Recycling My Morning Morale

I woke up this AM feeling a strong need for stronger coffee.

My morale was a little down from a disappointing investment offer on my business.  It may be a fair offer, I think a third party has to look at it, but it's disappointing.  Good Point Recycling has grown used to enormous growth and positive rewards from the risks we've taken, and I believe in our business model of "fair trade" recycling.

Now we have huge opportunities in New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, and a need to store nuts for winter - we expect a lot of Vermont material to dry up in the months before "free recycling" begins.  All in all, it looks like a promising investment...

We have a purchase order for the largest smelter in North America, which wants to use our CRT glass.

We have positive coverage of our fair trade operations in Mexico by major media.

We had a wonderful write up on our investment opporutnity by a major Forbes columnist.

We were selected as a showcase company at Investors Circle.

But there are a lot of dings and scratches.  Our EBIDTA doesn't show which recent investments are going to pay off in the near future.  And an announced and expected $85k EPA grant has been taken away, and we need to hire lawyers in Mexico to find out why our permit renewal is taking 8 months.  We have a great lead on trailers for a new program in another state.  We need to buy $20k in additional pollution insurance for an expansion of our coupon program.

I put down $230k on this 50,000 s.f. building in Vermont, and now I can't seem to raise money for a new tractor trailer.  We are not distressed by our bills, but it's distressing to let go of the opportunities we are missing.   Figuring out which bills to pay without sacrificing opportunities is a full time job.  

At times, I feel like we are harvesting tomorrow as an organ donor for yesterday.

That seems to be the American Way.   We tax young people to pay for health care for old people.  We tax new ipods to pay for recycling of wood console televisions.   We tax recycling to pay for old mining cleanups.  We pollute tomorrow's gulf to get cheaper gasoline yesterday.  We send our kids to colleges and tell them they should feel normal that they have a $50k bank loan.

In my 20s, I had high hopes about saving the world.  I wanted to save coral reefs and new species, I felt I can make a difference.  I still believe that, but now I see myself as more of a corps captain on a larger battlefield, and my main task is to avoid friendly fire.   I'm trying to keep fellow environmentalists from doing more harm than good, and trying to do it without OPM (other peoples money), and now I need a stronger cup of coffee.

This morning I'm going to put my steel toed dress shoes on and come in ready for battle.  I'm going to feel good about myself and good about our recycling enterprise, and we are going to survive another week, despite the heart-breaking EPA grant retraction.  There may be a right partner out there who can see the difference between a slower rate of growth in a green field investment and a company under such duress that it sells itself for credit card relief, and so I'll dress well for a trip to the bank.

My great grandfather, William Freeland, was a contemporary of John Niehardt (author of Black Elk Speaks) who worked with the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) for decades, trying to bring sustainable development to the Sioux, Navajo and Hopi nations.  He came back at my age, having spent his pre-middle age in public service, and started a newspaper and became a congressman.  His family had come to Kansas from New England to vote it as a free state (following the Missouri compromise), and it was natural for him to work in the native American community.

On the other side of the family is equally stubborn ornery intelligence.   Grandpa Fisher was a subsistence farmer who never took money from the state (except for social security), learned to paint signs when his leg was crippled in an accident, and by fixing everything and making do, he saved up more money than I have saved with an MBA and a large business.

The Youngbloods, Ingenthrons, Freelands and Fishers passed down too way too much spit and crackle for this boy to phone it in today.  I wake up every day, thinking how I'm going to turn this deflect another stupid environmentalist blow, and to avoid another self-inflicted wound to sustainability.  I see momentum swinging Chinese investments away from their natural reuse and recycling talents, towards more virgin mining.  I see product stewardship legislation, with anti-reuse language, as the latest soul-sell to planned obsolescence markets, a million dollar solution to a fifty thousand dollar problem.  I'm going to try to make a difference today on both fronts, and if I can't put the financing together, then I'm going to cockroach my way, or Pete Seeger my way, or Bruce Willis my way into the next decade.  I have to do this without mortgaging my kids farm for living standard consumption, and must remain able to look employees and creditors in the eye.

Today, we are going to recycle in a way we can be proud of, and this decade is going to wind up an improvement on the last.  The walking wounded of the recycling industry may not get a memorial day parade, or a purple heart medal, but we will tell our kids that when other people were mowing down rain forests, or mining tin from Indonesian coral reefs, or collecting mercury to sell into the Amazon mining towns, we had a measurable effect against insanity and opened doors of partnership between America and the best and brightest technicians in the world.

Ok, yikes, maybe two cups of strong coffee was a bit much.  But I'm psyched up and ready to go to work, and it's only 6:22AM.    Yippee kay yay.

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