of people get hung up at the, “Oh, I’ve read a headline,” or, “I saw some information once,” or, “A friend that I know told me you can’t trust anything about crypto.” And that kind of halts the conversation. So it’s great that you’ve been able to plow through and then share that learned knowledge with other organizations who are looking to take a similar approach.
Duncan, let’s talk a little bit about the project. Are you the lead designer on the NFTs?
Sure. I’m the product lead. So I’m really handling everything on the web3 side of things. We’ve been working with an artist and he has a couple of assistants to design the actual art for the collection, but then working with a team of Debs and working with marketing teams and working with UI UX designers to really bring the whole project together and get all the pieces in the right place, so to speak.
Well, give us the vision as the product lead. What is the story here and where’s it going? Get me excited about it. I’m waiting for the mint to open up. By the time we publish, this will probably be live, but I haven’t been able to get access yet, but I would love to collect one. So tell me what I have to look for.
Yeah, absolutely. Yeah?
Oh, I was just going to say, why don’t you give the nuts and bolts part and I can talk a little bit about the narrative piece, like the ecological piece
Yeah, for sure. Yeah, I’ll give a little background. We were talking about this project for a while now. I think we’ve been working on it for the better part of a year, if not a year at this point. We’ve really created a true digital collectible project. We set the story. The lore is the year is 2040 and the earth is undergoing some struggles and some challenges. The Gyrenauts are the planet’s last hope to save them, which is a good tie into humanity these days. We wanted to set the story a little bit in the future. We have a little bit of a futuristic vibe to our art and to our PFP collection, but not so far in the future that it’s kind of incomprehensible or sci-fi, right? Something that feels relevant and pressing and current.
So in talking with Anna and the team also, they came to me and it was really cool and they said, “Look, we obviously at 5 Gyres, we need to raise funds like every nonprofit, but we don’t want this to just be about us. What we’ve learned through a lot of our work is that these problems that we’re researching also have great impact everywhere else on land and for other organizations and things like that.” So not only are we supporting 5 Gyres, we’ve actually partnered with 17 incredible nonprofit organizations, each one representing one of the United Nation’s 17 SDGs or Sustainable Development Goals, which are critical causes they’ve identified affecting our planet and affecting humanity that we need to work on.
We’ve built real personal relationships, shout out to Casson and Anna and the team for doing a lot of work on that, but it’s with incredible organizations who are fighting poverty, fighting hunger, providing healthcare, education, fighting for gender equality, clean energy, you name it. We’ve sort of run the gamut here on these groups. What’s really cool about the project is we’ve been saying that we’re allowing our mentors, our holders, our community to put their values on chain. So our project works a normal PFP project or a profile picture project. If anyone’s not familiar, your little Twitter picture works like they typically do. Our characters, the Gyrenauts, are generated from over 150 traits. So there are eyes and face traits and different hairstyles and hats and different backpacks and jackets and different hand accessories. We even have a goat in there. But lots of really cool traits to choose from that are all generated randomly when you mint. But we are giving our users the opportunity to choose a background, and we’ve created 17 unique backgrounds. Each background represents one of the 17 SSGs and one of our nonprofit NGO partners.
So if there is a cause you personally identify with or vibe with or you care about, you have the opportunity to support that organization by minting their background and then using it as your profile picture, in essence, putting your values or the things that you care about on chain. So that’s the part that we’re really the most excited about. Then from that, we can really start to identify who is genuinely in our community? It does a couple things. It allows us to see how many backgrounds of each type get minted, which shows which causes people really are the most aligned with. It incentivizes our partners to promote the project because they benefit from the more backgrounds that are minted. And it’s just a really great way for our users to have a little bit of fun during the minting process. Those are some of the nuts and bolts.
I love the customization aspect there. That’s one that I hadn’t seen come up before. So it sounds really an interesting way to allow people to bind their own interests into the project and hopefully build a bigger community around the organization. Anna, I know you wanted to add on to the story Duncan was just telling, so I’ll let you continue.
Duncan pretty much nailed it. I was just going to mention that the story of the Gyrenauts really mirrors our story as an organization as 5 Gyres, really starting in the oceans, seeing that plastic pollution was a big problem that affected marine life and ocean health. But over the years, we’ve gone further upstream trying to get closer to the source of the problem. And along that journey, we’ve seen that plastic is really related to or directly intersects with climate change due to it being fossil fuels. It relates to our agricultural system and that we use a lot of plastics and microplastics get into the soil and affect plant health. It’s related to our fishing industry and on and on and on. Environmental justice.
