SANTA CRUZ -- A Santa Cruz company called Cruz Foam is looking to revolutionize the packaging industry.
The CEO and co-founder John Felts says unlike traditional polystyrene foam known by the brand name Styrofoam, the foam he's making is environmentally friendly. That's because it is made from a material created out of the shells of sea creatures like shrimp.
"Really what we're able to do is through a process called extrusion we create different pellets, biomaterial pellets of these different materials that allow us to then scale it very effectively and manufacture it where we can make different formats, different sizes. We can roll it, we can color it," Felts said.
One of the early investors in Felts' company was Sustainable Ocean Alliance, or SOA, a non-profit organization that funds projects with an eye towards restoring the health of our planet's oceans.
Daniela Fernandez is SOA's founder and CEO. She says Cruz Foam is a perfect example of what her organization is working to support.
"It's innovation that can re-engineer the way business is done, find alternative products that are not harming our environment but rather reconstructing and supporting its growth and healing," Fernandez said.
John said without Daniela's support Cruz Foam would be nowhere near where it is today.
"I think Daniela, the SOA, the whole group there was a real catalytic moment for us as a company because you started to align with this network of not only investors but other stakeholders along this industry," Felts said.
Daniela's passion started as a child after seeing the 2006 climate change documentary 'An Inconvenient Truth' narrated by Al Gore.
"I told myself, I'm going to do whatever it takes to help solve this crisis," said Fernandez.
While a student at Georgetown University, Daniela attended a meeting on climate change at the United Nations.
It was that meeting that inspired her to create SOA.
"I'm sitting at the edge of my seat just asking myself, okay who is actually going to come up with a solution?" Fernandez said. "What is the plan? What is the blueprint? And literally, no one stood up and said and this is what we're going to do. So that was my 'ah-ha moment' of okay, I need to build an organization or platform to bring together young people to build solutions for our ocean and our climate."
Since then, SOA has helped hundreds of programs and start-ups like Cruz Foam raise hundreds of millions of dollars.
Daniela said she couldn't be happier seeing the impact they are having on pushing industries to a more sustainable future.
"They're reinventing the way that we do business or the way that we handle materials," Fernandez said.
John said the emphasis on sustainability in business is only continuing to grow. He's happy he was able to get in on it early but can't wait to see where it goes.
"Really excited to see when we look at who is involved in this space it speaks volumes for where this is going and why people should really be excited for it," Felts said.
Both John and Daniela say they're not only hopeful for the future but think this next generation of entrepreneurs will have a tremendous impact on our planet's health.
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