The GSB Interview: John Atcheson, Co-Founder and CEO, Stuffstr; On Sports Equipment Sharing and After-Market

Stuffstr, a Seattle-based startup, is looking to become the Uber or Airbnb of, well, stuff. With “No Unused Stuff” as its motto, the Public Benefit Corporation is committed to helping consumers join the global movement toward a circular economy by reselling stuff, offering it to friends, or having it delivered to Goodwill for free—all at the tap of a button. The ultimate goal is to keep stuff out of landfill. Since sports equipment will certainly be a significant category for Stuffstr, we wanted to learn more. So we connected with the startup’s Co-Founder and CEO, John Atcheson, for this installment of the GSB Interview.

 

GreenSportsBlog: OK, John, we have a lot to cover so let’s get right to it. How did you come up with the idea of a company that makes it simple for people to share, sell and recycle their stuff?

John Atcheson: Great question. Let’s go back a ways, a long ways. I went to Brown University as an undergrad back in the late 70s-early 80s, and since this is the GreenSportsBlog, I should mention I played football there…

GSB: I actually remember Brown in those days as one of your teammates, John Woodring, ended up playing linebacker for my New York Jets for several years. Did you think about playing professionally?

JA: The Seahawks and Cowboys took a look at me as an offensive tackle. But a broken leg suffered during my sophomore year and, ultimately, a desire to do other things dampened my interest in the NFL and that, as they say, was that. So then I became a singer-songwriter for a time before going to Stanford for my MBA. And it was while there that I also did Masters work at the school of Material Sciences in photovoltaics…

John Atcheson

John Atcheson, co-Founder and CEO of Stuffstr (Photo credit: John Atcheson)

 

GSB: Photovoltaics being the term for solar cells or solar panels. Those were the relatively early days of solar power.

JA: Exactly. I thought at the time that renewables would be the “Next Big Thing” but, if you remember, that was the era in which President Reagan was removing solar panels from the roof of the White House. There really wasn’t much going on in that world, so I pivoted to the world of tech startups and became employee #8 for Digidesign…

GSB: That sounds like a smart pivot, at least at that time. What was/is Digidesign?

JA: It still exists as a division of Avid Audio under the Avid name. Digidesign was a pioneer in giving PCs the ability to create sounds and music…

GSB: You mean it was a precursor to iTunes and other such applications?

JA: Not iTunes so much. Digidesign is a tool for professional music producers. In fact, today it is still the standard for professional music production off of a computer.

GSB: What was your role with Digidesign?

JA: I helped write the first business plan, helped secure venture funding. It was so exciting; I got hooked into the venture capital scene. So from there I went to Macromind, a technology that synched up sound, animation and video for the Mac 2. And then I founded MusicNet, a truly leading edge platform that allowed users to discover interesting new music. We would provide folks with CD ROM’s—this was just before the wide adoption of the Internet. We also partnered with Rolling StoneReaders would get a code, dial in and listen to new releases.

GSB: That is—for the pre-internet days—incredibly cool.

JA: …and novel. Then, once the Internet became the INTERNET, we sold the core parts to Real Networks in Seattle, which at that time handled 95 percent of all streaming online.

GSB: When was this?

JA: This was 1997-1998. I ran the media portion of the business, meaning I did all of the deals with the record labels and studios.

GSB: That must’ve been a blast…

JA: Oh, it was but it was also an intense amount of work. When the company went public, I realized I was burnt out. So I took some time off and decided to reacquaint myself with sustainability. Got involved with the Sightline Institute in Seattle…

GSB: I’ve never heard of it…What’s it about?

JA: It is a sustainability communications and research nonprofit with a focus on the Pacific Northwest. They have an influential history…coined the term “green jobs,” pioneered British Columbia’s carbon tax, among other things. I became Chairman of the Board there, but became restless for more sustainability challenges. Turns out a friend introduced me to a company called Getaround, kind of an Airbnb for the car industry…

GSB: Is that like Zipcar?

JA: Kind of. Zipcar owns its cars and members use them when they need them. With Getaround, individuals own the cars and let others rent them when they’re idle.

