#82 – How Sustainable Product Design Creates a Circular Economy

with Jeremy Lang, Founder of Pela

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82 - Jeremy Lang Pela

As a boy, Jeremy Lang, the founder of Pela, saw flax straw being burned in the fields and wanted to find a better use for it, embarking on an environmentally friendly professional journey.

He worked as an environmental consultant cleaning up contaminated oil and gas sites in western Canada for 17 years. Having seen the plastic on the beach in Hawaii while playing in the sand with his son in 2008, he wanted to find a better alternative to conventional plastics. He learned about biopolymers, but they were very brittle at the time and had limited applications.

Jeremy knew that flax straw was strong and great for shock absorption, and he figured out how to combine it with biopolymers to make it less brittle and applicable to more products. But which product should he choose?

He realized the average person keeps their phone for about two years, but the conventional plastic cases used to protect their phones would last for thousands of years, were made from non-renewable resources, can’t be recycled, and will end up in landfills. 

So he developed a biodegradable and compostable material called Flaxstic and created the world’s first Pela Case in 2011 for the iPhone 4.

They have since developed a wide variety of eco-friendly phone cases for iPhones, Samsung phones, and Google Pixel phones. They have also expanded, developing cases for Airpods.

This photo shows 60,000 plastic phone cases being thrown out because they no longer fit the current phone models. This happens EVERY year! Pela has helped 100,000+ customers work towards solving this problem.

In 2015, Jeremy met business partners Matt Bertulli (Pela’s CEO) and Brad Pedersen (Pela’s Chairman) and began building their team around their mission to create a waste-free future.

Pela makes everyday products without everyday waste that educate and inspire a global community of people who are committed to making a positive impact on our planet. As a Certified B Corporation, Certified Climate Neutral, and a member of 1% for the Planet, Pela is on a mission to eliminate one billion pounds of waste from the global waste stream, continuing to research and develop the most innovative products to create a future with zero waste.

This mission is so important to them that they have recently expanded their case takeback program to include competitors’ phone cases. Not only can you return a Pela phone case back to Pela, but you can return any other phone case made from traditional plastics back to them, and they will find another use for it to prevent that case from just ending up in the landfill. You can check out more about their compostable phone cases at pelacase.com. Save the waves with your new case.

In this conversation with Jeremy, we discussed his journey to developing this more eco-friendly phone case, including how he juggled both his full-time job and developing Pela for several years. He also addressed the significance of finding partners to scale Pela beyond where Jeremy could take it on his own, which allowed him to develop relationships with like-minded individuals who improved Pela as a business.

Pela’s eco-friendly product line has grown since launch to include airpod cases, sunglasses, and even cardholders — all 100% compostable made of innovative biodegradable materials!

“You have these dreams of a big company when you start it out. You dreamt it, but I don’t know if you truly believed it. But when you get other people involved, then you know you can do it. That is the confidence and the momentum. Having a team, 1+1 = 3. It just keeps building and getting better and better.” -Jeremy Lang

Topics Discussed: 

  • Lang’s sustainable business journey
  • Pela’s mission to eliminate one billion pounds of waste
  • How Lang juggled a full-time job and the development of Pela for years
  • The importance of professional partnerships
  • More on Lang’s and Pela’s approach to sustainability

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