Newswise — Even as an undergraduate business administration student at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Brett Edwards knew he wanted to start his own business. But he couldn't have predicted that his time at the CSU would enable him to turn a long-time passion for wildlife and sustainability into a successful business.

 The Fresno native recalls educating friends at Cal Poly SLO about how to be more eco-friendly. "I had a friend who would always leave his lights on and I would always call him out on it," Edwards remembers. "He told me about this energy efficiency competition they were doing in the dorms and told me I should look into it."

It was then that "Mr. Eco" was born.

Edwards began writing and recording hip-hop songs that promoted sustainability; he also shot accompanying music videos donning his superhero's unique outfit. "I created this character with the goal of bringing awareness to energy efficiency and other environmental themes," explains Edwards.

Today, Mr. Eco sports an eye-catching ensemble: bright yellow shirt, electric green shorts, tube socks, and a flowing, shimmery cape. But what stands out most about this environmental superhero is what he's saving mere mortals from: our poor choices when it comes to taking care  of the planet.

The alter ego is fitting; for Halloween, Edwards had dressed as both nature educator Steve Irwin and rapper 50 Cent. The meshing of these two was a no-brainer, he laughs.

After graduating from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in 2013, Edwards began performing at local elementary schools; Mr. Eco has since visited 320 schools in four countries.

That same year, Whole Foods began selling his debut album, "Hybrid Hip-Hop," and a second album; sample song titles include "Litterbug," "Bottles Are for Babies," "Recycle Robot" and "Straw Wars".

Edwards currently has nearly one million views on his YouTube channel. ​​

An Entrepreneur is Born

Edwards credits his success to the campus's Orfalea College of Business, and specifically to Jonathan York, Ph.D., associate professor of entrepreneurship, who provided him with the resources to make Mr. Eco the business he'd always dreamed of running.

"First off, he allowed me to use Mr. Eco as my senior project," Edwards says. "The fact that he believed developing a business around the character was senior project-worthy was a huge mental boost for me."

The pair also collaborated on a business model that helped clarify how best to reach potential customers. Without such supportive faculty Edwards suspects he wouldn't have had the knowledge or confidence to transform his hobby into a profitable career.

"Being part of the community at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo allowed me to test everything out," says Edwards. "I struggled to find the business angle. I knew I wanted to pursue it, I just didn't know how."

"The faculty were there from the start; those relationships can't be replaced," he adds.


Mr. Eco's Five Ways to Live More Sustainably

Although kids are his biggest audience, Edwards is often asked by grown-ups what they can do to support the health of the planet. His answer is to make one change at a time. "We make decisions every day; be aware," he recommends.

Here are some more of his simple tips for eco-friendly living:​

  • Say no to single-use straws. "In the United States, we use 500 million straws a day," Edwards says. "That's enough to wrap around the world twice. And these straws don't get recycled."
  • Skip or cut back on red meat intake; raising cattle takes a big toll on the environment.
  • Switch to solar energy.
  • Eliminate single-use plastic and invest in reusable bags and bottles.
  • Educate yourself on environmental topics and advocate for the issues that are important to you.  ​