And so this project, Gyrenauts, really was about we had these original voyages bringing folks on board from different sectors, and now we’re bringing the band back together in a sense, engaging and hopefully empowering this community called Gyrenauts that each represents a different issue, as Duncan mentioned, related to the Sustainable Development Goals. The idea is that we can’t solve any of these problems in isolation. We have to really be collaborating across sectors, and that’s really how we drive big change.
I’m curious if you set an economic target, a dollars raised goal for the program. Do you have something in mind?
Yeah, we did. We set that really early on at 500K, so half a million dollars we’re trying to raise. The overwhelming majority, I think 75%, is going to the NGO organizations and the rest is going for us to continue to pay people who have done a lot of work without being paid and to continue growing the project after the mint is live.
Well, that’s exciting. I’m hoping that by spotlighting you here on Public Key, we’re able to get some big donors they can get you close to and maybe even surpass that goal. What does the auction model look like or the initial mint model? Is it just open to anyone? I know there’s more complex distribution tactics that folks are employing these days, like reverse Dutch auctions that I don’t fully understand how that actually plays out.
Yeah, I’m not a big fan of the Dutch auction in general, but we can save that for another time. We’re keeping things pretty straightforward. We do have an allowlist. The mint will essentially happen in two phases. We’ll have a very brief window for allowlist members to mint their NFTs, probably maybe two to three hours max, trying to keep everything really tight in the market. Then we open it up to the public and anybody who wants to mint can come mint. We’re targeting a supply of 4,949 and a mint price of 0.049 Eth, so just under a hundred dollars. I think it’s around 90 bucks right now. So something fairly attainable I think for most people, at least in the space. So we’re anticipating a pretty good turnout on mint day and we’re definitely looking forward to it.
Exciting. Is there any sort of royalties tied into the contract where you see an ongoing revenue stream associated with this? We recently had one of the executives from the team at OpenSea on the podcast and it’s a hot topic in the industry about ongoing payments to creators versus not. I’m curious where you’ve decided to land on that topic.
Yeah, I mean, generally speaking, I am all in favor of royalties for projects. I think something that the BAYC, the Bored Ape Yacht Club, has done really well is they’ve actually decreased their royalties over time because they’ve been so successful. But I think in the interest of growing a brand or building a business, those royalties really help sustain a project, especially if the mint price is lower or the initial raise is less or things like that. But we do have a royalty in place, and again, the majority of it is going to support the organizations. 2% is going to our artists who work to continue to support them and just say thank you to them for all the work that they’ve done on this project. I think that was the initial promise of NFTs when I started was this idea that if you’re the next people or whoever, this idea that if somebody buys your thing for a hundred dollars today and sells it for a million dollars next year, you can continue to benefit from those proceeds. So we do have a royalty system in place that the NGOs will benefit from.
I mean, I think it’s an interesting, maybe novel concept even in the nonprofit world, where I think the hardest challenge is recruiting a donor. The second hardest challenge is getting that donor to become a second time donor. Anna, correct me if I’m wrong. So having this idea of an ongoing revenue stream or donation stream coming from secondary sales seems like something that could be a really innovative way to sustain funding for an organization who’s doing good work like yours.
Absolutely. I think this is all a pilot. It’s a big experiment. Anytime you experiment, you take a risk. But you’re right, there’s a difference in the way you would cultivate a donor, which is very relationship based. Although coming full circle, like you talked about in the beginning, Duncan, a lot of this is about building new relationships. But yes, as a nonprofit, anytime you can secure ongoing funding, it’s a huge win. We’re really hopeful that this can not only be successful for our organizations, but also that it can create a bit more of a template of an idea for other nonprofits to follow suit.
And they can maybe meet a bunch of people they haven’t met before who are interested or aren’t familiar with 5 Gyres. It’s a great way to bring the community together. I just want to touch on that relationship thing again because I think I’ve been really disappointed with a lot of the ways big brands have entered the space in general. I think it’s really eyeopening for people that, again, the transactional nature of our relationships I think needs to change and should change in this space. As Anna and the team have found out, it’s not just put your wallet on a website and make a bunch of money. It is work. You have to work for the things that you want if you want to be successful, and you have to continue to show up every day, and you have to cultivate all those relationships repeatedly. I think everybody has learned that throughout this process that it’s not easy, but it’s totally worth it and incredibly rewarding.
And just one other thing-
And I think you make a good point.
Oh, sorry. I was going to say one other component to that is the interesting nature of the timing of this project. When we first came up with this concept, the crypto world was in a very different place, as people know, a year ago. But the fact that we are launching it during what people consider more of a winter. We’re hoping that the philanthropy, the values, the mission of this project will help it rise above and really demonstrate that regardless of the bandwagoning that happens when things are in a different place and people jumping on the bandwagon to make a quick buck. The fact that things are not in that place now really calls for every project to have integrity. We hope that that’s what makes this stand out from a lot of the noise.
