PLATINUM2024

The 5 Gyres Institute

Empowering and inspiring action to reduce ocean plastic pollution through science, education, and advocacy

aka 5 Gyres   |   Santa Monica, CA   |  http://www.5gyres.org

Mission

5 Gyres mission is to empower action against the global health crisis of plastic pollution through science, education, advocacy.

Ruling year info

2010

Executive Director

Anna Cummins

Main address

PO Box 5699

Santa Monica, CA 90409 USA

Show more contact info

EIN

27-1350279

NTEE code info

Environmental Quality, Protection, and Beautification N.E.C. (C99)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Communication

Blog

Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

The plastics crisis is growing and evolving at lightning speed, in both alarming and inspiring directions and public awareness of the issue is at an all time high. The issue itself - the volume of plastics produced from oil and gas, the petrochemical infrastructure expansion, the direct connection to climate change, and the documented harm all appear to be growing exponentially. At the same time, a burgeoning global movement of advocacy organizations, corporate leaders, and the public are driving a groundswell of unprecedented action around plastics.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Science

Science has always been the cornerstone of 5 Gyres’ work, informing our solutions, strategies, and focus. We conduct primary research to better understand the global impact of plastic pollution and to vet alternatives to petroleum based plastics. Our research projects are collaborative, inviting other global scientists, thought leaders, and industry experts to partner with us, ensuring that we are asking and answering the right questions. Our nearly 15 years of research on ocean and terrestrial plastics leads us to focus on understanding specific sources, or sectors, that generate plastic pollution, in order to create more effective solutions. While the public sees plastic as a singular problem, we know that there’s more to
the story. There are many unique sources of plastic pollution such as microfibers from textiles, microplastics from agricultural practices, floating ocean plastics from fishing gear, and every day single use packaging.

Population(s) Served
Adults

Our Trash Academy series integrates education, advocacy, and community science with the 5 Gyres NGSS-correlated curriculum into a multi-phased educational platform. We also began teaching five, 10-week environmental science courses to 150 students in the Los Angeles Unified School District through our partnership with the collective impact group, ExpandLA. These classes included The Lifecycle of Plastic, How Plastic Travels Through the Environment, and Overall Solutions to Plastic Pollution. It was very well received by participants, with an average content retention rate of 23-26%, and is likely to soon be implemented into LAUSD’s Science curriculum. With our 10+ years of plastic pollution expertise, we are able to add a unique, first hand element to our educational programming and look forward to sharing our stories with children and families from all over the world.

Population(s) Served
Adults
Children and youth

The 5 Gyres advocacy team engages in policy work through coalition-building on local, regional, national, and global scales. Through these networks, we advocate for better regulation of plastic usage and disposal worldwide by providing scientific data to further policy change. We play a leadership role with Reusable LA, and actively engage with the Clean Seas Coalition, National Reuse Network, Plastic-Free National Parks, and the BreakFreeFromPlastic movement. Though policy is an ever-changing and slow moving process, we are thrilled to be on the front lines of using science to inform real change through upstream solutions in our local, national, and global communities.

Population(s) Served
Adults
Ethnic and racial groups

Where we work

Affiliations & memberships

Consultative Status for the United Nations 2017

Our results

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

How does this organization measure their results? It's a hard question but an important one.

Number of national media pieces on the topic

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Number of research studies conducted

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Number of new donors

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Type of Metric

Outcome - describing the effects on people or issues

Direction of Success

Increasing

Number of overall donors

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Our Sustainable Development Goals

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn more about Sustainable Development Goals.

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

In the last 10 years, we’ve seen an acceleration in public awareness, media attention, and scientific research on plastic pollution. A wide array of proposed solutions have been introduced to mitigate the plastic pollution crisis, ranging from plastic reduction policies and improved waste management systems, to new innovation, material redesign, and technology solutions. Many companies are keen to “do the right thing”, complying with ESG goals around climate and plastic reduction, and championing their efforts to the public.

But choosing the most impactful and equitable strategies to employ can be confusing. Many alternative materials can have unintended consequences, fail to address root causes, or fail to perform to the standards that are expected by consumers, which can lead to a lack of market confidence. Consequently there is still a rapid increase in plastic production, consumption, and pollution despite unprecedented levels of awareness. What’s missing is a science-based, holistic lens to ensure these proposed solutions are truly sustainable and equitable.

As a science-based organization, we see a need for solutions that are vetted, effective, and scalable. We are often asked by corporate partners and brands about the legitimacy of emerging solutions and materials, such as bioplastics - Do they truly break down? Are they benign in the environment? Do their sustainability claims hold up in real world scenarios?

