Jackson Reigler, a West Michigan native and University of Michigan sophomore, studying business and environmental science, organized a beach cleanup to pick up trash and turn some of it into clothing.
“I’m really interested in the power of business to address the issues that we have in front of us in terms of environmental preservation,” Reigler, who is also the founder of the startup clothing company Oshki, said. “It (Oshki) means fresh in Ojibwe. Our lake is fresh, occasionally frozen, but it should always be clean.”
Jackson’s business has been selling T-shirts made of polyethylene terephthalate or PET plastics, which is primarily found in disposable plastics like water bottles and eating utensils.
“These are the items that are often discarded on our beaches,” Jackson said. “They are ruining a lot of the ecosystems that we have. Turning more into microplastics as they get broken down, which can really get into the fishes’ waste stream and get into our food stream as well.”
To prevent that from happening, Jackson took to social media to gather support for the cleanup.
Allison Kamp brought her children to the beach. She says it’s about teaching the next generation to be good stewards of the environment.
“That is part of being a human being — is to take responsibility for the environment and take care of our public spaces so that everyone can enjoy them,” Kamp said. “I’m from here, so it’s something I want to be able to pass on to my kids and want to be able to enjoy this and play here and not have to worry about garbage all over.”
On top of cleaning up, volunteers were given a 25% discount for any item on Jackson’s website.
Jackson’s mom Andrea says the business is something that their family members have also gotten involved in.
“His grandpa helps him on the accounting end, his younger sister helps with the packaging and orders, but this was really all his own effort,” Andrea Riegler said. “He just had this bug, you know, and we did nothing to set him up in any way we still don’t to this day other than buying a couple of t-shirts.”
She’s encouraged by the leadership that her son has learned through starting his own business.
“He’s always been a nature boy, and he also has always had that entrepreneurial spirit it’s just ingrained in him,” she said. “He just decided that he wanted to do something, and it made sense that he would do it on the lakeshore.”
Jackson says his company donates 15% of every purchase to nonprofits committed on preserving the Great Lakes.
“We’ve already donated nearly $2,000 to the effort,” Jackson said. “I’m still pretty young, but it has been really awesome to see kind of how we’ve transformed so far and going into the future how we can transform in a better way.”