Realizing a big business ambition does not have to come at the cost of the planet’s well-being. In fact, the best way is to bring in revenue while being ethical at the same time. Today’s guest is Adrian Solgaard, whose sustainable travel company, Solgaard, removes five pounds of plastic from the ocean for every single product that they sell.

Adrian is a serial entrepreneur that has done a little bit of everything, from running a creative agency to launching bicycle locks on Kickstarter, but the reason he joins us today is because of his latest social enterprise. In it, he uses business in service of the planet by helping clear China’s Yangtze river of plastic and recycling it into products, bricks, and energy too!

In our conversation with Adrian, we talk about what it takes to get ideas of this proportion off the ground and all the lessons he has learned along the way. He is a big believer in the power of collaboration, speaking about how he couldn’t achieve his vision without finding experts to help, and how powerful storytelling is critical to winning them over to his cause.

Another big takeaway from today is that Adrian's solutions mindset is contingent on him being able to ask the right questions. We also talk to him about motivation, aiming high versus doing things step by step, and why he decided to raise so much capital on Kickstarter rather than get a regular job while penniless and sleeping on his friend’s couch!

Follow along and be inspired by Adrian’s work and ideas today!

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Key Points From This Episode:

Adrian’s COVID project: Designing a plastic interceptor directly on China’s Yangtze River

Adrian wants to place a filter in the river to remove plastics to then turn into products, bricks, or energy. This is a multi-faceted project, so it requires talking to a variety of people. The bigger the project, the more people you need to talk to. Start with those accessible to you and build from there.

Adrian sells his ideas to expert collaborators by using a problem/solution format

For Example:
Present the problem: 17 billion tons of plastic are entering the ocean every year, and nearly half of it is coming from this one river. 
Present the solution with an Ask: Here’s the solution I have in mind, but would you be willing to help since I don’t know how to do X thing you know how to do.

Asking the right questions is key to finding great solutions

The question may not be, “How can I make a better cup?” but rather “how can this person get the fluids into their body easier?”

Adrian translates his natural curiosity into motivation

Don’t think “what is the next step in front of me?” but rather “what is 100 steps down?” If you don’t currently have the capacity to follow through with something mentally or monetarily, try putting it on the backburner until you do have the conviction to see it through.

The power of experimentation and collaboration

Lots of people can do a lot of the things you can do, so try different things to find out the one thing that only you can do, and invite others to do the rest. Collaborating effectively, though sometimes trial and error, will eventually further a bigger mission.

Adrian’s Ask, Offer, and Question for the World:

Ask: If you’re interested in what we’re doing or passionate about ocean plastics, check out Solgaard’s page or Team Planet (coming soon!)

Offer: If you’re wanting to pursue something in life that is more aligned with your longer-term goals but don’t know where to start, shoot me a dm at @adriansolgaard

Question: Ask yourself “what am I doing to make the world a better place today?” and ask yourself on repeat.


“I want to do this project which is a river filter that will collect and scoop plastic to be used and recycled into products. The stuff that can’t be used will be recycled into building bricks, and the stuff that’s really polluted and can’t be used at all will be converted into energy.” — @adriansolgaard[0:01:42]

“Rather than trying to be the expert at everything, which you never will be, find people who are smarter than you at all those extra avenues and then get them involved.” — @adriansolgaard[0:03:18]

“Martin Luther King Jr didn’t say, ‘I have a seven page business plan,’ he said, ‘I have a dream,’ and I think that if you paint something as a dream, people can rally behind it and they can support it toward being a 97 page business plan.” — @adriansolgaard[0:04:38]

“If you can find a way to tie a global problem to someone’s personal problem, where if you can appeal to someone’s sense of selfishness and allow them to help solve a problem for themselves and the whole world, I think that’s where this whole circular economy thing starts to make sense.” — @adriansolgaard[0:15:54]

Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:

Benjamin Von Wong
Impact Everywhere
Adrian Solgaard
Adrian Solgaard on Instagram
Richard Branson
Martin Luther King Junior
Neil deGrasse Tyson
Gary Vaynerchuk
Chase Jarvis

Coming Up Next:

Next episode tune in to hear from Louie Psihoyos, an Oscar-winning film director of documentaries like “The Cove,” “Racing Extinction,” and “The Game Changers,” to hear how he designs behavioral change, measures impact through trends and crafts the perfect documentary for impact.