Professional snowboarder, activist and adventurer Chanelle Sladics speaks to our editor about her career and co-founding her own philanthropic brand Simply Straws.
What sparked the idea of creating a zero waste straw alternative?
My mom was developing arthritis from the 30 yrs she had dedicated to dental hygiene, she didn't want to stop, but her body needed to seek healing. She started looking for alternative ways she could continue to help her patients. The general academy of dentistry recommends straws for basically every beverage besides water to protect your teeth from staining, sensitivity and erosion. When she brought the idea to me, we did some research and realized is was a massively overlooked disposable plastic. 500 million plastic straws are disposed daily in USA alone. As a passionate activist, I knew I wanted to get involved.
Do you see your Simply Straw brand expanding and converting other products into no-waste alternatives in the future?
Absolutely on many levels. I see great value in aligning with brands that are already doing an excellent job and selling our products together. If its reusable and compatible with our straws- its a great potential. We are already selling collaborations like this with ToGoWare utensil sets and Klean Kanteen tumblers. We may invest in designing our own products that fit our Simply Straws, but for now we feel it is best to align with brands we believe and sell our products together.
Being a Co-Founder of Simply Straws, what would you say is the biggest and best thing you bring to the table?
Partnerships. I am a big fan of working together and building community. Together we can build momentum, feed off each other and exponentially grow our impact. I launched our “Straws for Cause” collaborations which connects each colored straw with a different NPO educating or activating against plastic pollution. Basically at minimum our 1% to the planet benefits our brand’s non-profit partners. We do a lot together beyond this, but its our minimum commitment to each other.
Our cause partners are: PINK Keep a Breast Foundation, GREEN Protect our Winters, SMOKE Non-Toxic Revolution, TEAL 5 Gyres, AMBER Plastic Pollution Coalition. We also work closely with 1:1 Movement on their “last straw” campaign.
What is really cool is we wanted to run our business similar to a non-profit- we wanted a direct impact on the problem of disposable straws and we quickly realized what a great fit for a B Corporation we were. We are so proud to be apart of the BCorp community. We really feel using business as a force for good is the solution we need to create a healthy environment for us humans, the planet and our eco system. We all need to be honored for the energy we invest into anything, but are we sharing that energy to invest in the health and happiness for all? Thats my manifestation for the future. It feels so good to be apart of something bigger than ourselves.
Being environmentally conscience clearly holds a place in and out of the work place; What sparked your vision of hosting a zero waste snowboarding event?
I wasn’t raised with the consciousness of where everything comes from and where everything goes. I have so much more to learn, but at the least- the system is broken. The disposable system has made us lazy and disconnected from our true sources. For example, bottled water is everywhere. We started gathering it originally at springs, then at some point tap water, now small disposable plastic water bottles are filled with tap water and transported to us. Thankfully we are starting to shift back, but as a well seasoned traveler- I am boggled at how many plastic bottles and togo cups with straws I see get used for a few minutes and disposed. These plastics take a 1,000 years to break down and we are only using them for minutes!
Slow down and look at the process. Using energy to draw the oil from the earth and using the petroleum to create the plastic that is molded in mass production and shipped wherever- just so you dont need to carry your own reusable around. Its quite disturbing, and I was surprised the governments supported this process when I first realized it. In USA we aren't even required to ask if the customer wants a straw, we just give them one or even two with a cocktail. Look around and you will be amazed at how many straws are getting disposed. Especially once you see the ripples of pollution it is creating in our waterways, eco systems and manufacturing pollution in our airways.
So you continue following the money and realize how much money and lobbying these energy companies invest in our governments to keep us relying on their products. Petroleum even enters into our food chain with chemical pesticides for our GMO plants and even in our pharma products. Its all connected and the sooner we wake up to it, the sooner we find absolute purpose in buying products that serve the greater good of you and the earth. I love how, with smart design, we can live in communities and cities on earth and enjoy the best food, water and vibrations the earth has the offer. The future is bright if we continue to “vote with our purchases”.
Ok- so now I am a bit off topic, but you are getting to know me, my path, my perspective and what is motivating the projects and brands I am creating. As a professional snowboarder for 10 years, I saw a direct opportunity to lead the charge in this department.
I don’t expect soccer to be the first sport to have a zero waste footprint, but it makes perfect sense for action sports to lead the charge. Our sports rely on a healthy environment to thrive. With no snow, we have no events, we have no tour, we have no magic to take us deep into the winter. Kjersti Buaas and I saw this need and opportunity to show our industry how easy it would be to make some big shifts towards zero waste.
