Taking an idea and running with it

February 10, 2022
Gamble logging miles for the Run Across May to benefit the non-profit Work.

U.S. Bank Project Manager Ted Gamble ran 200 miles to raise funds for a non-profit that creates jobs in Haiti involving recovered ocean-bound plastic.

Last February, Ted Gamble was part of a team that launched the first-ever U.S. Bank Visa® Debit Card made from plastic litter collected in areas that are highly likely to feed into the water. 

The enormity of the plastic waste problem is sobering. More than 12.7 million metric tons of plastic enters the oceans every year, and if nothing changes by 2050, the amount of plastic in the ocean will outweigh fish. While working on the eco-friendly card as debit project manager on the U.S. Bank Payments Services team, Gamble learned a lot about the First Mile, the organization that provides the plastic for the eco-friendly U.S. Bank cards and built on-the-ground infrastructure in Haiti to divert plastic waste that would otherwise be headed to the Caribbean Sea.

During one of the project team calls, someone from the First Mile mentioned the upcoming Run Across May, which benefits its job-training and creation non-profit arm, Work. Gamble, a dedicated long-distance runner, was immediately intrigued with the idea of helping to give back to the organization providing plastic for the cards.

“When I first heard about it, I thought I would do the race but I took a little run around the gravel roads where I live just to think about it,” said Gamble, who lives in Dundas, Minn., a town of about 1,500 people located 40 miles south of Minneapolis. “In that five-mile run alone I counted more than 75 plastic bottles on the ground – and that wasn’t counting discarded glass or aluminum cans. That’s a lot just for my little corner of the world, which really motivated me.”

Gamble signed up for the 200-mile event, which originally started as an eight-day run from the northern to southern tip of Haiti. The COVID-19 pandemic forced the event organizers, like many others, to move to a virtual format. Instead, the race is now spread over the month of May, and Gamble logged six to seven miles a day on local trails while raising money from family and friends.

Mamta Naik, group product manager in Payment Services and Gamble’s manager, said she was thrilled for him when he shared that he was thinking of participating in the Race Across Haiti. She knew that Gamble was a runner but didn’t realize what an avid distance runner he was until this fundraising event.

“It’s such a wonderful example of when someone’s personal passions align with their work,” said Naik.

In early 2021, U.S. Bank debuted the two design options for the eco-friendly cards: Serene Beach and Diving Turtle. The cards quickly became a hit with customers, and rank among the top three cards for engagement at U.S. Bank. The card also recently won an International Card Manufacturers Association’s  2021 Élan Award of Excellence in the “Environmentally Friendly” category, which recognizes payment cards that distinguished themselves in design and development while incorporating eco-focused materials.

Part of the reason that the cards may be so popular is that “the enormity of the plastic waste problem can seem overwhelming,” and the cards give consumers a concrete way to feel like they’re having an impact, Naik said.

More than one ton of plastic is diverted from the ocean for every 1 million debit cards produced. The eco-friendly cards haven’t yet hit that milestone but are still having a positive environmental impact, Gamble said.

“It wasn’t just keeping the plastic out of the ocean that resonated with me, it was helping to raise money to help people in Haiti get jobs that would help support their families,” he said.

Gamble, who has more than 25 ultra-marathons under his belt, loves to run but finds running for a good cause to be even better motivation. For the past several years, he’s also fundraised and run in a timed-loop ultramarathon benefiting FANS (Furthering Achievement Through a Network of Support), a Twin Cities-based college and career mentorship program for high school students.

He’s contemplating signing up for the Race Across May again this year, which organizers announced will be virtual again in 2022.

“I love to run on trails and in state parks, and I’m interested in doing whatever I can do to help preserve our environment,” he said.

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