In 2016, over a year into the Flint water crisis, Ali was volunteering with the American Red Cross, delivering some of the 20 million water bottles the city used per day at the height of the disaster. That’s right: per day. The sobering reality of the compounded issues Flint faced spurred Ali to action. She partnered with her frequent collaborator and former classmate, Jack Burns, to brainstorm ideas to address the abundance of recyclables in Flint, while at the same time helping the community regain some economic footing.
Since the departure of major manufacturing, Flint’s citizens have seen a huge decline in wages city-wide. At the time Ali launched Genusee’s Kickstarter campaign, 41% of Flint lived below the national poverty level.
The idea of using the excess plastic in Flint’s waste stream to create a new product, manufactured in Flint by city residents, led to the founding of Genusee. Ali’s degree from the Parsons School of Design and experience with design, brand development, marketing, and merchandising were influential in choosing a product for the goal of a circular economic model.
Ali explained the beauty of the glasses to the Detroit Free Times. “[The glasses are} something that’s on your face. They’re a conversation starter. It allows you to tell the story behind them and bring up the conversation of sustainability and environmental justice.”