Written by Madison Savilow
Why start a consumer brand within a construction materials company? Great question, and one that I get asked often.
Expedition Air is the consumer brand of Carbon Upcycling Technologies, a Canadian carbon utilization company that produces advanced additives for many industrial materials, including concrete and plastics. In 2019, before Expedition Air was even a thought, Carbon Upcycling Technologies wanted to create a few consumer products for marketing purposes. Our goal with these first products was to demonstrate our materials in a tangible way. We wanted to demystify carbon utilization for the general public and let them see the possibilities of what can be done with materials made from captured carbon emissions.
They definitely saw the possibilities and we rolled with them.
From those first marketing products, our consumer product work grew organically. While we were scaling up our production capacity for the NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE, we kept receiving requests for small bags or jars of our powder additives so customers could use them in their own products or their art.
Of course, this took time away from our scale-up and the large quantity orders of our material but instead of squashing these requests, we decided to embrace them. We started sending material to customers around the world, some of which became business partners for our consumer product work (what is now Expedition Air).
We were always amazed by what customers would create with our CO2-embedded powder additives. We sold Graphitic Nanoplatelets to Negative which made a bracelet that ended up being a top Kickstarter in October 2019. As part of our first Artist in Residence program, we sent a variety of materials to Annalee Levin, the owner of Captured Carbon Studio, who inspired our work on textiles, inks, and dyes. Luis Merchan purchased material to create paintings with the message of looking at the positive and negative of climate action. And there were so many more product developments like these.
The products created by our partners as well as the customers purchasing the end-products validated the consumer interest in captured carbon emissions. Leveraging this consumer buy-in allows us to easily educate the public about what carbon capture and utilization is, and more importantly, why it's important.
A recent study by the University of Michigan looked into the market uptake of consumer products made from captured carbon emissions. Within the report, I found a couple of sentences that perfectly summarized the reason we started Expedition Air: “The most important steps may be educating the public about the process and the value of carbon dioxide-based products. Companies can alleviate concerns by being open about how they use carbon dioxide, why their products are safe, and the benefits they hold for the climate.”
In addition to raising awareness of Carbon Upcycling Technologies as well as the carbon utilization industry, Expedition Air was founded on the idea that our planet is worth fighting for. We believe that consumers’ buying power can be used to better society by enforcing a need for products derived from carbon emissions. By supporting Expedition Air, consumers, artists, and corporations are raising their hand to join the battle against climate change.
In Bill Gates’s latest book, the importance of many climate solutions is described, including what role carbon capture and utilization plays in mitigating adverse effects of climate change, but one line in the book stood out: “...reducing your own carbon emissions isn’t the most powerful thing you can do [as a consumer]. You can also send a signal to the market that people want zero-carbon alternatives and are willing to pay for them.”
It needs to be well noted that being able to pay for these alternatives comes with a level of privilege only afforded to those who can pay the green premiums associated with low-carbon products. However, our main mandate at Expedition Air is accessibility. Accessibility to products made from captured carbon and ways to support a wider mission. There are many other ways to support the vision of transitioning to carbon negative products.
The best way to support our mission is to ask more of the brands you’re purchasing from. Low carbon materials can and should be incorporated into all products. Our goal isn’t to create an eCommerce business from scratch. We’re starting to work with large brands to tap into supply chains and customer channels that are already in place because that’s the most sustainable way to make a big impact quickly. If you think a product should be made more sustainably, it probably can be, and we want to be a part of facilitating that transition to better materials.
At Expedition Air, we’re dedicated to creating change using carbon emissions. We believe every product consumers interact with should enable a low carbon future. We need consumers to act together to make a big difference. There is a place for everyone in this mission.
- Will consumers use products made from captured CO2? by Morgan Clendaniel
- How to avoid a climate disaster by Bill Gates