Model-meets-activist Alexis Ren wants to get her 14 million followers to think about all the plastic waste in their lives — and do something about it. That’s why she’s teamed up with film director and fellow activist Vanessa Black and blogger Jhánneu Roberts to democratize sustainability. And they’ve been building this new self-funded venture titled Future Prosperity (FPXll) primarily during this pandemic thanks to virtual meetings, the duo joke, just before their launch.
Future Prosperity, which debuted yesterday October 8th, curates products to encourage a low-waste lifestyle. Yes, these products can be purchased elsewhere, acknowledges Ren. But by putting them into easy-to-buy bundles for the kitchen and bathroom (to start), she’s hopeful that her largely Gen Z audience will make the transition even more quickly to a no-plastic lifestyle.
“My followers definitely want to participate. I get feedback and questions about these issues all the time. But we have to help people get past the eco-anxiety. Sometimes, it can all feel like just too much. Thats why we want to be able to point them to a starting place,” Ren says.
For Black, who has spent the past decade making films for global brands, interacting with climate advocates, and has a deep and technical understanding of the environmental space, she sees Future Prosperity as more than just a marketplace.
“I really see this as just the beginning. We have big dreams for what this will be. We want to bring culture into this mix as well. There are artists, creatives, and others whose stories, voices we want to highlight. We have to make sustainability inclusive, not just for the choir, and not just for those who can afford it,” she states with passion.
Together, with Roberts, a LA-based blogger turned influencer, Ren and Black want to disrupt the idea that one has to be well-off and well-informed to live a truly “sustainable” lifestyle. For those who cannot afford their products, which start at $ 5, there will be educational resources on the site: think DIY toothpaste recipes, for example. Roberts who herself went on the DIY journey and has built an audience online with her sustainability tips has a DIY series on the site where she’ll walk readers through low-cost solutions in an attempt to strip the elitism that’s often associated with the sustainability sector.
“When I began my low waste journey, I had a tight budget and started off by making a lot of products myself. It’s actually pretty empowering to know that I have the power to produce less waste and don’t have to spend a ton of money to do so,” she writes.
For those who do purchase from them, Ren and Black say they can be “sure that we’ve done our homework” in picking the best choices. The startup has its own certification: “FPXII Certified.” This, Black explains, is a result of years of experience of looking at not just materials, but also manufacturing practices, and building a more holistic approach to how they curate their products. For instance, they’re selling Veles all-purpose cleaner. Yes, it’s a low-waste, zero-plastic solution. But it’s also made out of food waste, encouraging a circular mindset that Ren and Black are keen to amplify.
“This way we’re doing the research for customers so they don’t have to get lost in all jargon, or be worried about falling for greenwashing,” she adds.
The aim is to simplify the jargon and make it easy for Ren’s followers — and a broader consumer base— to adopt these earth-friendly practices.
In addition to creating a curated marketplace and crafting a storytelling platform, Future Prosperity is partnering with Plastic Bank, a non-profit with plastic recovery ecosystems in Brazil, the Philippines, Indonesia, Haiti and Egypt. Plastic Bank’s model works simply like this: the non-profit incentivizes the collection of plastic trash in communities. Based on what is collected, an individual is given “tokens” that can be redeemed for social services— food, school tuition fees, cooking stove fuel, health insurance. This helps them get plastic out of the environment and into a recycling stream. The collected waste is then sorted, shredded, and recycled — all of which is tracked using blockchain technology to encourage transparency and accountability.
Future Prosperity is connecting each purchase with a financial commitment to Plastic Bank. Thus, each item purchased will help recover one pound of plastic from entering the ocean through Plastic Bank’s efforts, Black explains.
“The idea that there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish one day in the near future is terrifying,” says Ren. “That’s why we had to do something about it.”
As a young celebrity in the digital space, Ren notes that she has had her share of ups-and-downs, battles with her own health, and much of this has been connected to her role as an influencer. But now, she’d like to shift the dialogue, and this community she’s amassed, to focus on a bigger issue at hand: the health of the planet: “We want everyone to feel like they can be a part of the solution.”
And she herself could be the solution to getting Gen Z on board with a plastic-free lifestyle.