Did you know that a little over 50 years ago, we had never seen an image of Planet Earth?!? A young Stewart Brand, had the idea that an image of the whole planet would have an unifying effect on people that saw it. He started selling buttons, asking NASA: ”Why haven’t we seen an image of the whole Earth yet?”
Steward sold his demanding buttons for 25 cents on university campuses like UC Berkeley, Stanford, Columbia, Harvard and MIT. The students loved them. The idea and desire to see the planet became a movement. Soon after NASA released the first image of the Whole Earth called Earthrise.
Some made the image into a flag. The only flag on the planet that did not exclude anyone. And, it still includes everyone today.
But young Stewart wasn’t done yet.
“We are as gods and might as well get good at it.” read the purpose statement of his Whole Earth Catalog. The statement was meant to remind people that their actions matter; that they have the power to affect change. Founded in 1968, the Whole Earth Catalog inspired a whole generation. Many say that it started the environmental movement. The Catalog provided “access to tools” in the form of sustainable product reviews: books, clothing, books, tools, machines, seeds, and so on.
Steve Jobs was inspired by the Whole Earth Catalog too. When Steve Jobs gave his famous Stanford commencement speech, he ended it with: “Stay hungry. Stay foolish.” Many ascribe the words to Jobs but he himself read the statement in the Whole Earth Catalog. He said that the magazine was “the paperform internet, 30 years before Google”. But we can only wish that the internet were that environmentally friendly!
Fast forward to today.
Deeply inspired by the Whole Earth Catalog and the notion that “We are as Gods and might as well get good at it”, Boryana Straubel already has spent many years working hard and helping to advance environmentally and socially valuable ideas at Tesla, Wikimedia, and the Straubel Foundation. She believes in the transformational power of consumer choice and, like Stewart, the power of movements.
One summer afternoon, Boryana met with Stewart Brand. From the conversation, she learned that the environmental (or hippie movement) failed as the communities weren’t financially sustainable. The lack of business savvy led to conflict and, eventually, commune disintegration. Amid the Covid crisis, Boryana had a revelation:
Her recycled 24 karat investment grade jewelry brand Generation Collection was born.
With Generation Boryana wants to drive a sustainability revolution in the jewelry space. But it’s important to her that this revolution benefits both the environment and the people choosing the product.
Originally from Bulgaria, Boryana grew up in a culture that understands the investment value of 24 karat gold. Her family wasn’t wealthy. So when Boryana’s mother gave her a 24 karat necklace for her graduation, she did because pure gold jewelry is a wearable investment account. Few people pay attention to this but 24 karat gold has appreciated 580% over the last 20 years. The S&P 500 appreciated 160% over the same time.
Boryana has an undergraduate degree in Economics from UC Berkeley, and two masters from Stanford: one in engineering, one in business. In a women-focused class at Stanford, Boryana learned that 74% of women in the US still don’t invest. To help change this statistic, Boryana makes all Generation gold jewelry from investment grade metals.
“People spent $1B in jewelry every day. Annually, $100B of that is spent in Asia on high-karat jewelry. At the same time, US jewelry purchases are predominantly low-carat and lose most of their value at the moment of purchase. I want to offer people a better product. It’s time for US jewelry to become an appreciating asset.” said Boryana
Generation Collection exclusively uses recycled metals, sourced in the US. The brand designs and manufactures everything in the US as well. In contrast, most fine jewelry on the market is produced in China and crafted from mined metals.
Using recycled gold that cuts 99% of the pollution of mined gold, Generation wants to inspire all gold jewelry to switch to recycled metals as it could decarbonize nearly 2% of the entire fashion industry.
The brand aims to not only be a carbon neutral business but provide customers with the opportunity to help sequester carbon for centuries by offering the option to plant trees with every purchase. Planting only one $4 tree can make your ring a 0-carbon product. The trees Generation’s customer plant will truly leave a positive impact for generations.
Today’s recycled gold is composed of 90% old jewelry and 10% electronics (e-waste). Generation Collection is hoping to promote and increase the percentage of gold upcycled from e-waste – turning waste into beautiful value. Boryana is passionate about the potential of e-waste recycling as it also helps address the mountains of waste plastics from personal and home electronics (phones, laptops, smart thermostats, etc.) that our society is facing.
Recycled gold significantly reduces energy, water and carbon dioxide. Mining gold from electronic waste has 50x more yield than from natural ores. One single gram of recycled gold saves 680 liters of water. One gram of mined gold causes 36,451 grams of CO2 emissions, compared to 3.62 grams of recycled gold.
The energy savings from one gram of recycled gold are equivalent to 5,860 cell phone charges. That’s almost 16 years of charging. A small 10 gram recycled gold ring offsets 160 years of phone charging.
Taking lessons from Stewart and the past, Boryana is looking into the future.