Origin Story Interview W/ Dustin Bowers, PLAEX

Origin Story Interview W/ Dustin Bowers, PLAEX

Brighter Future

 / 

Feb 28, 2024

#BrighterFuture #entrepreneurship #Sustainability #ClimateChangeSolution #originstoryseries #seekthechange #WasteManagement #Recycling #ConstructionIndustry #CircularEconomy #ConstructionTechnology #Innovation

Brighter Future

We spoke with Dustin Bowers, owner and founder of PLAEX, a company recycling construction waste and other materials into heavy-duty interlocking construction bricks that can be used to quickly build new structures.

Thank you so much for being here with us, Dustin. Do you think you could provide some details about your business?

I've been in the construction industry for over 20 years. Growing up, I was always on job sites, helping out. Over the years, I've managed projects, run my own business, and done everything from foundations to cabinetry, stone countertops and mosaic tile work. I've worked on high-end finishes but also started from the basics like digging foundations and framing. I've managed every aspect of construction over the last 20 plus years.

I'm 35, turning 36 this year, and started working at 12. So I've spent a lot of time in the industry. A big part of being profitable is managing waste. When I was handling three to five jobs at a time as a smaller contractor, we managed waste decently, though it's a challenge in the construction industry. I've ended up with lots of scraps under my deck, enough to build things at home without buying new materials. However, this wasn't exactly a scalable solution, especially when I lived in Vancouver.

I spent four years there during the housing boom, making really good money. I worked on some of the fanciest, wildest houses, including a 40-million-dollar estate— one of the most luxurious in the Vancouver area. It was an eye-opener to the opulence there. At one point, we managed about 18 different projects, running a total of around 12 million in capital. It was a lot, and I essentially ran the company for my boss. He'd get the jobs and I'd make sure they happened.

We focused on improving efficiency and profitability, identifying waste reduction as a key strategy. As the general contractor, we found that about a third of our project costs went towards waste management. This included the excess materials, with an automatic 15 to 20% surplus for offcuts, scraps, and damage during transport, which could rise to 30% with unskilled labour, plus costs for bin permits and disposal.

The lack of skilled labour was alarming, as it led to increased waste. Despite their claims, many couldn't deliver, which was frustrating for me as someone from a family of tradespeople. It's a growing issue in the construction industry, and it leads to numerous deficiencies that need correction.

My boss would get frustrated with me for not adhering to my role of interacting with high end clients in a suit, but what could I do? At least once he saw me finishing a wall in a nice suit he’d bought me. I had to make sure the project was completed to our extremely high standards. We couldn't find anyone else who could achieve the desired “level five” drywall finish, where walls are so smooth that no imperfections show even under direct light. Working on high-end projects required this level of attention to detail.

I've worked with very different owners, from slumlords to billionaires. For slumlords, they’d often want to cover up problems— like paint over mould— which I would refuse. I’m not doing that. On the other end, working for billionaires meant dealing with extreme attention to detail, such as a single hair landing in the paint being a problem.

In our company, we realised that better waste management could significantly boost our profitability, potentially by 10 to 20 percent. This realisation sparked my interest in finding ways to eliminate waste, not just in the industry but also in my personal life. For about eight years, I ran my vehicles on waste vegetable oil, which was a fantastic experience. It gave me travel freedom and was an eye-opener. However, since starting the current business, I haven't had the time to collect and process the oil.

Using waste oil and seeing what gets thrown away, like when I found a bin full of perfectly good boots that had been deliberately damaged, really opened my eyes to the scale of waste in our society. It's staggering, and most people just ignore it because it's out of sight. With all the focus on climate change and carbon emissions, it's no wonder we're facing these problems when so much of what we produce ends up as waste.

This issue is more about managing materials at their end of life rather than just focusing on reducing extraction. By improving end-of-life management, we can lessen the need for new materials, thereby reducing carbon emissions and creating positive spin-off effects. Many efforts target symptoms rather than addressing the root cause, which is waste. This issue crosses political lines; regardless of where you stand politically, the problems of plastic waste are obvious. You can see landfills are getting out of hand.

