Airbnb’s co-founder contributes to clean ocean efforts

Eva Philips, Staff writer

Airbnb is well-known for providing access to vacation housing around the world, but the company recently made headlines for a reason unrelated to its business mission.

On Thursday, Feb. 2, Airbnb’s co-founder Joe Gebbia donated $25 million to the nonprofit The Ocean Cleanup. Gebbia’s donation was the largest in the history of the nonprofit, which was founded in 2013 by Boyan Slat, a Dutch entrepreneur.

The Ocean Cleanup’s mission is to remove plastic and waste from the world’s waterways, especially its oceans. This is a particularly important cause because it is frequently overlooked. Of the Sustainable Development Goals designated by the United Nations, the cause of ocean sustainability is the least-funded.

Just $10 billion was devoted to ocean protection between 2015 and 2019, a tiny fraction of the estimated annual $175 billion necessary to keep the oceans healthy and clean.

Gebbia cited the effectiveness of The Ocean Cleanup’s methods as the reason for his contribution, saying that the technology that the nonprofit uses is viable but needs additional funding so that it can be implemented on a large scale.

A major focus of the Ocean Cleanup is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Located in the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and California, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is comprised of roughly 220million pounds of plastic waste. So far, The Ocean Cleanup has removed over 400,000 pounds of that plastic.

The Ocean Cleanup also tries to prevent plastic from entering waterways and oceans in the first place.

The nonprofit’s founder and CEO, Boyan Slat, issued a public expression of gratitude thanking Gebbia for his donation. Slat said that the funds would help The Ocean Cleanup in its mission of eliminating plastic from the oceans of the world.

Slat was inspired to pursue this mission as a teenager, when a scuba-diving trip made him realize the volume of plastic waste in the ocean. While pursuing a degree in aerospace engineering, he participated in a TEDx conference in which he presented his concepts for ocean cleanup.When the video of his presentation went viral in 2013, he stopped pursuing the degree and founded The Ocean Cleanup to put his ideas into action.

Slat initially lacked the financial resources to start a nonprofit from thin air, but volunteers and a donor network provided the resources that allowed him to launch the project. The Ocean Cleanup has continued to grow and deploy its technology to help the earth ever since.

Gebbia’s donation reflects an increasing trend of philanthropy by the wealthy, particularly in the realm of climate change. Since 2015, donations from philanthropic foundations to organizations battling climate change have risen significantly from $900 million in 2015 to over $3 billion in 2021. Multiple foundations have announced their intention to divest from fossil fuel companies.

Other wealthy individuals like Gebbia have also committed funds to mitigate the effects of climate change. For example, Michael Bloomberg donated $500 million, Laurene Powell Jobs donated $3.5 billion and Jeff Bezos donated $10 billion.

Major corporations like Facebook, Google, Dove and Budweiser have all taken steps to reduce plastic pollution, while some major cities and states have restricted single use plastics.

The increasing trend of philanthropy reflects the increasing public consciousness of climate change, and it provides hope that unified effort can prevent climate change from forever altering our world.