Updated: Aug 20, 2019
Reborn Rubber is company with a mission! They create functional, minimalist wallets from materials that would otherwise potentially pollute our oceans and landfills. They use wetsuits that are no longer sea-worthy, and polyester spun from recycled plastic bottles, to create stylish, durable wallets.
Reborn Rubber's Founder, James Sheppard, chatted with us about why he decided to literally put his money where is mouth is, and go one step further by giving a percentage of their profits to the mission to restore corals reefs!
What is your earliest memory of the ocean?
I grew up in Orlando Florida, a landlocked city, before moving to south Florida 10 years ago. A year before I was born my parents bought a timeshare in the sleepy little town of Vero Beach. We vacationed there every year until I was 15. Our condo was right next to the beach. I used to fall asleep to the sound of the waves lapping up on the beach. It was peaceful. Our formative years shape the rest of our lives and I will always remember looking forward to that week in Vero. Ever since then I’ve associated the ocean with a sense of peace and serenity
What is your favorite marine creature?
The orca. They are a very intelligent mammal that can be both fierce and gentle. I saw a video recently of a woman swimming in the ocean while a killer whale swam right under her and seemingly played with her for a couple minutes. These animals also hunt in pods and can live as long as humans.
Have you experienced a healthy coral reef ecosystem? If so where, and how did it make you feel?
I dive regularly in the Palm Beach area. We have some healthy reef systems here although it seems like there have been less fish on the reefs in recent years. I have also seen some healthy reef systems in the Hillsboro Florida area as well as in parts of the Florida keys.
Have you seen a badly degraded reef system? How did that make you feel?
I haven’t seen one in person. A couple years ago I watched a documentary called “Chasing Coral”. The documentary showed large expanses of dead reef systems on the Great Barrier Reef. It really opened my eyes to how important coral is to the entire ocean. Hearing some of the facts on coral die off and ocean temperature rise was very disheartening.
What concerns or scares you the most about climate change?
I’m no scientist, but from what I read we have a very short window of time, just 20 to 30 years, to turn things around. Shifting the foundation of an antiquated system isn’t easy. Change is difficult and its concerning that everyone doesn’t agree that the human race has a climate issue. There seems to be a rejection, in some part, of the science on the subject.
Why do you, personally, care about coral reefs?
The first blog post I ever wrote was titled “Why coral reefs are more important than you might think” (link here!). I’m a diver so obviously I enjoy seeing the beauty of coral reefs. It’s like swimming in an aquarium. Between the diversity of coral types, colorful reef fish, eels, crustaceans, and the occasional predator there’s lots to see.
They aren’t just nice to look at though; losing corals means losing a foundational piece of the web of life in the ocean, and that causes problems for the rest of the oceans' inhabitants and, eventually, for us.
Why is protecting and restoring coral reefs relevant to your brand?
Reborn Rubber uses non-biodegradable wetsuit rubber and recycled polyester fabric to make wallets. We extend the life of that rubber and divert it from landfills. Typically divers, surfers and those who love and enjoy the ocean use a wetsuit.
Giving back to an organization that works on preserving the oceans health and is attempting to ensure the longevity of the very thing we love and enjoy, is synergistic with Reborn Rubber’s business model. Making a retail product from a used material to fuel coral restoration provides an alternative to producing new materials and funds social responsibility.
Why should the average person care about coral reefs?
Coral reefs are a vital component of the food chain. Disrupting this system would create a cascading effect that would potentially threaten even the largest predators in the ocean.
It is estimated that nearly 80% of the world’s population lives near the coastline. Corals support fish populations that sustain coastal cities.
Reef systems provide a draw for SCUBA and snorkeling tourism which is approximately a 30 billion dollar industry.
Corals have medicinal purposes. Corals have been used to tread cardiovascular disease, ulcers, leukemia, lymphoma and skin cancer as well as sexual disorders.
Corals are nice to look at but their usefulness and importance to both marine life and human economy is multi-faceted and extremely important.
In your opinion, what are some of the most powerful tools at our disposal that we can apply to the mission to save coral reefs?
Creating awareness through word of mouth and social media. Protecting our corals is going to require people to understand the problem first and then take action. Everyone has a platform now online. Taking a stand and speaking your mind is important.
What do you think are some of the easiest ways that the average person can join the mission to save coral reefs from extinction?
Supporting organizations dedicated to restoring our oceans is the best way. Donating, even a few dollars, to organizations like Coral Restoration Foundation™, Surfrider Foundation, and The Ocean Cleanup are a good start. The pollution in our ocean is trending. When these topics come up in conversation, mention these organizations to your friends as solutions to the problem.
Do you think there is hope for our coral reefs? Why?
I am an optimist and I do think there is hope for coral reefs. It has become harder to have a positive outlook in recent years with policy changes. I believe there is hope because the world has recognized the need for change. Thanks to social media and the internet, it’s in the zeitgeist now and people are waking up to the damage being done to the oceans by pollution.