Skip to content
A photo of Dan Cullum sitting.

Heads up - this blog post is more than 6 months old. Some details may be out of date.

Powered by Bulb

Bulb hero: Dan Cullum, recycled boat builder

Meet Dan, our strategy manager and boat builder extraordinaire. Dan built a boat out of recycled plastic and sailed it the whole way down the Mississippi.

Bulb hero: Dan Cullum, Bulb team member and boat builder extraordinaire

Dan is a Bulb hero. Not only is he an important member of our team at Bulb, but he’s a boat builder too. And not just any old boat. Dan and a group of friends built a boat made entirely out of recycled plastic and sailed it the entire length of the Mississippi. They wanted to draw attention to the environmental problems created by single-use plastic. We love it when people tackle protecting the planet head on. 

Most people think of Dan’s home, New Zealand, as a beautiful country. But Dan and his friends couldn’t help noticing that a number of the waterways are actually pretty polluted. They wanted to do something about it. So they started building kayaks out of recycled plastic and taking to the rivers. People sat up and noticed. The press and schools across the country got in touch. This gave them the confidence to dream a little bigger. Dan started plans for a boat made entirely from recycled plastic. He wanted it to be an old Polynesian sailing boat. And he wanted to sail it all the way to the ocean. 

Along with 5 friends, Dan quit his job and headed to America to begin building the boat. For the journey they were to make, they chose the Mississippi river - one of the longest rivers in the world. And one of the most polluted. Research into micro plastic presence on the river was also yet to be done. So the team paired up with Louisiana State University to pioneer some of this research while they were on their journey. But before that, they had to build it. For four months, the team lived in upstate New York where they built their boat in an old shipyard. They took the wood from rotting jetties, stripping it and preparing it for the main frame of the boat. Then they filled this structure with bottles they literally collected from the roadside. Once the mast and the sail were in place, they were ready to go.

Dan Cullum and his friends on a boat.
Dan and his friends aboard Ioco.

Dan and his friends sailed the entire length of the Mississippi - over 2000 miles - arriving in the Gulf of Mexico after 2 months on the river. Their boat - Ioco - was donated to the local Quapaw Canoe Company, who educate children about their journey and the purpose behind it. Since then, the team are focussed on producing a film about their journey which is set to be released in January 2018. It’s pretty heroic stuff, but Dan is typically humble about it. As he says, "We didn’t set out to be environmental superheroes. We set out to see if this could be accomplished and if we did it, it would invite people to ask some questions about how they use single use plastic." Thanks, Dan. It certainly does.

This festive season we are celebrating 10 Bulb heroes - a collection of people we think are doing a world of good. Watch out for a new hero every day and learn more about how they are working to make the world a better place. SEE yesterday’s hero Natalie who started vegan ice cream brand Black Mylk here.