With the rapid advances in science and technology around alternatives to plastics, we need applied research and pilot demonstrations to test the effectiveness of solutions in real world environments. And we need to communicate these findings clearly to decision-makers - including corporate leaders, advocacy organizations, and legislators.

5 Gyres is leading solutions-focused research -- investigating key questions around the sources of plastic pollution, and the sustainability of various biomaterials -- to accelerate effective action. We believe this is one of our greatest contributions to the larger plastic pollution movement.

We envision a world in which our global communities are protected from the harmful impacts of plastic pollution. We work to keep conversations around plastic based on facts with the intention of slowing the constant global increase in the consumption of harmful plastics.

Our mission is to empower action against the global health crisis of plastic pollution through science, education, and advocacy. Our goal is to reduce the harmful impacts of plastic pollution by 2030.

1) Accelerate solutions through targeted science - After more than a decade of work on plastics, and an analysis of the solutions landscape, we feel strongly that a deeper focus on pairing plastic solutions with their source, or “sector”, and their material (polymer type) will yield a more targeted, timely and effective impact. We have identified 17 unique sectors we feel capture these sources, ranging from textiles to fishing gear to durable goods. For the next 2-3 years we will focus the majority of our research and advocacy work on one primary sector: Textiles, and one category of materials: “Bioplastics” (or naturally occurring polymers). The applications of bio/compostable plastics are relevant across multiple sectors, including agricultural, textiles, and single use plastics, where the majority of our coalition and city-work remain focused. The textiles sector will require more concerted attention and stakeholder convening, as textiles are a major source of overall plastic pollution, yet textile waste is less frequently addressed by plastics advocacy groups that focus on single use plastics.

Beginning in 2022 - 2023, 5 Gyres is conducting deeper research to understand the impact of synthetic textiles and bioplastics on the environment and how vetted innovation can drive scalable solutions.

2) Communicate impact-driven science to key corporate and policy leaders - As a science-based organization working to drive impact, we will share our findings with the decision makers who can most act on them. Questions like, “do bioplastics truly degrade”, or “does our clothing shed microplastics into the air we breathe” are critical when making policy and corporate decisions about packaging, materials and clothing design, or filtration for commercial laundromats. But often, the research is either lacking, or not being communicated effectively to the people who can most act on it. We will work to ensure that the right information is reaching the right people, in a way that is understandable and relatable. This is a core part of being honest brokers. Speaking in a context that people understand. Our team is committed to meeting our audiences where they are at, pairing our research with effective and equitable communication strategies.

3) Community-based science to drive local, scalable reuse models - When key stakeholders are involved in both identifying and trouble-shooting the primary source of problematic plastics in their communities, they can drive more equitable solutions. Far too often, local policies are set without engaging the communities that will be most affected, which can lead to challenges with adoption or implementation. 5 Gyres’ TrashBlitz research platform is a community-science based tool to engage stakeholders in identifying specific plastic types and brands in a region, around which communities can formulate reduction strategies. Our most recent event in Austin, TX, led to the creation of the Austin Reuse Coalition.

The 5 Gyres Institute was co-founded by Marcus Eriksen and Anna Cummins. Now, 10+ years experience leading plastic pollution research and awareness at the US and global scale.

Marcus Eriksen-
Marcus has a PhD in Science Education from University of Southern California. Eriksen has devoted his life to the problem of plastic pollution. Beginning in 2010, 5 Gyres spearheaded a series of scientific firsts by researching plastic in all five subtropical gyres, as well as the Great Lakes and Antarctica—sailing a total of 50,000 miles in the process. In 2014, under Eriksen’s direction, 5 Gyres convened eight scientists around the world to publish the first global estimate of plastic pollution in our ocean: 5.25 trillion particles weighing in at 269,000 tons of “plastic smog” worldwide. Eriksen’s co-authored paper on plastic microbead pollution in the Great Lakes inspired a two-year collaborative campaign that culminated in a federal ban on microbeads, which President Obama signed into law in 2015. In August 2016, Eriksen led 5 Gyres’ 17th expedition—this time to research microplastics and nanoplastics above the Arctic Circle

Anna Cummins -
Anna has over 20 years of experience in environmental non-profit work, education, writing, and campaign development. She has worked in marine conservation, coastal watershed management, sustainability education, and high school ecology instruction. Anna received her undergraduate in History from Stanford University, and her Masters in International Environmental Policy from the Monterey Institute for International Studies. In 2001, Anna received a fellowship from the Sustainable Communities Leadership Program, to work with Santa Cruz based non-profit Save Our Shores, coordinating bilingual outreach education and community relations around marine conservation initiatives.

