Current projects I'm catalyzing
I lead and advise teams who are working on breakthrough solutions, helping them to think exponentially about change. A key tenant of my methodology is to get out of “pilot paralysis” through small scale, one-off projects with incremental impact (credit to Can Business Save the Earth by Michael Lenox and Aaron Chatterji for the term).
Through efforts with Corporate America and venture philanthropy, I'm currently focused on solutions to end marine litter/marine debris, restore coral reefs, and save bird species that are sentinels of environmental quality. My primary emphasis areas for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are “Responsible Consumption and Production” (#12), “Life Below Water” (#14) and “Life on Land” (#15).
I am working with Coca-Cola on an industry-first goal to collect and recycle the equivalent of every bottle or can the company sells globally by 2030. I co-lead the marine litter program for Coca-Cola North America. Recent successes include incorporating marine litter metrics into the broader World Without Waste goals and catalyzing investment of ~$400K to test technologies for cleaning litter out of streams in the Atlanta area.
Howell Conservation fund
In 2018, I founded the Howell Conservation Fund, a Donor Advised Fund (DAF) managed through Schwab Charitable. Its goal is to provide catalytic funding to conservation organizations working on scalable, market-based solutions to environmental issues in oceans and lakes and their surrounding terrestrial environments. My approach is grounded in venture philanthropy.
In June 2019, I was part of a multi-disciplinary Expedition that traveled to the world’s most plastic-polluted beach, Henderson Island's East Beach, located in the South Pacific. Thanks to my membership in The Explorers Club and the wide-ranging goals we set out to accomplish – from beach cleaning and scientific research to art and multi-media capture of the environments above and below water – the “Henderson Island Plastic Pollution Expedition 2019” was honored as a “Flag Expedition” of The Explorers Club! The award of the flag is a significant accomplishment, one achieved by only ~850 members in the history of the 100+ year old organization.
Our goals included:
Research: Study key topics, including plastic accumulation rates, provenance, mass, type, microplastics, impact on birds, bathymetry, biodiversity and habitat mapping. Findings will be published in peer-reviewed journals.
Cleanup: A beach cleanup of 2 km East Beach to generate additional scientific data and collect ~6 tons of waste. Through a partnership with the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), we also installed time-lapse cameras on the beach to record return of plastics, helping to address the “root cause” of plastics on the beach. I led this part of the expedition. Read more about the expedition through my LinkedIn blog on the topic.
Re-Use: Through a partnership I developed with The Center for Regenerative Design and Collaboration in Costa Rica, the rigid plastics we collected on the Expedition will be processed into housing materials, a “circular economy” solution.
Communications: The Expedition has received significant coverage, including from Stuff and The Guardian, to name just two publications, raising awareness globally about plastics. Still to be released will be new material from world-renowned artist Mandy Barker, documentary episodes, Google Street View, underwater video, drone footage, and photography.
I am an advisor helping to scale a pilot program focused on removing lead fishing tackle in New Hampshire, the #1 factor inhibiting loon survival and recovery. Since starting as an advisor in 2018, I have helped scale a pilot lead fishing gear buyback program, removing almost 5,000 pieces of lead weighing 29 pounds from state waters. I leveraged the impact of my funds >10x by connecting with corporations, foundations, government agencies, and individual donors. PERC Reports covered the program in their Winter 2018 magazine. The 2019 program is preparing to launch with a fully funded budget and will include engagement from 3x as many tackle shops and will test the effectiveness of various means of marketing for the tackle buyback program to drive further engagement in the program from anglers.
I am a collaborator focused on how Earth Law Center's nature-centric framework could be tied into a market-based conservation approach for coral reefs. If successful, we will be able to change the framework for coral reefs, giving them rights that can then be applied for conservation successes. Over the past year, I have helped catalyze a team at ELC to further investigate how the nature-centric framework could be practically applied in the U.S. or abroad. Achievements include presenting to the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force and securing engagement from the Minister of Environment in the Republic of Palau to support a new bill ELC is working on for coral reef protection.
I work with non-profits in advisory roles, and I also support companies focused on achieving conservation successes.
Board of Directors
AWARE Wildlife Center – The AWARE Wildlife Center rehabilitates Georgia’s injured and orphaned native wild animals and educates the community about peaceful coexistence with wildlife.
The Green Stop – Because drinking water shouldn't harm the planet. I am an advisor to this Canada-based company that provides sustainable water refill stations and services for outdoor events, keeping event-goers hydrated whilst reducing their environmental footprints.
Students and Young Professionals – I work with students in high school and college and young professionals post-graduate helping them channel their passion for the environment into impactful career opportunities.
Sustainable Ocean Alliance (SOA) – I am a mentor to companies in SOA’s Ocean Accelerator. SOA is a global organization that advances the impact of start-ups, social enterprises and youth-centered initiatives that are developing solutions to protect and sustain our ocean.
Market-based coral reef restoration
I am one of the early innovators behind the idea of applying market-based conservation approaches to restore coral reefs. I spent four years testing the approach in the U.S. and abroad, working with Georgia Aquarium, OneReef, and the Property and Environment Research Center (PERC) with funding from the Alex C. Walker Foundation.
I created a market-based conservation initiative to restore degraded reefs, developed the concept, secured funding, and built a team to test climate change/resilience-focused business plans in Florida and the Caribbean. The final project report for the Alex C. Walker Foundation can be found here.
I managed all operational aspects of this resilience-focused organization conserving 350,000 acres of reef in Micronesia. The final project reports for the Alex C. Walker Foundation work with OneReef can be found at Project 1 and Project 2.
I have collaborated around market-based conservation with PERC as an "Enviropreneur" since 2011. An Enviropreneur (environmental entrepreneur) is an innovator committed to finding new ways to enhance environmental quality, protecting and restoring the natural world. Please visit my page on PERC's website for details about my collaboration with the organization.