After reaching the summit of a hike with her worn-out backpack, Meaghan McDonald longed for a pack that would suit her adventures.
It was there where everything clicked and the marine naturalist got the idea to create a backpack that combined her passions for the ocean and upcycling, along with some inspiration from her floating living arrangements.
McDonald is the founder and CEO of Salt Legacy, a Victoria company preparing the fall launch of its adventure backpack and other products made from old sailcloth.
Her idea to use sails that had flown their last voyage as their material of choice came in part after navigating Victoria’s murky housing market. Met with the opportunity to buy a live-aboard sailboat, McDonald signed the papers in less than a day, despite never sailing a day in her life.
“If I hadn’t bought that sailboat I wouldn’t have started Salt Legacy,” she said. “I learned to live more simply and not consume as much, it taught me a lot about sustainability.”
It’s been a couple of years since McDonald boosted her business acumen through Project Zero, Victoria’s circular economy incubator. While the company has been growing ever since, getting a business off the ground is no breeze. They just secured a bigger space to work in, but McDonald and business strategist Tisha Becker’s apartment has been filled with the sails and industrial sewing machines for months.
“They are definitely not small,” the CEO said, adding it’s a comedic scene watching them haul the heavy canvasses to their top-floor unit. “These sails literally take over our entire living room and we’re cutting the patterns on our kitchen table.”
Sourcing the sails, however, proved much easier than expected once word got out. A tenet of Salt Legacy, and McDonald’s favourite part of the process, is sitting down with boat owners to hear the history of the donated sails and the tales from their many journeys.
“You can see that memories are flashing around inside their head and that’s what I want to capture,” McDonald said. Each of Salt Legacy’s collections includes the story of the sail that went into their backpack, surfboard carrier, hip pack or other bag. “They’re passing these sails on to me and were making them into a beautiful product, and again their legacy will carry on.”
The mission is to use the power of up-cycling to reconnect people with the environment and what happens to waste, while giving the sails a renewed purpose.
“These products still have such a long lifespan, even though they’re not fit for sea anymore they’re still extremely durable.”
The company wants connection – whether it be to the oceans, history or waste – at the heart of what they do. McDonald participated in a two-month coastal cleanup along the Great Bear Rainforest where they removed 210 tons of marine debris, like fishing nets and 90,000 plastic water bottles. Salt Legacy is keeping track of the recovered sails so the public can see exactly how much is being diverted.
It’s part of another pillar of the company that will use a multimedia speaker series and learning resources to tell stories of interacting with nature, and to raise awareness of consumerism and environmental issues.
From creating a history-filled, hike-worthy pack to pushing for sustainability on the seas, McDonald said it’s been a dream job to combine all her passions.
“It’s definitely been a very interesting road so far but that’s what being an entrepreneur is.”
For more on Salt Legacy, go to saltlegacy.com.
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