GSB: That’s very cool. Does it exist in New York City yet?

JA: Not yet, but it’s on the way. Anyway, I worked with the CEO and the executive team to help launch Getaround; I got really enamored with it. The founder and CEO wanted me to join the team full time in the San Francisco Bay area. So I moved down there with the mission of finding ways to use the idle time of cars, which is about 92 percent on average. But then I started to look beyond cars and was appalled with what I found when I looked at what Americans do with household stuff. 80 percent of household items are used less than once a month.

GSB: Really?

JA: Yes. And then, when it’s gotten rid of, 70 percent of it goes straight to the landfill.

GSB: What kind of stuff are you talking about?

JA: Clothing, furniture, consumer electronics, home appliances and, of most interest to your readers, sporting goods. The average home in the US has over $7,000 worth of unused stuff just sitting around. So we launched Stuffstr with the motto, “No Unused Stuff.”

GSB: When did you go live? And how does it work?

JA: My partner Steve Gutmann and I founded the company in 2014 and launched the Stuffstr app in the second half of last year so we’re definitely still in startup mode. Once you sign up as a member, everything you buy is auto-loaded into the Stuffstr system. We monitor the value of your stuff for you and let you post it for resale, donate or recycle it at the tap of a button. So you can sell, say, a tennis racquet or share it.

 

Stuffstr - Home Screen1

StuffStr’s home screen (Photo credit: Stuffstr)

 

Stuffstr - My Stuff Screen1

Stuffstr’s “My Stuff” screen (Photo credit: Stuffstr)

 

GSB: Sounds like you have both an exciting innovation in the sharing economy and also something that will need to change consumer behavior quite radically for it to scale.

JA: That is just what we are aiming to do. We’re still tweaking the model as we speak, adding things like a Craigslist integration as well as the ability to pick up items for donation for free. We’ll take them to Goodwill Industries for you.

GSB: For real? What is Stuffstr’s revenue model?

JA: There are several revenue streams but mainly we’re going to be able to provide retailers and manufacturers with valuable data that’s not available anywhere else. We can show them what happens to products once they go out the door, providing the first-ever product lifecycle database. We’re betting on the circular economy and the value to consumers of understanding the value of their stuff. Think about it: Other than cars, we really don’t know what stuff is worth. If you know that, you can realize residual value.

GSB: Where do you guys see sports fitting in?

JA: We see sporting goods as a key target category for Stuffstr. Think about the youth category. Everything from bicycles to lacrosse gear to hockey sticks are used for a relatively short while and then stored in the basement or garage as the kids outgrow them. How cool would it be to, with one or two clicks, value that sports stuff and see if you can sell or share it. But this is not only a youth market thing. The model extends into adulthood, as there is tremendous potential value in golf clubs, bicycles, skis, skates, extreme sports equipment, tennis racquets and more. We are confident that people will want to extract value from their largely unused sporting goods equipment and, once they start doing so through Stuffstr at scale, we will see a significant drop in equipment entering the landfill.

GSB: I guess this is what a “disruptive business model” means.

JA: We hope so as our aim is to change consumer behavior on the macro level. With that in mind, as we grow, we will look to use athletes as spokespeople as they would build awareness and add authenticity.

GSB: Whenever you’re ready, we should talk, as we know some great eco-athletes here at GreenSportsBlog.

 

 

 


 

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GSB News and Notes: Protect Our Winters Founder Testifies Before Congress on Climate Change; San Francisco Giants Divert 95% of Waste; U of Tennessee Football Commits to Zero-Waste by 2020

Protect Our Winters (POW), the Boulder, CO-based environmental advocacy group made up of elite winter sports athletes, again stepped up to the climate change fighting plate when its founder, Jeremy Jones, testified in front of the US Congress, about climate change and its effects on the outdoor recreation economy. AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants, reached a 95 percent waste diversion rate last season. Given the greenness of the Bay Area, this may not be surprising. Perhaps surprising to some, University of Tennessee football has committed to going Zero-Waste by the 2020 season. Welcome to a chock-full GSB News & Notes.

