NEXT ICON: IMPACD BOATS
These days, many products are - and are expected to be - suitable for recycling. That is not the case for boats, however. In the Netherlands, for example, there are circa 25,000 abandoned boats - often old and worn out - that are simply dumped in nature. Marieke de Boer and Jörgen de Jong felt it was time for a change. That is why they began building Europe's most sustainable boat brand: IMPACD Boats. CEO Marieke de Boer explains.
This story was first published in the Next Icons Magazine. You can read the entire magazine here.
Where did you get the idea for IMPACD Boats?
Marieke: “We started around three years ago, during the height of the coronavirus pandemic. All of a sudden, we were cooped up at home and denied the pleasures of being around other people. We began asking ourselves what we could do to make our time at home more enjoyable. We grew up in Friesland and have always loved that verdant environment with its many waters. So, we came up with the idea to go sailing in our free time. Yet without a boat of our own and with so many other people also trying to rent a boat at the time, it was difficult. That gave us the idea to build our own boat for our family.”
You didn't just build any old boat, nor did you stop at one, did you?
Marieke: “That's right. For those few days out of the year that we could spend out on the water, we wanted to keep our environmental impact as small as possible. We came up with the idea of building a 3D-printed boat using recycled material. It was a crazy idea, but it worked. Before long, quite a few other people asked to buy one of our boats for themselves. That made us wonder if we could take our idea to the next level. Things began happening quickly then: from a single spot in the winter storage facility to work on our own boat, we now have an entire warehouse complete with a showroom and a marina with eighty-five berths. We never intended to turn our idea into a watersport business, but we felt strongly about making a change. Everything grew out of that initial idea.”
What was that change you wanted to make?
Marieke: “Old boats cannot be recycled, but you have to do something with them. Your options are limited: you can have your boat chopped up, but that is very expensive. The other - illegal - option is to dump the boat somewhere. That happens all the time, so our natural environment is now full of old abandoned boats. One of the reasons why this happens is because when people buy a boat, they do not think - or want to think - about what they will do with their boat once it is old and worn out. When you buy a refrigerator, you don't have to think about that: it will get picked up and recycled. It's not that simple with a boat. During their production, we have to think a lot more carefully about their end-of-life phase. We do not want our boats to be a problem for our children's generation to solve. That is why our boats are made from recycled material, such as PET bottles, which can eventually be thrown in a shredder. You can then use that material to print a new boat. This cycle can be repeated seven or eight times. A version of that boat could stay in the family for generations, all while keeping its environmental impact to a minimum.”
Sustainability is obviously very important to you. How else is that reflected in your business?
Marieke: “We aim to grow in a sustainable manner as well. We are content to grow at a slower pace if that's more sustainable. After all, we don't want everything we do to be about money. That is why we were not particularly eager to work with investors at first. Eventually, we realized that there are also investors who share our vision for a more sustainable world and who respect our approach. We have joined forces with investors who not only support us with money, but also with knowledge. This has allowed us to expand our team and establish an IMPACD center, where we explain what we do during interactive sessions. In the last year, we have also received quite a few awards and nominations. Those are huge steps for a small company like ours. We are motivated by the recognition we receive. For example, we have caught the eye of Mercury, a major organization that wants to collaborate with us so they can become more sustainable. Internationally, we also have some irons in the fire. It has been a real roller coaster of growth, innovation and energy.
Luckily, I love that dynamic. It is good to step out of your comfort zone. You have to keep pushing the limits to live your life to the fullest. We only have one planet, so if you want to do something that is not essential for your survival - such as going on a boat trip - you have to ask yourself how you can do that without harming the environment. That is what we did and what has led us to stray off the beaten path. As Jörgen likes to say: “Just because everyone does something one way doesn't mean I have to do it like that, too.” There are always multiple roads that lead to the same destination.”
"We do not want our boats to be a problem for our children's generation to solve."
Marieke de BoerCEO IMPACD Boats
Based in Friesland, IMPACD Boats focuses on innovation and a sustainable experience on the water. In fact, their sloops are 3D printed from recycled materials. Thus, together with their sloop line, they ensure a clean, sustainable and green future for future generations.