Happy New Year, GreenSportsBlog readers! Here’s hoping that 2023 is a year of increased Green-Sports ambition and achievement and decreased sports-greenwashing. GSB’s first post of the year offers an example of potential game breaking Green-Sports audacity.
If Rick Fox wanted to kick back and enjoy the rest of his life at the beach in the Bahamas — where he spent his formative years — well, could you blame him?
After all, he was a University of North Carolina basketball star and then played 13 years in the NBA with the league’s two most storied franchises, the Boston Celtics and then the Shaquille O’Neal-Kobe Bryant Los Angeles Lakers that won three consecutive championships from 2000-2002. He also has had a long career as a movie and TV actor, and he also did a turn as a Dancing With The Stars contestant. Then Fox became an entrepreneur in the video game world.
Fox is clearly the opposite of the sit-on-the-beach type. So, for his next act, he decided that he wanted to make a positive difference in the lives of Bahamians.
To do so, he pivoted from entrepreneurship to eco-preneurship by becoming co-founder and CEO of Partanna, a company that developed building materials, also called Partanna, that remove CO2 from the atmosphere.
How will Partanna help the people of the Bahamas? GSB spoke with Fox to find out.
If you’ve heard of Rick Fox, you likely know of him as a key role player with the 2000, 2001 and 2002 NBA Champion Los Angeles Lakers. Or you may know him as an actor in flims like Spike Lee’s He Got Game (1998), and in the mid-2000s hit TV series One Tree Hill.
Now, Fox is taking on what will arguably be his most important role, that of eco-preneur…as co-founder of Partanna, which is pioneering a building material that “breathes in carbon” from the atmosphere.
This technology, if scalable and successful, can be a true #ClimateComeback game changer. Consider that, according to the CICERO Center for International Climate Research in Norway, global emissions from making cement for buildings, roads and other infrastructure hit nearly 2.9 billion tons of carbon dioxide in 2021, which is more than seven percent of all emissions.
To understand how and why Fox got into the carbon emissions mitigation game, you need to understand two things about him: He is an entrepreneur at heart and he has seen the disastrous effects of climate change-exacerbated extreme weather on the Bahamas, where he grew up.
“I turned to entrepreneurship as a creative, positive outlet off the court and off the set,” Fox told GreenSportsBlog. “First, I went the gaming and e-sports route, launching an e-sports company and then in 2021, I started HiDef as a development company, with one key goal being to inspire young people to learn to code and run their own game studio one day.”
His move to eco-preneurship was a result of first-hand experience with 2019’s Hurricane Dorian.
“Growing up in the Bahamas, tropical storms and hurricanes were a constant for me,” recalled Fox. “Over many years, the storms grew stronger and then, Hurricane Dorian destroyed everything in its wake on Grand Bahama Island, including my own home. That really brought the immediacy and scale of climate change home to me for the first time at age 51. I felt like the survival of my country was at stake and I needed to serve it. So, I looked for ways to do so.”
Sam Marshall, an architect with a passion for green building, experienced a different type of climate impact — his Southern California home was seriously damaged in 2018’s Malibu Wolsey Fire. After he and Fox met during the Pandemic, the duo began to brainstorm ways they could make a difference on climate change. Marshall and a team of materials scientists worked for two years to develop Partanna, a building material that removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Their startup bears the same name.
Wait a second.
A building material that removes CO2 from the atmosphere? How does that work, exactly?
“We’ve developed a material that inhales carbon,” Fox enthused. “Partanna is made from sea brine — which is abundantly available all over the world — and recycled steel. The brine absorbs CO2 and gets stronger as it is exposed to saltwater; that makes our homes better able to withstand hurricane force winds that would destroy traditional homes. And since it is processed at room temperature, Partanna nearly eliminates all CO₂ emissions and it avoids the types of particulate emissions that lead to millions of deaths annually. Finally, the carbon avoidance and removal credits generated from each home will be traded and used to fund various social programs, including promoting home ownership among low-income families.”
According to the company’s website, a 1,250 square foot Partanna home will contribute a ‘negligible amount’ of CO2 during manufacturing, while removing 22.5 tons of CO2 from the atmosphere after production, making it ‘fully carbon negative within the product’s lifecycle.’ A standard cement home of the same size typically generates 70.2 tons of CO2 during production.
Fox is thrilled that the company’s potential breakthrough technology is being put to its first test in the Bahamas, through a partnership with that country’s government that was announced by Prime Minister Charles Davis at COP27 in Egypt in November.
“Bahamians, from Prime Minister Davis to the average citizen, understand that they’re running out of time,” asserted Fox. “So, thanks to our partnership with the government, we’re going to start right away.”
The startup, which received an initial round of $7.5 million in venture funding from the US, will build 1,000 Partanna-based homes, including single-family houses and apartments. The first 30 units will be delivered next year in the Abaco Islands, which were hardest hit by Dorian.
While making a difference in the lives of his fellow Bahamians is Fox’s prime motivation, he sees Partanna as a disruptive technology that can revolutionize the construction industry around the world by greatly reducing emissions: “Partanna’s IP can be expressed in all manner of construction projects beyond buildings, including roads and bridges, in any country in the world…”
“…We are ready to disrupt the concrete industry by substantially reducing its carbon footprint and by offering tangible hope to those living on the frontline of climate change.”
GSB’s Take: The Rick Fox/Partanna story is a great way to tip off 2023 for the Green-Sports World…A high profile athlete using his fame to helm a startup that has a real chance to lead the decarbonization of construction, one of the most carbon-intense industries on the planet. Talk about a #ClimateComeback!
Here’s hoping that the company is successful in the Bahamas and far beyond. Who knows…maybe Partanna can be used in the building of the next NBA arena.
Photo at top: Partanna’s first model home at the company’s factory in Bahamas (Photo credit: Partanna)