I've been on a journey toward sustainability, which was intensified by my time working in Vancouver. After a dispute with my boss and a revelation about my eligibility for parental leave, I decided to take a break. Moving back to the East Coast, I began working on a project related to waste vegetable oil recycling. During this process, I had a light bulb moment and then I started looking at some other research papers of some preliminary work that have been done through some lab research. I conducted my own experiments and created a unique product, showed some friends this little patty of plastic concrete which gained some initial investment.

I started small, working out of a vendor tent set up beside my chicken coop, then after a small investment I moved operations to a shipping container. When I relocated to New Brunswick, I expanded into a home with a large garage, and in 2023 we began setting up nearly 4,000 square feet for our first demonstration facility in Dieppe New Brunswick. Last year, we produced around 500 units to test various aspects of our process. This year, we're focused on retooling and automating to achieve continuous operation.

Are you in continuous production?

Yes, almost. We finally launch a single production line this year, but we're still getting there. The biggest challenge, honestly, has been raising capital in the Canadian market. We're a resource extraction economy, not a manufacturing one. Though there is manufacturing in Canada, those who succeed in manufacturing have done so by fighting tooth and nail, especially since support is often geared towards resource extraction activities. The investment environment here is primarily focused on digital or resource extraction sectors. However, we have audacious goals to achieve zero waste and zero landfill by 2050. To reach these goals, we need investment in hard technology. No app or AI alone can solve the issue of waste going to landfills. Though AI can aid in sorting, physical machines are necessary for the actual sorting process.

What are you trying to achieve with PLAEX? Why does it matter to you?

With PLAEX, it's about revolutionising the construction industry. Half of all resources extracted globally— half of everything we extract— goes into construction: the steel, the aluminium, the wood, the gypsum, the pulp. Half of everything goes into construction. If we want to be more sustainable and make an impact in the world, that seemed like the place to look. For me environmental stewardship is important, and construction industry as a whole accounts for about 40% of global CO2 emissions and 1/3 of all waste, so there's significant impact potential.

There's a lot of focus in the world on solving climate issues. For me, getting into it, I've tried various avenues in my personal life, but true success comes from going back to your roots. So, when I was exploring this new business cycle of my life— I'm a bit of a serial entrepreneur— this new business cycle of doing big business was about how do I create the most impact by going back to my roots of what I know. I've been in the construction industry, I've run crews, I've run jobs. I know how buildings work.

The goal with PLAEX— and it's called PLAEX because of our tagline, “Building could be complex; make it play with PLAEX”— I want to make construction simple, eliminate errors, and eliminate the waste. With our products, there is no more waste. You're not cutting the blocks. There's no "oops, I cut it wrong", and the products are so durable that the damage in shipment will be little to none. You can literally drive a tractor into a PLAEX wall with minimal to no damage.

And that's about trying to create more robust structures made from recycled materials that simplify the process, and our end goal is full automation in the construction industry. So yes, we want to leverage AI, but it requires the bricks minus the mortar, and that's the technology we've developed now. It's this modular construction system that's not only simple to assemble but can also be disassembled. This is a huge value proposition versus something like 3D printing, which is a cool technology, but they're super slow. So painfully slow. It takes two days to 3D print one full size PLAEX brick with PLA on an FDM printer, so we avoid that for anything other than modelling.

Does your base material actually fit into 3D printers, or would it work anyway?

With 3D printing, there are a lot of issues, like layer adhesion issues and wall deformation during the process. It's not like you can just set it up; you have to have someone right by the print head the whole time, monitoring and babysitting it. It takes a crew of people to run one of these house 3D printers. There's a lot of obfuscation and playing with the numbers in that industry, but the biggest thing that stands out to me is, do you know anyone who owns a house that has never been renovated? How do you renovate a 3D printed house? There’s an internal geometry in that wall because you have an outside and inside layer, and inside of that, you have some sort of geometry that is specifically calculated and engineered to form a total structural component of that 3D component. The result is that the entire wall is a singular structural component which cannot be modified at all. If you cut into it, you've now jeopardised the internal structuring and opened it up for potentially a catastrophic failure. So, with 3D printing, you can't renovate it. Whereas with our products, you can take them apart and rebuild with them.

