Petrice Jones is perhaps best known for appearing in various films and TV shows (Locke & Key, iBoy), but in the last few years, the actor has made a name for himself as an environmental activist.
In 2019 he co-founded the One Movement, a social enterprise that sells reusable water bottles that tackle the scourge of single-use plastic by both reducing the need for single use plastic and then building houses for the homeless out of plastic waste material.
He’s also had an influential role in raising awareness of single-use plastic waste in Hollywood and the wider American film industry – from tackling plastic pollution as a result of the Covid pandemic to providing better drinking water solutions on set.
pebble sat down with him to talk about how he started the One Movement, his eco-activism and why sustainability is everyone’s issue.
Could you tell us a little bit about the One Movement and what it involves?
The One Movement is a social enterprise. It’s an amalgamation of a for-profit and a non-profit business that essentially, as a bottom line, includes people, planet and profit.
For us, being a social enterprise means more than just making money. It also allows us to have the financial freedom of being a for-profit company and be able to really change things.
Something I was very aware of early on was that no non-profit was able to make the same kind of impact as say the top 100 companies could have on a given day. As a social enterprise, customers can make a purchase and have a direct impact on something they understand.
It’s very much the same as donating to a project where you can see what’s being created with your money.
There are so many ways to engage with the future you want to see and it’s all in your purse or your wallet. That’s our goal. To create something where everyone wins.
We wanted to do that with products that actually help reduce plastic waste whilst dealing with some of the problems that had already been created. And it was really important to us that we made it interesting.
Until we get to the idea that sustainability isn’t a chore but rather a privilege and an enormous part of the future, we’re not going to break down that barrier.
Providing a reward through our product was very important to us because making sustainability exciting for people is a huge part of our philosophy.
What was your first product and how did you settle on the idea of building houses with it?
For our first product, we decided to start with a water bottle that, with every purchase, removes the equivalent of 2000 single-use plastic bottles in our waterways and turns them into construction materials.
We then build houses for the homeless waste collectors that remove trash and ocean-bound plastic in India (a lot of it comes from the West). These people do incredibly important work and they often get forgotten about.
We’re pleased to say that we’ve just built our first house for the first waste collector and their family. Just 99 more to go!
This idea was inspired by your time in Hollywood, right?
Yes, the idea to set up this social enterprise came to me initially when I was working on film sets in America and I saw how much waste was being created.
I noticed that we were going through up to a 100,000 single-use plastic bottles on a season of a show and there were only a couple of hundred people (if that) on set.
It was a lightbulb moment. Seeing all these trash bags full of plastic, I just thought this was not okay. Something has to change.
From then on, I started looking into how big this issue was and it was huge. If you think about it, there are like 500 shows being made in the US plus however many hundreds of films and non-scripted shows.
That all adds up to tens and tens of millions of single-use plastic bottles on just a few thousand people. So, I decided that I wanted to find a solution to this problem and start populating film sets with alternative water sources.
First, I tried to get the production team to switch to a better water source like Just Water but the monetary factor was a challenge.
I was able to get a discount from Just Water but they couldn’t justify making the switch since they paid a 10th of the discount for the bottled water. I realised that in order to make a change you have to be commercially viable to make people do the right thing.
It quickly became more than just about film sets and it got us thinking about how we could tackle this problem on a wider scale. So that’s how the idea of creating an impact through water bottles started.
Are people more aware of the single-use plastic issue on film sets?
I’ve been trying to raise awareness of these issues for the last two years. Particularly with Covid and this new world we’re in, we’re going through exceptional amounts of plastic.
For example, we’ve got 200 people on set all using one to three masks a day as well as plastic gowns, plastic goggles and gloves.
I thought we can’t make this a secondary problem. I made it very clear that this was not a problem we could push back. This has to be something that we focus on now and come up with a solution for because it’s important today, not tomorrow.
We will feel these effects sooner than people think, especially with a lot of countries not taking our trash. After a while, it’s going to show up at our doorstep.
To my line producer’s credit, they completely agreed that it was something we really needed to think about and spend some time on.
We’re looking at TerraCycle to start out, just to find a way to deal with some of the waste that’s being created even though it’s not completely ideal. Recycling is still the third solution.
It’s about finding a way to mitigate all this waste that works for everyone without having to deal with the problem afterwards.
How did you make building houses a reality with your water bottles?
To help us make our impact a reality, we found a partner in Plastics For Change. A foundation based in India that we felt really shared our values.
The foundation itself focuses on the welfare of the people who are doing important work, including collecting trash and ocean-bound plastic.
In fact, one thing we asked them was what are they doing to take care of these people.
Sure, the environmental aspect is crucial, but could we take this one step further? Could we find a solution that really benefits these people and make sustainability something tangible?
We wanted to bring the sustainability factor together with providing support for these people and turn something of the lowest value into something of the highest value.
For example, a home for a child living on the street made from materials that would otherwise end up polluting our oceans. That’s a win-win.
The sustainability movement can sometimes forget about the people in the supply chain who are doing the dirty work. It’s great that you’re taking it one step further and looking after them.
Thank you! The ultimate goal is to elevate them. It’s not a marketing ploy. There’s no doubt we have to use it for our marketing because that’s what we want people to think about when they make a purchase.
In an ideal world, companies that make the most money do the most good. That way the most people would be winning and so would the planet.
For every dollar going towards serving sustainability, millions of dollars are hurting the planet so the goal is to take dollars off that million and put them on the one. It’s a long process but we have to remain optimistic to gain that momentum.
Sustainability is sometimes seen as a privileged topic. Do you think it’s important to reach out across the divide and bring more people into the debate?
Yes, 100%. The one thing we all have in common is planet earth and a plastic bottle or a car journey or a flight done by one person affects us all no matter who we are. It’s ubiquitous.
Although, having access to solutions without too much resistance is definitely easier when you have money, no doubt about it.
Also, when you have money, you have the space to think about the problems that are arising.
When you’re spending so much time trying to survive, worrying about the planet is so much harder to consider as a problem so again it comes back to people.
How do you elevate people and give them the space to think about these problems?
The sustainable movement affects every one of us so it should be our top priority. If we have time for sustainability then we have time to figure out other issues too.
If we put sustainability last in our priorities then we won’t have enough time to solve the Climate Emergency. The consequences of that is a very real issue that will come around the corner and drag everything down with it.
Visit the One Movement to find out more.