 

POW PACKS A GREEN-SPORTS WALLOP AT HOUSE SUBCOMMITTEE HEARING

That Protect Our Winters (POW) is a mega GreenSportsBlog fave should not be a mystery to any reader. After all, it is the only group or association of North American athletes I know of that advocates and lobbies for climate change solutions. Think about what it would mean if, say, the Major League Baseball Players Association had, a la POW, slammed President Trump’s anti-climate change executive actions. That would be bigly from big leaguers, right? Hopefully, POW’s stellar and consistent example will inspire its players’ association cousins in the major team sports to follow suit. A pipe dream? Maybe, at least for now.

In the meantime, GreenSportsBlog will continue to highlight POW’s #ClimateAction leadership. It was on full display April 27 when founder Jeremy Jones testified in front of the US House Subcommittee on Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection on the impacts climate change is having on the outdoor recreation economy. Why should Congress be interested? One good reason is that the snow sports industry generates $72 billion annually and supports 695,000 jobs, 70,000 more American jobs than our country’s extractive industries—coal, oil and natural gas—combined^.

Mr. Jones’ drove that point home, along with several others, with his testimony:

  • In the United States, average winter temperatures have warmed almost two degrees Fahrenheit since 1895, and that rate of warming has more than tripled since 1970. The strongest winter warming trends have occurred in the northern half of the United States, where snow is an integral part of the economy.
  • US ski resorts have lost over one billion dollars in aggregated revenue between low and high snow fall years in the last decade. The corresponding impact on employment has been a loss of up to 27,000 jobs. These values directly reflect the fact that in low snowfall years, states see up to 36 percent fewer skier visits. In recent seasons, 50 percent of resorts have been opening late and closing early#.
  • Beyond the economic impacts, Mr. Jones noted that the “diminishing snowpack will not be sufficient to keep stream temperatures low, and warmer rivers will diminish fish habitat, making fishing difficult. Our rivers will have less water, reducing stream flow and making waters harder to navigate for kayaks and canoes.”

 

Testimony to the House Subcommittee on Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection on the vast impact of the Great Outdoors. Included in this 1 hour 44 minute session are the remarks of Jeremy Jones, founder of Protect Our Winters (POW).

 

Two days after Mr. Jones’ turn on the panel, he and other POWers took part in the People’s Climate March. To get POW’s perspective on the march, click here. And to get POW’s almost daily take on the environmental issues of the day, follow them on twitter at @ProtectWinters.

 

AT&T PARK ACHIEVES ZERO-WASTE

San Francisco’s AT&T Park is not only one of the most spectacular places to watch a game in all of Major League Baseball (McCovey Cove, aka San Francisco Bay, just beyond the right field wall, makes for a great vista and a phenomenal landing spot for home runs)—and, especially during some night games, one of the coldest—it is also one of the greenest. In fact, according to a story by Carolina Arauz in the May 8 issue The Skyline View, the student news site of Skyline College in nearby San Bruno, AT&T Park is the only MLB stadium to have won the Green Glove Award, given to recognize a ballpark’s recycling efforts, every single year since it was created in 2008.

Aside: I’d never heard of the Green Glove Award before this story. If GreenSportsBlog is unaware that Major League Baseball offers a Green-Sports award, it’s not a stretch to say that MLB needs to publicize the Green Glove Award more. OK, now back to our regularly scheduled post.

Last season, the LEED Gold ballpark’s landfill diversion rate was 95 percent, allowing the Giants to claim Zero-Waste status. Ten years ago, through a partnership with PG&E, the club installed Sharp solar panels on a canopy by McCovey Cove, over the Willie Mays Ramp, and on the roof of the Giants offices. Per Ms. Arauz, over the last decade, the solar system has provided enough energy to power over 5,200 homes, avoiding the emission of over 360,000 pounds of greenhouse gases.

Solar at AT&T

Solar panels from PG&E outside AT&T Park, overlooking McCovey Cove (Photo credit: San Francisco Giants)

 

Now, I know what you’re thinking.