And the goal is to automate that vision, ten years from now you will have a truck pull up, a robotic arm unload some pallets, things fold off the sides, and a few humanoid robots pop off, kind of like those droid ships from Star Wars, and they just grab bricks and start placing them. In a matter of a day or two, you've got a fully built structure. And now, five years later, you've got a kid: you need another room built onto it, order it, the robots come, they disassemble part of it, they build out the addition, and it's a day or two renovation, and it's done. No mess, no waste, click everything together, and away you go. That's the vision we're working towards. Now, obviously, as a startup, you have to have a phased approach. So, we're starting much like Legos started, with three bricks.

With PLAEX, we've got a few basic products that are getting us into the market. We're entering the market as a landscape product. We're doing retaining walls and other non-occupied structures while we continue to move through the certification process, which is costly and time-consuming. Now we’re working with the CSA (Canadian Standards Association) and ICC (International Code Council).They're writing new policies as we are at the bleeding edge of technology and code development, and we're in direct contact with the code writers, they love what we're doing and they're excited to be working with us. They want to see us succeed. We have a very high level of confidence in the ability to get this into the broader build sphere. It's just a matter of some time and money.

In the short term, we can start to generate revenue already, and then we can start to expand. And I mean, just the non-occupied structures market is already a multi-billion dollar market that is massive and hungry for solutions.

You said that your company name just comes from a derivative of the word complex. Is there anything else to it?

Our company name, PLAEX, is a bit of a play on words. It comes from "plastic aggregate extrusion," which hints at our process, but we like to think it makes construction fun again. One of our taglines, again, is "Building could be complex, make it play with PLAEX," which really captures this spirit. It's our way of simplifying and adding a bit of fun to the building process.

Can you share more about your background and how it has influenced your current path?

I've been immersed in the trades from a young age. I remember starting my first project when I was about eight, helping out my family. Initially, my role was mostly to help out wherever I was needed, but over the years I learned a great deal. By 14, I was working full summers in the trades and I often worked with my uncles, both tradesmen, and my grandfather was a skilled tool and die smith. From him, I gained a strong understanding of metalworking and how to use various shop tools. Though I'm not an expert, my grandfather's expertise greatly influenced my practical knowledge.

My grandfather, who played a more significant role in my life than my father, instilled in me the importance of taking pride in my work and taught me how to use every power tool under the sun. As I go deeper into expanding my skills, I often recall the lessons and techniques he shared with me. These memories have become valuable assets in developing new equipment and processes.

I was also fortunate to have an uncle who was a pioneering computer programmer, especially during the early days of voice recognition technology. This early exposure to my grandfather's generation which was all mechanical and my uncle's technical skills, I think our generation is now thinking, 'How do we blend these things?'.

The beginning of humanoid robots like Digit, already being deployed in Amazon warehouses, shows this shift towards this integration. Companies like Hadrian X, which have developed bricklaying robots, further illustrate the rapid advancements in technology. Our Sci-Fi reality is literally just around the corner

Our company aims to be at the forefront of this transition, creating building supplies that are not only human-friendly but also designed for automation. Addressing labour and waste issues by turning challenges into solutions that are ready for the near future is our goal. We are working towards partnerships with robotics companies to revolutionise how projects are assembled, marking a significant shift in the industry.

What exactly led you to create your business?

Growing up, I saw so much waste and noticed how hard it was to find skilled labour. Then, having a child made me think, "I've got to leave something better behind for them." I guess one of our core principles is to leave the world a better place than you found it. That's one of our main goals as a business: to leave the world a better place than we found it.

What is your target market?

We have a three-pronged approach to our target market, focusing on three main customer segments. Firstly, we offer services to waste producers to help them manage their waste sustainably through Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) programs. We assist companies in solving their waste issues, saving them money while charging a small fee to ensure the waste meets our standards.

Our second customer segment is primarily B2B, focusing on product sales to retailers and contractors. This includes retail sales of sets, like the "PLAEX 5-in-1 Flowerbed" set, which comes with all the parts you need. We have flower beds, window wells, a sand pit or sandbox, a shed, and more palletisable sets for different uses, appealing to DIY enthusiasts and contractors seeking sustainable options.

