In the midst of worrying about the personal health of ourselves and loved ones, issues like environmental health can often fall by the wayside. One group of local high-schoolers, however, recognized the influence that environmental health issues like plastic pollution can have on human communities.
Their solution? An online business, Reusii, which sells reusable silicone storage bags in an effort to lessen the use of plastics and prevent plastic pollution.
Led by six students from California and Dougherty Valley high schools, the group of 24 students who launched Reusii hail from seven different Bay Area high schools. They originally met through an entrepreneurship program hosted by Junior Achievement of Northern California, which provided them with mentors who guided them through the process of building a company from the ground up.
"As a team we realized just how much plastic we use in our lives," said Anish Lathker, one of Reusii's heads of marketing, on what inspired them to tackle this environmental issue. "Coral reefs and other natural habitats are being destroyed due to plastic pollution. It's a trickle-down effect in the sense that when these habitats are harmed; it starts a chain that affects everything else, including us."
In addition, Lathker described how constantly being surrounded by plastic products can increase the inhalation of microplastics that can be detrimental to human health.
Explaining how their product came to be, Lathker said, "When we began researching, we found there weren't any proper alternatives to plastic that were easy, affordable, and useful. Our CEO, Rishika Vinnakota, had the amazing idea of creating a reusable silicone food storing bag."
Now, the company sells the bags online at reusii.com in three different varieties: snack-, stash- and super-sized.
Lathker emphasized the ways in which they sought to improve on pre-existing reusable storage options.
"We compared all of our competitors' products to find any weaknesses or flaws to improve upon. Theirs may be reusable and dishwasher safe, but our products are also 25% cheaper on average, temperature safe and highly durable," he said, citing that Reusii's bags can be both frozen and microwaved safely.
Reusii also distinguishes itself from competitors by donating 10% of its profits to Project Aware and the World Wildlife Fund, both of which "work on reducing human impact on the environment and preserving wildlife," according to Lathker. So Reusii customers can help the environment not only by purchasing eco-friendly products, but by directly contributing to prominent nonprofits dedicated to the cause.
Reusii was formed last fall, and its team has recently been looking to expand its scope. Earlier this year, they pitched their product to representatives of Clorox and Workday.
While the COVID-19 pandemic stalled these endeavors, "an executive from Clorox who listened to their pitch remarked that their entrepreneurial acumen was MBA level extraordinary," said Cristene Burr, CEO of Junior Achievement of Northern California and one of Reusii's mentors.
Burr also noted that the students' "commitment to reducing plastic waste through innovation and perseverance earned them a coveted spot in the National Student Leadership Summit,'' highlighting the success of Reusii thus far and its potential going forward.
Junior Achievement of Northern California board member Mark Linsky expressed similar optimism for the future, saying that "the Reusii team has demonstrated incredible leadership, business acumen, teamwork and other 21st century skills" which leave them "well-positioned to be successful in careers where they can have an even greater impact with their passion for improving the environment."