Yeah, I think that’s a really good point. I think integrity is a great word. Maybe I’ll make a tweet about that later today. But I think a big reason for this crypto winter, aside from macro economic factors and all that stuff, is that I think people in the space got really burnt out of essentially losing their money, putting their money into empty promises or giving it to projects with unknown founders who sort of just walked away holding their funds and all that. And it’s unfortunate that these things do happen in the space all too frequently, but I think if we want the space to continue to grow, we need to continue to build projects that are purposeful and impactful and give people a reason to care about something other than just money. Because if all you’re chasing is money, I think nine times out of 10, you’re going to end up being disappointed.
But if you invest in a project because you think the art is beautiful or you align with the mission, or you really vibe with the community members in there and money isn’t your goal at the end of the day, then I think you’re going to be happy with whatever you purchase and you’re not really going to worry about the rest as much. So we’re really hoping to do that here, build a strong community of people who recognize that we are humans, we are multifaceted, we have families and interests and hobbies and things that we care about, again, aside from just money. We need to kind of, I guess, get back in tune with that side of ourselves and come out and support things that really matter.
Well, and I’m interested because it looks like you’ve rallied some big companies in support of the project. Patagonia, I think is involved as well as some crypto native companies that are well known like Ledger. How’s your experience been in recruiting to bring on that outside support to help with both the organization’s goals and specific to the Gyrenauts project?
One of the things that’s been interesting for us about embarking on more web3 brand partnerships has been our evolution of understanding what an NFT can actually be. So as an organization, our first exposure to NFTs was through one of our corporate partners, Moen. Designing an NFT, they generated about $8,000 for 5 Gyres, and that was when I first started to perk up. But many people, my understanding of NFTs was static jpegs, cartoon characters, things that have become sort of a trope for people to talk about. But what I’ve learned over the last couple of years is that there’s so much more to the NFT and that it can really connect… I’ve heard people describe it as like a digital membership card or that you own temporarily this asset that can open up whole doors. For example, it can say, in our case, it could be a pass to aquariums across the country, or it could be discounts aligned with particular brands that are related to our mission.
What’s been really cool about Gyrenauts is we’ve been able to connect some of that utility with our brand partners, both those that are open and actively exploring blockchain. For example, Ledger, which is a web3 native company and is providing some product to holders of our NFTs, but then some of our non web3 partners like Klean Kanteen and ChicoBag that make products that help people live a plastic free lifestyle. So it’s been really cool to connect some of these real world utility concepts to holders of the NFT and hopefully engage more people in understanding that NFTs are not just these static images. And sometimes they are, and that can be beautiful too, but that there’s more potential here.
I want to talk that up just a little bit more just to make sure it’s really clear. I think the other reason that I’ve pushed the team really hard on corporate sponsorships as well as additional support from our NGO partners is this idea of rewards. I think we are very much in a space where people say, “Okay, I’m minting this thing,” or, “I’m paying $90. What’s in it for me?” And it’s a totally fair question, and because the nature of this project isn’t promising a metaverse or a web3 game or a token with a hundred million dollars market cap, we’re not promising all of these things. We’re promising something really, really achievable, which is one of the reasons I’m so bullish on the project is that we’re not building anything from scratch. We’re supporting all these groups who are already doing incredible work, but we needed to have a real legitimate offering for people.
So the corporate sponsors have been really, really helpful in that. I cannot even calculate how many physical rewards we have. Patagonia donated hats and t-shirts and shorts, and we have dozens of products from Klean Kanteen and we have coffee from Equator Coffee, and we have stuff from ChicoBag and NFTs from Murder Heads, which is a Liquid Death project. So we have so many cool sponsorships. There’s literally hundreds and hundreds of items here, and we’ve created a structure that based on the number of Gyrenauts you mint, some of them, you only need to mint one Gyrenaut to get entered into these raffles. Some you need to mint two. Or if you happen to mint a specific trait, you get this sort of reward. So it was really important for us to have a cool incentive reward structure in place. The corporate sponsors have been really incredibly generous and really helpful in having that for a project like this.
That’s right. The art can be majestic and engaging and exciting, but I think this concept of utility is really the frontier of where people are taking NFTs, whether that’s access or it’s connecting into more of a customer or consumer or member loyalty type experience is where I’m seeing a lot of the builders on the edge taking things. Maybe to build on that a little bit, as we look out to the future and take not just NFTs, but kind of blockchain technology in the biggest sense, and we think about it in this mission of solving for climate change and plastic pollution, general sustainability. I’m curious to get your perspective on where this all fits in. There’s projects out there, I had Jane Khodarkovsky from the Celo Foundation on the podcast, and she mentioned one of the biggest ongoing projects in that environment is all about carbon credit tracking using blockchain. I’m curious if you’ve run across any other novel and new uses or maybe something your organization is exploring directly where this technology can be supportive of the core mission.
