Green machined: David Nebel engineers change

Progress comes either with a push or a nudge. When LifeProof decided to reduce our environmental impact, we had someone on the team ready to push us down the path of sustainability. We call him David Nebel.

David’s road to LifeProof started in New York. A son of Long Island, he headed west to study Engineering at Northwestern University. Before classes began, he joined a week-long orientation camping trip — his first lengthy stay in the outdoors. He came away with a tolerance for filth, a newfound respect for nature and a passion for preserving our planet.

“It was a very serene, centering, Zen-like experience. There’s something about being removed from the normal noise of life that lets you think clearer, and I saw the direction I wanted to go.”

After graduating and cutting his teeth as a mechanical engineer in Chicago, David broke camp and came to Colorado, landing a job with LifeProof. He found himself among likeminded designers and makers who wanted to put in place more sustainable practices. So David did, starting up a grassroots sustainability team. First, they focused on internal changes, like reducing plastic waste in the offices. Then they cast their eye on manufacturing.

“We were given the green light by the company to investigate new materials, reimagine our product lines, even develop WĀKE, our flagship sustainability case. As we grew into an industry leader, our sense of responsibility to reduce grew too. We want to lead by example.”

The development of WĀKE took David and his team to the sea. Our ocean has a vast problem of plastic pollution, and heave-hoed fishing gear is a large contributor. The team tracked down a supplier who intercepts old nets and ropes then turns them into raw materials — the building blocks for WĀKE. When the design dust settled, they formulated WĀKE with over 85% of this ocean-based recycled plastic. (An aside: why do we call it “ocean-based recycled plastic” instead of just “ocean plastic?” Because it’s captured before it goes overboard, helping to stop further plastic build up. The more you know…)

WĀKE was the first sustainable salvo. Now, every series — from FRĒ to NËXT to SEE to wearables — has recycled plastic baked into the design. Thanks in no small part to David’s push.