Lastly, our third customer base comprises production partners. We're licensing our technology and setting up partnerships across Canada and internationally to expand our global reach. Our partners, already involved in recycling, use our technology to convert unusable materials into marketable products for our B2B segment.

What part of the work is most fulfilling to you?

That's a hard one. I definitely enjoy the hands-on days, seeing the planning and all the work come to fruition. The day we delivered our first project, these are the big moments. The most fulfilling part, I guess, is crushing milestones and actually delivering those solutions. Growing up in the trades, I've definitely recognised I get a lot less fulfilment from doing emails and grant applications than I do from wiring or welding a machine. I'd often rather be working with my hands as I've been working with my hands my whole life.

I wish more people understood the level of accomplishment and self-value that comes from the trades. My entire life has been around building and creating things, and every time you finish a project, you've delivered something beautiful. There's a sense of satisfaction that comes with that, which you can't match by beating any level in a video game. That's the beauty of our tech; it's very DIY-friendly. My kids know how to build it, although it's a bit heavy for them.

What's the PLAEX brick’s texture like— and how heavy are they?

They look very similar to concrete, just a bit more smooth. But yes, they definitely have the look and feel of concrete. The weight depends on the product. For instance, the Link Z is approximately 17.5 pounds, and our A1 brick is around 28 pounds. The weights are listed on our website for each product.

When was it that you decided to do something differently or take a new direction in your life or career?

2011 was the beginning of it. It seemed like there was a global movement that woke up a lot of people. It shook me out of the work-party-work cycle and made me realise, "Wait, there are actually some global issues going on. Can I play a part in it?" I got involved in the grassroots community for a little while and realised the lack of voice people have. Saying no doesn't accomplish anything. You have to offer another solution. I finally realised that the best way to change the world is through better business. If you want a better world, make better products, and that's it.

I try not to be cynical about it, but I found that, although there's a place for voicing grievances, people need to understand that in most countries we live in, the sad, cold reality is your voice doesn't count for much. What counts is business, action, results, and dollars.

And I think that's the avenue I'm pursuing now, realising that a better world comes through better business. Telling people to stop doing something doesn’t work— like, if you have kids and tell them no, they're just going to do it anyway. But if you give them something else to do, like "Here, do this instead," they're going to shift over to that, right? I think it’s also a little like in martial arts. You don't stop your opponent; you take their movement and shift it. If you try to be that wall in the face of an unstoppable force, you're going to get rolled over.

Be like water, as Bruce Lee said. Though we’ve addressed it elsewhere, what was a catalyst for you getting into all of this?

I think it could be said that from 2011 to 2013, I became aware of environmental issues and started using vegetable oil as my solution to live more sustainably. But I wanted something more scalable. Then, working in the trades and continuing through that, finally getting to that point in Vancouver was the big catalyst for this business. Being in Vancouver and having 18 projects, someone told me I was foolish to manage that many. But seeing all the waste made me realise we needed to do something about it. Then, having a child made me think I couldn't feel good about what I was doing anymore. I love building and creating beautiful things, but if that just leads to endless amounts of waste, it’s not good. We have a linear economy right now, not a circular one. Like my kids say, we are making bricks so we don't end up like they did in Wall-E's world, the Earth from the Pixar movie.

I try to stay away from political or controversial topics. I see a lot about occupying Mars, but we need a circular economy here before we can consider going off-world. I think the greatest potential impact is by making better products. Look at Tesla and other innovations. I think getting into political arguments always complicates things. Actions speak louder than words.

Something that repeatedly comes to my mind is the phrase, “Lest we forget.” You see it on monuments about World War I in particular, all across Canada and in other parts of the British Commonwealth. It’s about remembering the cost of war and how terrible it is. The full phrase is “Lest we forget the horrors of war.”

Imagine if we always remembered the full phrase. I mean, what are we meant to not forget? The thing that worries me is that forgetting this second part leads to the repetition of history every hundred years. It's about not forgetting the horrors of war. My grandparents escaped Germany, and I was raised on stories of how terrible it was.

This idea fascinates me, especially when thinking about the world after World War II. What if we didn't forget the horrors of war after WWII, and instead of fighting over small pieces of land, we had looked to space, where resources are virtually unlimited?