Yeah. That is a topic that we are… Let me say that again. Yeah, that’s a topic that we’re fascinated by, getting beyond just what is the power of blockchain to generate philanthropic dollars, but how could the actual technology be used in solving real world environmental problems? I haven’t landed on that a hundred percent, but one area that we’re really interested in is data. As a science-based organization, we generate data that we use to then solve real world problems. For example, better understanding where plastic is, what’s the source, what’s the scope, and how can we use that to solve problems?
One project we have is called TrashBlitz, and it’s a web-based app transitioning to a real world app that allows people in a community to measure the footprint of plastic in their community. So it’s literally photographing hundreds and hundreds of pieces of trash, logging them, cataloging them, understanding not just how much are cigarette butts and plastic bottles, but how much comes from Coca-Cola? How much comes from Unilever? So this is one area where improved technology and perhaps blockchain is the answer to get much, much better at recognizing this data, analyzing data very quickly, machine learning to be able to take a photo that instantly recognizes that that’s a Coca-Cola item or it’s a Unilever item. And then utilizing this data to figure out where are the biggest problems.
We’ve experimented with drones on this topic in Central America using a drone photo from above to be able to then recognize trash on the ground, not just that there’s trash, but the specific items. I think these are some areas where data analysis could be really helpful. And then taking a step back, technology in general. Plastic at the end of the day is a petrochemical product. As we improve our technology to search for alternatives, this is I think the frontier of how we get better at solving plastic pollution, getting away from petrochem and into alternatives, and perhaps the research and the data management applications of blockchain can help.
Yeah. It’s so fascinating. We could have a whole nother episode on that. I’m assuming though, the photography, so the TrashBlitz app and the work you did with the drone footage, once you’ve identified, “Oh, this trash is coming from a particular product vendor,” do you go upstream and try and work with the people that are actually manufacturing what ultimately becomes trash and convince them to try and change their approach, their packaging and bottling? Is that the idea?
That is part of the idea. And I should say, if I use the word we here, what I’m really referring to is the global network of thousands of organizations working together. Because there’s no way an organization like 5 Gyres could ever really stand up to a Coca-Cola or a Nestle. But as a coalition, and this is why it’s so important to collaborate, this idea of the brand audit really emerged from coalition partners in Southeast Asia that we’re sick of being blamed for the problem of pollution and looking at, “Well, let’s talk about who’s making all this stuff.” So that is how the brand audit emerged with, “Let’s not just do a cleanup, but let’s log how much of that is coming from these multinational companies.” And then a little bit of shaming to say, “You are the biggest corporate polluter. What are you going to do about it?” So I would say that hasn’t solved the problem, but it’s been effective at bringing those corporate partners to the table.
Well, I know we talked in the prerecord. My previous company had some association with Dell Technologies. And Dell, they’ve shifted their entire supply chain where I think they’ve removed plastic from every computer, laptop, peripheral that they ship is plastic free at this point. They’ve, I think, put quite a bit of effort behind helping with some of the ocean cleanup as well. So there is hope here that we can get big producers or users of plastics to pull that out of their supply chain. I think the case you’re making for being able to document what’s turning into trash at the end state and then going back upstream is a terrific concept.
I know there’s going to be people who have listened to this episode and say, “Wow, I didn’t realize the scope and magnitude of the problem. I love what you’re doing. I’m going to go mint one of the Gyrenauts for sure.” How else can people get involved? What’s the best way, if they want to either participate in your organization or the broader coalition that you’re in front of, where would you suggest they get started?
I’d say first and foremost is to subscribe, to learn more about the issues that we’re talking about, and not just to 5 Gyres, but as we mentioned with Gyrenauts, we have 17 NGOs that are collaborating on this together. I would tell people to go to Gyrenauts.io and check out all of the partners that are working on this together. For some folks, the issue of plastic pollution might really resonate, but for others it might be women’s empowerment or climate change or working on indigenous issues. We have organizations that represent all of those causes. I would say go to Gyrenauts.io, peruse the nonprofits that are participating, and sign up to learn more and get involved.
Amazing. Anna, Duncan, thank you so much for the work that you’re doing. Excited to see the project launch, and thanks so much for your time today.
Thank you so much, Ian.
Thanks, Ian. This was great.
Appreciate your time.
It was a lot of fun.