It’s one thing to help power the AT&T Park with solar power, but what about their legendary Gilroy Garlic Fries??? Are they made sustainably?

You bet they are, thanks to the Giants and the good folks working the garlic fries stand by Section 119.

The stand’s LED lights and ballast lamp starters use 36.5 percent less electricity than than standard incandescents. Signage is made of 100 percent biodegradable and recyclable materials. Carry trays are compostable and the cups are recyclable. And the green paint used is environmentally-friendly.

Gilroy Garlic Fries

AT&T Park’s famous Gilroy Garlic Fries (Photo credit: Wally Gobetz/Flickr)

 

So, if you’re in San Francisco when the Giants are home, enjoy beautiful, sustainable AT&T Park—especially the garlic fries. Just go to a day game if possible—or bring your parka!

 

ON WAY TO ZERO-WASTE STATUS BY 2020, UNIVERSITY OF TENNESSEE FOOTBALL SAVES MONEY

Neyland Stadium, the iconic home of University of Tennessee football since 1921, holds 102,451 fans, making it the fifth biggest college football palace in the US*. I’ve had the pleasure of attending a game there—if you find yourself in the Knoxville, TN area when the Volunteers are in town, do yourself a favor, buy a ticket and head down to the stadium on the Tennessee River.

Neyland Stadium

A packed and jammed Neyland Stadium, 102,000+ strong, will be Zero-Waste by 2020. (Photo credit: The Tennessean)

 

If you do go, you will be inside the latest big time college football stadium to be on the road to Zero-Waste status, with that goal expected to be reached during the 2020 season, according to a May 2 story in the Knoxville News Sentinel by Cortney Roark.

That Zero-Waste football is coming to Al Gore’s home state is a great thing on two important levels:

  • Aggressive environmental action, as exemplified by UT’s Zero-Waste football games, stands in sharp contrast to the climate change denialism espoused by John Duncan, Knoxville’s Republican representative in the US House (TN-02).
  • Significantly reducing waste at Tennessee football games is saving the university real money and is part of a campus-wide effort to recycle more.

Roark’s piece details this point: 18 tons of garbage was hauled out of Neyland Stadium and recycled during the 2007 football season. The same amount of waste was recycled during a single game in the 2016 season, with some games reaching as much as 25 tons of waste diverted from landfills through a mix of recycling, composting, as well as donating unused food. Waste reduction on this scale has saved the university approximately $500,000 annually.

UT Recycling Manager Jay Price told Roark that Neyland’s race to Zero-Waste begins outside the stadium. Staff members and volunteers set up recycling bins in the heavily trafficked tailgating areas and hand out recycling bag in other areas. Price said the staff strategically plans where material is most likely to be tossed in a recycling bin.

“We go in front of the gates, because everyone has to drop what they’re carrying (when they enter the stadium),” Price remarked to Roark. “We’ve discovered that basically everything they’re carrying is recyclable, because it’s almost always beverage containers.” Inside the stadium, trash cans have, in some cases, been replaced by recycling and compost bins.

The skyboxes at Neyland are getting into the sustainability act this year, as the food service will use 100 percent compostable materials. That means compostable food, napkins, utensils, cups and, most interestingly, the plates. Made from the lignin (an organic substance binding the cells, fibers and vessels which constitute wood and the lignified elements of plants, as in straw. After cellulose, it is the most abundant renewable carbon source on Earth) of East Tennessee switchgrass means that plates will remain in the region throughout the entirety of their life cycle.

 

 

^ According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics
# Outdoor Industry Association’s 2017 Outdoor Recreation Economy Report
* The four college football stadiums with capacities bigger than Neyland are 1. Michigan Stadium (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor): 107,601; 2. Beaver Stadium (Penn State University, State College), 106,572; 3. Ohio Stadium (Ohio State University, Columbus), and 4. Kyle Field (Texas A&M University, College Station, TX).