Imagine if we spent trillions of dollars on exploring space rather than on weapons. Where would our society be? That's a future I dream of.

Very well said. Thank you for being so thoughtful. I’d like to move onto something else now: what life experience do you think gave you the perspective and the confidence to know that you could come up with something different or better than what was currently out there?

I think there's a bit of an entrepreneurial spirit that some people are just born with. I think necessity is the mother of innovation. Growing up was not easy. I think it was forced on me, as when you grow up without much, you get creative. I'm a bit of a serial entrepreneur, like I said before, but I guess I've always made things with my hands. I've had a lifelong experience. My grandfather came from a generation of "fix it, don't throw it away." So you learned how to rewire everything, solder, remould some plastic over the edge of this thing that cracked, my grandfather's workshop was literally where we'd go and fix anything.

So I grew up with that instilled idea of resourcefulness. I grew up with a lot of stories of going through the war and the escape from that. My grandparents were in their teenage years when they escaped. So, it was very formative and I remember a lot of the stories growing up from it, and that focus of quality, putting your name on it, being resourceful, trying to make things go as far as they can, and that ethos that was instilled from a young age.

What were the biggest challenges and mistakes you made when you started out, and what did they teach you?

The biggest mistake, which I hinted at earlier, just involved hiring consultants who often took your money without delivering value. Initially, I found it easy to access grants for bringing on consultants, most of whom turned out to be a waste of money. I think there are a lot of people who are almost predatory on the startup community, taking advantage of founders. There's a balancing act of trusting people to do things because you can't manage everything alone, but it's crucial to find those who are genuinely trustworthy.

In my experience in the construction industry, I had developed a keen sense for detecting competence, which I found lacking when transitioning to a new industry. I trusted some people without having the right knowledge or questions to vet their competence, leading to inefficiency. Despite grants covering a good portion of the consultancy fees, I estimate close to fifty thousand dollars was wasted on ineffective consultants.

However, not all experiences were negative. Some accelerator programs and consultants proved extremely beneficial. The challenge was quickly learning to distinguish between genuine help and those just looking to profit from the startup community. This journey taught me the importance of being cautious with whom to trust, as the startup ecosystem is filled with individuals looking to exploit founders’ trust and try to abuse that.

What was the first “Aha!” moment that comes to mind in your journey with this product?

I was working on a proprietary vegetable oil system. I aimed for something simple, “plug in and play” style. I converted twelve people into vegetable oil users, which was great, but it turned me into a sort of helpline. It became slightly frustrating having to continuously troubleshoot and I realised I needed to create a simple kit, without all the complicated connectors. During my experiments with different materials, I had a material spill. That incident was an “Aha!” moment for the material.

Then, I stumbled upon The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss. Though not entirely relevant to my work, one aspect resonated with me. At the time, I was passionate about the vegetable oil project, but it lacked scalability. It's fine for an individual, but there was a level of confidence needed there which is difficult to educate people on. Listening to that audiobook made me think about returning to my roots in construction. That material spill moment, coupled with the insights from my research, sparked the idea to approach things differently.

What are the biggest compromises or sacrifices you've had to make to get where you are now?

Giving up my personal life. Combining kids and a startup means almost no social life. It was actually quite challenging because friends would ask, "Why don't you come out for drinks? Why don't you do this?" All my money is tied up in the business. I can't afford to buy alcohol or go out to eat. I've always  got 100+ emails in my inbox that need attention. If I'm not working, I'm spending time with my kids. It was a major shift, and there was definitely a period that was very difficult during that transition. Now, I'm at a point where I'm more accepting, but there are still moments when it feels like a complete life change. It's not for everyone, but someone has to do it. The goal keeps me going because, as long as we do this right, it will be worth it in the end. My kids won't have to face the things I did. That's the goal, right?

Absolutely. Speaking of your kids, what future are you hoping or envisioning to help create?

I envision a future with full autonomy in the construction industry, featuring entirely circular construction materials. Automation is the future, especially if we continue to advance technologically. Our product is designed to be user-friendly and sized for humans, moving away from the need for large machinery for installation, which is common and quite costly in some parts of the industry.

