6 major metropolitan cities develop and implement action plans to reduce plastic pollution and climate emissions, boost recycling and grow jobs.
3 states pass groundbreaking legislation requiring companies to finance the reduction, reuse and recycling/composting of their packaging.
3 million+ Americans participate in campaigns to change how we use plastic.
We believe the solutions are often found upstream with the companies that design, produce and profit from environmentally harmful products. Our current focus is on developing sustainable packaging systems and preventing plastic pollution.
By developing and advancing state and local policy and corporate responsibility, UPSTREAM works to drastically reduce the amount of disposable plastic polluting our planet and impacting our health. We act as conveners and provide strategic leadership to develop and implement collaborative campaigns and projects across sectors and organizations.
UPSTREAM was started by a dedicated group of friends and activists in 2003. The two founders, Dr. Bill Sheehan and Helen Spiegelman, were pioneers of the Zero Waste movement in the United States and Canada. Through their work together in the 1990s on expanding recycling and composting, they soon realized that while recycling is important, we cannot recycle our way to a sustainable future.
They saw global production and consumption systems that were simultaneously driving the destruction of our wild places and local economies, and causing climate disruption, toxic pollution and widespread species collapse. No amount of interventions at the end of the pipe were going to change this paradigm.
They knew that to solve these problems, we have to work upstream. We have to build a circular economy where products are designed with safe, sustainable materials and produced with renewable energy. We have to ensure that consumer products and packaging are redesigned to either safely biodegrade or become manufacturing inputs for the next generation of products. And we have to build and sustain the infrastructure to make it possible.
Helen, Bill and our founding Board of Directors recognized that the source of many of our environmental problems are rooted in a lack of accountability for the downstream impacts of poor decisions made by major companies. As an antidote, we became the first national organization to widely promote extended producer responsibility (EPR) as a transformative solution to these problems. EPR policies make consumer goods companies legally responsible for the environmental and social impacts of their products. When implemented well, EPR helps ensure corporations design their products with sustainable materials, and finance the systems to collect and recycle their products and packaging – building the circular economy along the way.
Over the years, we have developed policies and organized public interest groups, government officials, leading companies, and citizens to change the way we make products and use materials. UPSTREAM has been the catalyst and clearinghouse for incubating and creating multiple national coalitions and campaigns in this service. By organizing diverse constituencies into powerful networks and aligning them around system-changing solutions, we can effect change at a high level with limited resources. Our efforts – and those of our partners and networks – have established a legacy of transformative policy that is addressing the environmental impacts of products and changing the way we do business. More than 70 producer responsibility laws covering 13 different types of products have been adopted in 34 states since our founding in 2003.
While laws are important, we know that legislation alone cannot bring about the change we need. UPSTREAM’s future will always be grounded in empowering people to change the systems which enable widespread ecological destruction and human suffering. Today, our focus is on developing sustainable packaging systems in the United States, and collaborative campaigns and projects to solve plastic pollution.
Dr. Sheehan is a policy expert and big picture thinker who has been at the forefront of two U.S. sustainability movements – Zero Waste and Extended Producer Responsibility – over the past two decades. Bill co-founded UPSTREAM (formerly Product Policy Institute). Bill holds a Ph.D. in ecology from Cornell University and held a research position at the University of California at Berkeley before turning to sustainable materials management.
Plastic Pollution Prevention Project (P4) Coordinator
Brooking’s work has focused on building collaborative capacity in teams, organizations, and networks, with a strong focus on working with groups addressing human-environment challenges. She has been fortunate to learn with senior strategists, coaches, facilitators and process designers in her time with Adaptive Edge, Groupaya, and Ag Innovations. She has also worked in communications and leadership coaching.
Jamie is an attorney and experienced environmental advocate with a long resume of successes in legislative and collaborative campaign efforts. Rhodes recently led efforts to evolve UPSTREAM’s packaging work and strategic shift to addressing the impacts of plastic on city governments. He just finished a three year term as the Chair of the Environmental Council of Rhode Island, the state’s environmental advocacy coalition.
Julie has 20+ years of experience working with non-profits and local government in organizational management, strategic planning, fundraising, and program development. Previously she worked for the Girl Scouts in NYC, Colorado Special Olympics, US Peace Corps as an NGO Advisor, City of Savannah, Boothbay Region Land Trust, and currently Friends of Thai Daughters and UPSTREAM.
Business Manager and Development Coordinator
Our team’s newest addition is Lauren Moore, Business Manager and Development Coordinator. A writer, editor, and activist, Lauren has volunteered with Maine People’s Alliance, People’s Action, and environmental projects with her local legislators. She has been published in various magazines and journals covering a spectrum from poetry to politics. Lauren has worked in business administration for four years and is excited to use her skills advocating against plastic pollution with the UPSTREAM team.
Matt is a social entrepreneur, policy expert and campaign strategist who has helped advance safer chemicals policy, product stewardship and packaging reduction throughout the United States. He has 15 years of experience promoting initiatives where corporations address the environmental and social impacts of what they produce. Matt brings a wealth of technical knowledge on creating and implementing legislation as well as real-world experience in running successful campaigns, building broad coalitions, and working with stakeholders from every side of an issue.
Packaging Policy Director
Miriam has had a life-long interest in waste and toxics issues. Previously, she was the California Director of Clean Water Action between 2008 and 2016, where she launched ReThink Disposable, a program that helps food service operations reduce single use packaging. She was a leading advocate helping the Clean Seas Coalition secure 150 local bag bans and 100 foam bans, and helped ban microbeads in personal care products and secure the statewide bag ban victory in California. Working for the state, she authored the California Action Plan to Reduce Land-Based Discharges of Marine Debris and the California Marine Litter Reduction Strategy.
Mark Hays – President
Dawn Erlandson – Vice President
Steven Sherman – Treasurer
David Stitzhal – Secretary
Susan R. Clark
San Francisco, CA