 


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GSB News and Notes: LA Coliseum Goes Zero Waste; The Green(er) Aussie Open; Last Day in Office for First POTUS to Talk Green-Sports

A busy GSB News & Notes kicks off with the newly minted Zero-Waste Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (the Zero-Waste part is new; the Coliseum opened during the Harding Administration). Also greening is tennis’ first major championship, the Australian Open, now underway in Melbourne. And, finally, a brief send off from GreenSportsBlog to President Obama, the first POTUS to publicly talk about the importance of the intersection of Green + Sports, on his last full day in office.

 

LA COLISEUM GOES ZERO-WASTE

The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum is huge, both literally—it holds 93,607 for football— and in terms of its place in American and global sports history.

la-coliseum-usc-neil-leifer

The Los Angeles Coliseum, packed and jammed for USC-UCLA crosstown rivalry game in 2005 (Photo credit: Neil Leifer)

 

Just consider that the Coliseum:

  • Hosted the 1932 and 1984 Summer Olympics. If Los Angeles is chosen to host in 2024, the Coliseum will play a key role.
  • Was the landing place for the Los Angeles Dodgers when they moved west from Brooklyn in 1958 (until Dodger Stadium opened in 1962)
  • Hosted Super Bowl I in 1967
  • Is the home of USC Trojans football. UCLA shared the Coliseum with its crosstown rival from 1928-1981*.
  • Starting last season, is the temporary home for the NFL Rams after a 20 year hiatus in St. Louis. The club will move to the gaudily-named City Of Champions Stadium—for the 2019 campaign#.

And, as of 2016, this west coast sports mecca became a Zero-Waste facility—the second-largest such stadium in college football and the largest in the NFL. 

“We’re proud to be a part of a program such as the Zero Waste Initiative at the Coliseum. This is an opportunity for USC Athletics and our fans to lead the way in terms of taking ownership of our environmental impact on game days,” said USC Athletic Director Lynn Swann. “Our university, fans and alumni should be proud of the success of this program.”

“A large part of making our communities a better place includes making as little an impact on the environment as possible,” said Molly Higgins, the Rams’ vice president of community affairs and engagement.

The Zero Waste program diverted over 400,000 pounds of waste over the season. It took a 3-step effort between fans (who first sorted waste into bins), a crew of 80-100 custodial and sustainability staff (who further sorted the waste), and Athens Services, the Coliseum’s recycling partner, to make the grade. 

usc-recycle

Recycling bin outside of the LA Coliseum on USC game day (Photo credit: USCTrojans.com)

 

 

Corporate green-sports stalwarts BASF and EcoSafe added their waste management expertise as partners of the Coliseum’s Zero-Waste efforts. They were joined by Legends Hospitality (sustainable catering), ABM Janitorial Services (green cleaning), and Waxie (sustainable sanitary supply). 

THE GREEN(ER) AUSTRALIAN OPEN

The team responsible for sustainability at the Australian Open—Tennis Australia (governing body of tennis in Australia), Melbourne & Olympic Parks (host facility of the Australian Open), and the State of Victoria—is in the midst of a 15 year, $AUD700 million redevelopment project with the goal to establish Melbourne & Olympic Park as “one of the most sustainable sports and entertainment venues in the world.”

About a year ago, GreenSportsBlog gave the Australian Open “Green Team” high marks for their on-site sustainability efforts but saw room for improvement in 2016 in terms of fan engagement and awareness of their sustainability good works.

How did they make out?

Thanks to a fine case study from the Sports Environment Alliance (SEA, Australia’s version of the Green Sports Alliance), it looks like the Tennis Australia and the Australian Open continued its strong greening performance on site but the fan engagement portion still rates an “Incomplete” grade. The Tennis Australia Green Team:

  • Continued its decrease in water usage. The effort, which started in 2008, has now reached 25 percent, in part by:
    • Irrigating Melbourne Park with recycled water thanks to large underground water tanks installed onsite.
    • Switching irrigation systems from overhead spray to drip and sub surface.
    • Installing above ground water tanks at Hisense Arena with 550,000-liter capacity to use rainwater for washing courts, stadiums and irrigation.
  • Invested in smart solar powered lighting 

  • Converted 100% of takeaway food packaging to recyclable materials
  • Ensured all seafood is served according to Australia’s Marine Conservation Society’s Seafood Watch “avoid list”

  • Added state-of-the-art roof coatings that reflect 70 percent of the sun’s heat, keeping buildings cooler on the many very hot days that often plague the tournament.