We achieved this by:
-serving organic food
-selling reusable kits for spectators to enjoy our beverage garden and festivities
-creating the marketing materials, banners and athlete bibs out of recycled or organic materials
-support local business for our services
-setting us recycling and composting bins by waste bins
and more. Check out Community Cup for more info.
Our intent was to create ripples and lead by example for our industry.
What was the most difficult task to overcome during that process?
Raising capital to properly execute this vision from brands we believed in. In general raising funds is a challenge, but to create a zero waste concept where you dont want money from brands that dont align with the vision and make it a women’s only event- you have really slimmed down your opportunities for funding. It takes a lot to create a sporting event with prize money, film production and an eco festival with concerts. We went big and it really over extended us and our resources, but we are proud we were able to pull it off. We now see opportunities where we could have made it even easier, but that comes with all projects, you get better each time, more fine tuned.
What’s the biggest aspiration you have for your business?
I have 3 businesses, Simply Straws, Community Cup, and PRSNT. All of them are caused based businesses.
What’s the most rewarding thing about Simply Straws?
Knowing that each straw represents a lifetime product that will replace an exponential amount of waste. In addition, each straw represents a ripple of education through our Non-Profit partners and the strangers inspired by your Simply Straw. It is such a beautiful product, anywhere I go in the world, it is always a conversation starter, it always draws attention.
How much of your inventory is purchased through wholesale? What are some businesses that sell your product?
We focus our energy on online sales, we love to have a direct connection with our buyers. We were honored to be recruited by a whole region of Whole Foods the first day we soft launched our business at green festival in LA. We have now expanded modestly into retailers that find us. At some point we plan to take this impact more national, but right now we are taking our time.
What seems to be the most effective way to get the Simply Straws name and message out there?
Whenever people get to touch, feel or see our product- they usually take one home with them. They are stunning handmade products that resonate excellence. The colors are fun and nothing tastes better than glass. We have the highest quality glass and it is incredibly durable and can handle temperatures much better than stainless steel.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
I am proud of the women I continue to evolve into. I am constantly urning to grow and that growth is reflected in my projects, brands and alignments. I seek happiness daily and build relationships that are meaningful to me. I always aim to create business deals where both parties win.
What has been the most difficult thing with Simply Straws? Would you do anything differently?
Absolutely! It is incredibly challenging to run a product business, especially when you are manufacturing, packaging, shipping, marketing, etc. I would have reached out for a mentor that could guide us on how to streamline our backend, we are continuing to fine tune this, but it is crucial to be as organized and efficient as you can. There are so many moving parts, just to generally understand the ins and outs before you dive in, saves you from learning the “hard way”. Ultimately, it has brought my family together even more and I feel like I am slowly earning a masters in business haha. Especially with the digital landscape we sell our products in now, you can only know so much, everything is changing constantly- so hold on tight and pay attention.
What advice would you give to new environmentally friendly start-up companies?
Get a mentor, create an inspiring board of advisors, be organized, make sure the brand has a purpose so you can always show up smiling.
How do you define success for your business?
Every straw we sell is a piece of our success.
You’re also very successful outside of your Simply Straws business; did being a professional snowboarder have any influence on what you’re passionate about today?
Absolutely. I was going to double major in Film & Kinesology and minor in physiology at University, but I have still not had time to attend collage. So I have been immersing myself in as many programs as I can, and funny enough- I am still fascinated by those topics. I always wanted to learn everything and found collage restrictive for all the topics that I wanted to study. Now I am studying to be an nutritionist, I teach yoga + meditation, I will start a permaculture farm in the coming years and draw knowledge from what I learned getting my permaculture certificate. I have also been studying phycology with Anthony Robbins’s programs and many others. There is so much valuable information out there.
Now after many years of studying under some of the best teachers in the world, I am setting out to teach in intimate settings at our PRSNT Performance retreats, workshops and camps. I have been preparing the last few years for this opportunity. We had our first event in Trondhiem, Norway January 9th and it was massively fulfilling. It is an honor to create a safe space to learn, apply knowledge and practice. We eat clean food, learn about nutrition, practice meditation and yoga in a really goofy fun environment. Each experience is paired with an outdoor yang activity and a proper digital detox. The aim is to create a portal of presentness that will help you reconnect with yourself, your spirit, your dreams and revive you so you can resonate from your best self.
What things in your daily life do you do to help reduce the impact of everyday waste?
I use my reusables every day of my life. I support brands that have a positive impact on the earth, animals and us humans. I vote with my purchases and sign petitions regularly. I aim to plant seeds of information whenever I get the opportunity. I live with love and gratitude for my life, my health, our global community and the earth that provides us with everything we need to thrive. I manifest I have inspired you to live with purpose & intention.