In 2007 Anna joined the Algalita Marine Research Foundation as education adviser, conducting school outreach and giving public presentations on plastic marine pollution. In 2008, Anna completed a month long, 4,000-mile research expedition studying plastic debris in the North Pacific Gyre, during which her now husband, Dr. Marcus Eriksen, proposed. The two married during a 2,000 mile cycling/speaking tour from Vancouver to Mexico, giving talks about plastic pollution. In 2009, Anna and Marcus co-founded The 5 Gyres Institute, to eliminate plastic pollution in the world’s oceans through research, education, and community engagement. Anna was also elected a fellow of the Wings World Quest in 2011, received a Golden Goody Award in 2013, and serves on the Advisory Network of the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy (HLP).

-Published over 15 research papers in notable scientific journals along with reports on single-use plastics.
-Science and network efforts on microbeads awareness campaign in 2015 led to a nationwide-ban and the creation of the Microbeads-Free-Waters-Act signed by President Obama.
-Outreach towards corporate, academic and public partners averages 100+ presentations per year
-Since our organization inception, we have led 19 research and outreach expeditions around the world.

How we listen

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Seeking feedback from people served makes programs more responsive and effective. Here’s how this organization is listening.

done We demonstrated a willingness to learn more by reviewing resources about feedback practice.
done We shared information about our current feedback practices.
  • How is your organization using feedback from the people you serve?

    To identify and remedy poor client service experiences, To identify bright spots and enhance positive service experiences, To make fundamental changes to our programs and/or operations, To inform the development of new programs/projects, To identify where we are less inclusive or equitable across demographic groups, To strengthen relationships with the people we serve, To understand people's needs and how we can help them achieve their goals

  • Which of the following feedback practices does your organization routinely carry out?

    We take steps to get feedback from marginalized or under-represented people, We aim to collect feedback from as many people we serve as possible, We take steps to ensure people feel comfortable being honest with us, We engage the people who provide feedback in looking for ways we can improve in response, We act on the feedback we receive

  • What challenges does the organization face when collecting feedback?

    It is difficult to get the people we serve to respond to requests for feedback, We don’t have the right technology to collect and aggregate feedback efficiently

Financials

The 5 Gyres Institute
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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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Connect with nonprofit leaders

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Build relationships with key people who manage and lead nonprofit organizations with GuideStar Pro. Try a low commitment monthly plan today.

  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
  • Access beautifully interactive analysis and comparison tools
  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

Want to see how you can enhance your nonprofit research and unlock more insights? Learn More about GuideStar Pro.

The 5 Gyres Institute

Board of directors
as of 01/19/2024
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Kathleen Egan

ecomedes

Term: 2020 - 2024

Kathleen Egan

ecomedes

Anna Cummins

5 Gyres

Lacey Reddix

Olukon Minerals

Pamela Marcus

Lifefactory

Ashley Van Stone

City of Orlando

John Lochner

NYSERDA

Teresa Ish

Walton Family Foundation

Lian Jue

21st Century Fox

Aaron McKinnon

NASA

Jonathan Taylor

Chemical Engineer/Consultant

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Not applicable
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? No

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 1/19/2024

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? Candid partnered with CHANGE Philanthropy on this demographic section.

Leadership

The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
White/Caucasian/European
Gender identity
Female

Race & ethnicity

Gender identity

Transgender Identity

Sexual orientation

No data

Disability

No data

Equity strategies

Last updated: 02/17/2021

GuideStar partnered with Equity in the Center - an organization that works to shift mindsets, practices, and systems to increase racial equity - to create this section. Learn more

Data
  • We review compensation data across the organization (and by staff levels) to identify disparities by race.
  • We disaggregate data to adjust programming goals to keep pace with changing needs of the communities we support.
  • We employ non-traditional ways of gathering feedback on programs and trainings, which may include interviews, roundtables, and external reviews with/by community stakeholders.
Policies and processes
  • We seek individuals from various race backgrounds for board and executive director/CEO positions within our organization.
  • We help senior leadership understand how to be inclusive leaders with learning approaches that emphasize reflection, iteration, and adaptability.
  • We engage everyone, from the board to staff levels of the organization, in race equity work and ensure that individuals understand their roles in creating culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.