College of Charleston School of Business senior Joshua Weston created a product called Green Blox, which aims to address the global crisis of homelessness and waste management. His hard work may be about to pay off in a big way.
Weston is one of 25 finalists in the running to win $100,000 at the University of St. Thomas’ e-Fest, the largest undergraduate business plan competition in the country. The finalists — including students from Johns Hopkins University, NC State University and Drexel University — were among a group of 147 applicants, each vying for the title of best business.
A business administration major with a minor in entrepreneurship, Weston initially created Green Blox for an ecopreneurship assignment from associate professor David Hansen. Hansen challenged his students to research, plan and execute a business that could be both financially successful and socially responsible.
Enter Green Blox — a brick-sized, Lego-like block made from upcycled (or reused) plastic that provides consumers with the opportunity to build a beautiful patio in their back yard, while simultaneously working to eliminate plastic waste.
Modeled in the same vein as TOMS or Warby Parker, for every Green Blox sold to build a patio, the company will donate one brick to a nonprofit that works to build homes for the world’s homeless.
Weston was inspired to combat homelessness after traveling the globe as a member of the United States Air Force, where he saw thousands of people living in poverty. “It was through those experiences that I realized I wanted to make a difference and do whatever I needed to do to make that happen,” said Weston.
His decision to make the building block using upcycled plastic came to fruition after reading alarming data about plastic waste. According to an article by The Atlantic, Americans alone generate 10.5 million tons of plastic each year, but less than two percent of that plastic is recycled.
Recycling centers, which operate like any other business, make a profit when they are able to sell their plastics. If they are unable to sell the plastic they take the waste to a landfill, where Weston says they usually have to pay anywhere from $10 to $100 to drop it off.
“Instead of letting the leftover plastic rot in a landfill for the next 1,000 years, we take it off of the recycling companies’ hands for free and turn it into something everyone can use,” says Weston.
The bricks, which are made using 3-D printers, provide key advantages to consumers as well, he says. “They’re extremely lightweight and attractive, and our interlocking design provides a seamless transition for constructing a patio on solid, level ground.”
But Weston wasn’t always an expert on building patios. It took months of researching the brick, block and paver industry, customizing the look and feel of the product and working with local recycling companies before Green Blox was finalized.
Weston also worked closely with School of Business entrepreneurship professors David Hansen, Stuart Williams, David Wyman and Kelly Shaver to get the product in pitch-perfect condition. In fact, Shaver first encouraged Weston to apply to enter the e-Fest competition for the chance to win the money and grow his business.
A win for Weston is also a win for the School. In addition to the top prize of $100,000, the E-Fest gives the winner’s university $10,000 in grants to support entrepreneurship programs and initiatives — the likes of which inspire young entrepreneurs like Weston to make a profit while making a difference.