In my experience, I've seen significant misalignments in construction projects, with large sections of buildings not fitting together correctly. This is concerning both structurally and from a work process perspective. With too many of these projects the attitude is "you do as you are told" and "it's not your job to ask questions". Our solution aims to eliminate these errors through a unique brick design that ensures correct assembly through precise alignment and automation-friendly features.

The concept of "product as a service" might seem daunting to some, but it's integral to achieving a circular economy. This model ensures that products are returned to the manufacturer at the end of their lifecycle for reconstitution, promoting sustainability.

In the broader industry, stewardship programs are gaining traction, exemplified by initiatives like recycling coffee bags for discounts on future purchases or the use of reusable food containers. These models not only support environmental sustainability but also offer practical benefits to consumers.

Looking ahead, incorporating robotic installation and moving towards a product-as-a-service model could drastically reduce housing costs and make sustainable living more accessible. This approach, coupled with the inherent value retention in our construction materials, presents a promising future for both the industry and the environment.

This vision includes leveraging automation for construction and renovation, potentially transforming housing into a service rather than a product. Such innovations could lead to significant financial and environmental benefits, as demonstrated by our product's design that retains its value regardless of its use, providing a solid foundation for future financial and environmental sustainability initiatives.

How do you want close friends and family to look back upon you and your journey? Or what would you like other people to take from your journey?

I hope to inspire people to pick something and work towards making a change. Through conversations and events with founders over the last few years, I've met some amazing people. As an entrepreneur, you often feel isolated, even among your own friends or peers. Not everyone's mind operates at the same level, but getting involved in startup events and accelerator programs has opened many doors. We calculated our carbon emissions and found that, with our technology, we could offset over a billion tons of CO2 annually by 2035. Considering CO2 emissions are expected to reach about 55 billion tons by then, offsetting even one billion tons would mean a lot.

If you can offset 1-2% of emissions the world only need 50-100 game changing companies to be able to meet climate targets, we can fit all of those CEOs and founders into one room. It shows that the problems we face aren't insurmountable. If we can get a hundred people to solve one percent each, we're on our way. This realisation has been a great source of hope and inspiration. The key is to find an innovator or entrepreneur and support them wholeheartedly. Supporting the innovators and founders driving these changes is crucial, as many of us struggle with securing the necessary capital. The physical technology space, including recycling, construction, agricultural, and medical technologies, is where we need significant advancements to bridge our current challenges.

We're entering an era where mechanisation and digitization converge, and this nexus will be the largest growth sector for the next 50 years. Real growth comes from this intersection between the physical and digital worlds.

What advice would you give to a young entrepreneur just starting out?

Be cautious of people who talk a big game. Not all of them are dishonest, but many are. Expand your network as much as possible and step outside your bubble. If you've lived in one place your whole life, try to spend a month or two far from there. Getting out of Canada and visiting Europe for a month was financially challenging but perspective-wise, opened my eyes to a whole new level and I think it's crucial for success. Remember, your network is your net worth. A larger network makes it easier to navigate challenges, though it won't be easy.

Starting a startup isn't about controlling your hours; that's a fallacy. You'll find yourself at the whim of your employees and customers, but it's more rewarding than any job where somebody is breathing down your neck while feeling unfulfilled. Working towards a fulfilling goal is worth it, even though there will be days when you hate your job. No matter what, there will be tough days, but perseverance is key.

What books, movies, speeches, people, and so on have inspired you most in your life? Besides The 4-Hour Workweek, was there anything else?

Cradle to Cradle by William McDonough was definitely inspirational in my thoughts around waste and seeing every waste material as raw material for a new purpose. Another good one would be The Hydrogen Economy by Jeremy Rifkin. It's an interesting concept, rethinking the way that we approach energy. Additionally, I've started reading The Case for Climate Capitalism, a book by Tom Rand, who is a sustainability investor and venture capitalist who passionately argues for climate capitalism. He believes in turning activism into business, as money talks.

I also believe in the power of continuous learning. As a carpenter by trade, embarking on starting a manufacturing business has transformed me into a novice chemist. I've had to familiarise myself with chemistry, delving into polymerizations, and the reactions involving nitrogen, chlorine, and hydrogen. Though still a beginner, I've essentially become a chemist in some capacity.