 

aus-open-infographic

Infographic detailing Australian Open/Tennis Australia’s greening efforts from Sports Environment Alliance

 

Tennis Australia still needs to better communicate the existence and benefits of the green initiatives to fans. This last point is echoed in the SEA case study: “Australian Open organizers know all about these greening efforts, however there remains a need to engage” the 700,000+ fans expected to attend the tournament about the greening efforts. I would add that fans watching on TV and online also need to be made aware that the Australian Open is a leader of the Green-Sports movement.

 

LAST DAY IN OFFICE FOR FIRST POTUS TO TALK GREEN-SPORTS

Today is the last full day in office for Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States. It is not at all a stretch to say he was the first Climate Change President:  Obama, mainly through executive actions, authored more stringent fuel economy standards for automobiles; enacted the Clean Power Plan, which is leading to a reduction in carbon emissions; signed a meaningful carbon emissions deal with China, and led the effort that resulted in the Paris Climate Accord, signed by 195 countries. He also is the first POTUS ever to publish a peer reviewed journal article,“The Irreversible Momentum of Clean Energy,” appearing in Science.

Obama, a serious sports fan and, at 55, still a competitive basketball player, was also the first POTUS to publicly discuss the power of the intersection of Green + Sports. GreenSportsBlog chronicled Obama’s and his administration’s dives into Green-Sports, from Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz speaking to the 2015 Green Sports Alliance Summit to the White House Sports-Climate Change Roundtables to POTUS’ mention of the NHL’s and the Pittsburgh Penguins’ commitment to sustainability (“we wanna continue to have ice so that we can play hockey”) at the latter’s White House ceremony celebrating its 2016 Stanley Cup win.

President Obama talks Green-Sports at the October 2016 ceremony honoring the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins (Green-Sports section of the talk starts at 6:41 mark of the video).

As Vice President Joe Biden so eloquently put it after Congress passed the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) in 2010, Obama’s Green-Sports forays were “big BLEEPING deals” for the movement. Because, while the sports world has done incredible work greening the games themselves over a very short time span (the Obama presidency began before the Green Sports Alliance was launched), it has a long way to go as far as generating fan awareness of, and interest in said greening is concerned. A President talking about Green-Sports automatically generates both.

Obama used sports to promote social causes beyond Green-Sports. Has there ever been a POTUS who embodied Nelson Mandela’s “Sport can change the world!” ethos more than the 44th President? I think not. Among other things, Obama:

And, it seems likely that the first black President was a key catalyst for the recent expressions of social conscience by African American athletes. That’s one of the points made in “Obama’s Basketball Jones Connected Him to Hoopheads Everywhere” by Mike Wise^. His STOP WHAT YOU’RE DOING RIGHT NOW AND READ THIS column appears in the January 17 issue of ESPN’s The Undefeateda website that explores “the intersections of race, sports and culture.”

obama-souza

President Obama, driving to the basket during a pickup game with White House staffers at Martha’s Vineyard in August, 2009. (Photo credit: The White House/Pete Souza, official photographer)

 

Will President Trump link sports and social causes? If so, which causes will he pursue? It is safe to assume that Green-Sports will not be a high priority for the 45th President. But that’s a discussion for another day.

For now, I say a heartfelt thank you to President Obama for his service, leadership (especially on climate change), integrity and dignity.

* UCLA has called the Rose Bowl home since 1982.
# The Rams will be joined by the San Diego (now Los Angeles) Chargers.
^ Wise cited a June 6 piece in The Undefeated by colleague L.Z. Granderson, “Will Current NBA Stars #staywoke After Obama Leaves Office?”, as the source for his linkage of the activism of African American athletes and President Obama.

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