I've also had to learn the basics of electrical engineering, driven by my longstanding interest in robotics and circuitry. I've always enjoyed playing with a magic board as a kid, building circuits.

Being a successful entrepreneur, in my view, requires being a lifelong learner. I wish I had more time for reading. Over the years, I've read hundreds of books and spent countless hours reading. Nowadays, my reading leans more towards research papers and data that can be practically applied or acquiring specific skills needed for particular tasks.

Do you ever use audiobooks?

I've gotten really into podcasts and stuff lately. I really enjoy Lex Fridman. I appreciate when people engage in good discourse, talking with others who might have very different viewpoints.

I listen to a couple of those podcasts a week while I'm doing things. It's cool to hear from these very intelligent people, diving into personal topics like what motivates them and discussing their experiences. The more I listen, the more I see the humanity in everyone. It doesn't matter their skin colour, political beliefs, or gender; people are just people. Everyone likes to think of themselves as the hero of their own story. When you grasp that key idea, you realise only sociopaths know they're evil; the rest of us believe we're doing good. But I think many people don't fully acknowledge or realise this. That kind of compassion comes from understanding that everyone is trying to be the hero in their story.

If there was one lasting message that you could share with the world, what would that be?

All it takes for evil to prevail is for good people to stand by and do nothing, as the saying goes. Don't just stand there; don't be bored. There's plenty of work to do. Choose a task. If a thousand dedicated people commit to change, the change will happen very quickly. Just a hundred companies changing 1% of their CO2 emissions could solve the problem. So, the problems aren't as big as they seem. Even rocket science is simple when you break it down into its individual components. When you need to weld this tank in a certain way or wire this cable in a specific manner, breaking it down makes most things fairly simple.

This is about going back to the basics, to first principles. How do we identify the fundamental components? How do we simplify it? It's very easy to overcomplicate things. Life is generally much simpler than we think. Just take a step back, focus on the solution. Have some determination and push through.

Humanity is awesome. For those who think humans are terrible for the planet, remember we're the only species that can carry life beyond our solar system's demise. That is inevitable. Despite our need to care for our planet, solar death will happen. Humans are the only species that can ensure life continues beyond that event. This should inspire future generations.

I love that positive outlook. Dustin, thank you very much for your time, for telling us a little about PLAEX, and for telling us your view of the future. From all of us at Brighter Future, we wish you nothing but the greatest success in your endeavours to bring your modular building system to the masses.

To learn more about PLAEX, please see www.plaex.ca.

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Origin Story Interview W/ John Vermilye, Fair Carbon

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Origin Story Interview W/ Andrew Behar, As You Sow

Origin Story Interview W/ Ruben Smit, Sunrise

Origin Story Series W/ Deepak Rajmohan, GreenPod Labs

Origin Story Interview W/ Christopher McClure, Loki Foods

Narratives of Change: Crafting Identity through Founder and Organisational Storytelling

Origin Story Interview W/ Emmanuel Briquet, Searen

How To Use An Origin and Vision Story to Attract Investors

The Power of Storytelling: How Climate Activists Drive Meaningful Change

Transforming IPCC Narratives for Global Climate Awareness

Origin Story Interview W/ Hannes Junginger, Carbonfuture

Origin Story Interview W/ David Monnier, Fonto de Vivo

Origin Story Interview W/ Tim Steppich, ClimateU

Origin Story Interview W/ Mark Driscoll, Tasting the Future

Origin Story Interview W/ Kalle Nilvér, GoClimate

Origin Story Interview W/ Marina Schmidt, Red to Green

Origin Story Interview W/ Christoph Pitter, ProteinDistillery

Origin Story Interview W/ Antonella De Lazzari, Naturannova

Origin Story Interview W/ Dijana Galijasevic, Impact Hero

Origin Story Interview W/ Anastasia Kiku, Reusables

Origin Story Interview W/ Nathan Bonnisseau, Plan A

Origin Story Interview W/ Ryan Kushner, Third Derivative

Origin Story Interview W/ Philipp Arbter, Colipi

Origin Story Interview W/ Thibault Sorret, ERS

Origin Story Interview W/ Csaba Hetényi, Plantcraft

Origin Story Interview W/ Rhea Singhal, Ecoware

Origin Story Interview W/ Joel Tasche, CleanHub

Origin Story Interview W/ Jennifer Cote, Opalia

Origin Story Interview W/ Allen Himes, Indigo Energy

Origin Story Interview W/ Emily Taylor, SAGES

Origin Story Interview W/ Aaron Schaller, MeliBio

Origin Story Interview W/ Clover Hogan, Force of Nature

Origin Story Interview W/ Bernard de Wit, Regreener

Origin Story Interview W/ Wolfgang Baum, Fairventures Worldwide gGmbH

Origin Story Interview W/ Anne Therese Gennari, The Climate Optimist

Origin Story Interview W/ Frederique De Clercq, Fred's Mayo

Origin Story Interview W/ Dimitry Gershenson, Enduring Planet

Origin Story Interview W/ David Cutler, Fortuna Cools

Origin Story Interview w/ Auriane Borremans, The Butcher's Daughter & Eatention

Origin Story Interview w/ Will Wiseman, Climatize

Origin Story Interview w/ Todd Khozein, SecondMuse

Origin Story Interview w/ Ryan Hagen, Crowdsourcing Sustainability

Origin Story Interview w/ Noor, Project CECE

Origin Story Interview w/ Shobhita Soor, Legendary Foods

Origin Story Interview W/ Yvonne Jamal, JARO Institute for Sustainability and Digitalization

Origin Story Interview w/ Paul Shapiro, The Better Meat Co.

Origin Story Interview W/ Topher White, Rainforest Connection & Squibbon

Origin Story Interview W/ Felipe Krelling, NewBio

Origin Story Interview W/ Samuel Wines, Co-Labs Australia

Origin Story Interview W/ Mirjam Walser, The Vegan Business School

Origin Story Interview W/ Walid Al Saqqaf, Rebalance Earth

Origin Story Interview W/ Ana Rosa de Lima, Meli Bees

Origin Story Interview W/ Maya Ashkenazi, Maolac

Origin Story Interview W/ Vanessa Westphal, Choosy

Origin Story Interview W/ Leah Bessa, De Novo Dairy

Origin Story Interview W/ Jasmin Shaikh, Axia Foods

Origin Story Interview W/ Roee Nir, Forsea

Origin Story Interview W/ Simone Köchli, Loopi

Origin Story Interview W/ Harald Neidhardt, Futur/io

Origin Story Interview W/ Karsten Hirsch, Plastic Fischer

Origin Story Interview W/ Antoinette Vermilye, Gallifrey Foundation

Origin Story Interview W/ Roman Laus, Mewery

Origin Story Interview W/ Louisa Burman, Sustainability & B Corp Consultant

Origin Story Interview W/ Alfredo Seidemann, Viatu

Origin Story Interview W/ Insa Mohr, Mooji Meats

Origin Story Interview W/ Björn Öste, Oatly & Good Idea Drinks

Origin Story Interview W/ Brett Thompson, Newform Foods (Formerly Mzansi Meat Co.)

Origin Story Interview W/ Liza Altena, repath

Origin Story Interview W/ Troy Carter, Earthshot Labs

Origin Story Interview W/ Alex Felipelli, Veggly

Origin Story Interview W/ Tyler Mayoras, Cool Beans

Origin Story Interview W/ Sandra Einvall, Fikat

Origin Story Interview W/ Eloy Padilla, The Fair Cottage

Origin Story Interview W/ David Garrison, Climate & Capital Connect

Origin Story Interview W/ Gaurav Vora, Renergii

Origin Story Interview W/ Sebastian Alexander Guldstoev, Continued Fasion

Origin Story Interview W/ Nuno Brito Jorge, GoParity

Origin Story Interview W/ Martin Baart, ecoligo

Origin Story Interview W/ Luca Michas, yamo

Origin Story Interview W/ Patricia Plesner, EcoHotels.com

Origin Story Interview W/ Dágon Ribeiro, Biotecland

Origin Story Interview W/ Chris Langwallner, WhatIF Foods

Origin Story Interview W/ Matteo Aghemo, Must Had

Origin Story Interview W/ Lili Dreyer, VAER