10 Year Green Entrepreneur: Good Point Recycling Decade

My January 2002 Purchase (home equity loan)
In January 2002, I drove this rusty blue used Penske truck through the snow, across Applachia, from Memphis to Middlebury.  I always remember seeing myself in the mirror the morning after I signed the papers, a chill feeling of ice water in my abdomen.

On the road that night, I had hours to think about what I'd just done with my home equity, my wife and two young twins in the small car trained in my headlights ahead of me.

1.  We have good ideas.
2.  We do them.
3.  We tell the truth every day.

Among Green Entrepreneurs, "good ideas" are plentiful.  Successful, sustainable, self-sufficient environmental programs are one in a dozen.  Recycling passes the tests so well, it has become taken for granted, like laundromats and gas stations.   Few remember the challenges of setting up the recycling infrastructure, the net to capture subsidized extraction and keep it in the loop of consumption.  I've tried doing this as a protester in my twenties, as a regulator in my 30s.   For the past ten years, I've been putting my own silver, sweat, blood and tears into this, and its time to assess.  I was not by myself on the front lines, in the foxhole, but I was in a place somewhat unique among advocates, lobbyists, regulators, policymakers, and corporations.

This "e-waste" business did leverage a certain amount of legislation in many states (waste bans on CRT tubes).  Of couse, we would have traded whatever regulations we leveraged for reform of the 1872 General Mining Act in a heartbeat.  But what we grew in Vermont came with sacrifice, hard work, risk and tough lessons.   Vermont did not make money off the Massachusetts waste ban, and most of my work at Massachusetts was REMOVING government restrictions (CRTs had been labelled "hazardous waste" even though they weren't necessarily waste).   We'd create a sustainable e-waste recycling infrastructure for the same price commonly charged for other everyday bulky items - sofas, mattresses, fridges, air conditioners.  We'd keep the fee around $10 and we'd do the rest in an environmentally responsible way.

Today we have a modern warehouse, and we manage about a million electronic devices per year.  We have about 25 trailers and six trucks in two states.  The recession was tough, but we made it.  We created about 25 jobs in Vermont and about 15 in Arizona and Mexico.  No one got rich, and we did this without lying or cheating anybody.  We even testified against the "product stewardship" bill which (during the past 6 months of the last 10 years) has brought us incredible attention, income, and volume.

In a lot of ways, I feel like the owner of a sports team, or a Green Vince Lombardi.  In the beginning, most of my time was teaching teammates the rules, not the plays, and how to field and throw the ball second base.  We made it cheap enough and interesting enough for clients to "buy tickets" to this "E-waste" game.  Over time, I could teach the staff new and more sophisticated plays and spent less time just getting people to show up on the field.

But this is not a game.  There are no trophies.

We are creating jobs not just in New England, but overseas.  When a person in the USA tests and recycles unrepairable product, and someone overseas refurbishes and upgrades the good ones left over, it's a win win.  The only jobs at stake are at the mines, the landfills, and Foxconn.

We are making the world better.  We defend the best and brightest in the e-waste "Negro Leagues".   We can measure, year by year, how many metals and plastics and avoided manufacturing pollution and carbon and energy we are saving.   And we are creating jobs for a unique mix of college grads, blue collar, special needs, and second career types in Addison County.

I've cut up the week's 10 year anniversary blog... Will post some more parts and snippets this week.  For right now, I have been given seven days to respond to a letter from Vermont ANR concerning a closure plan I turned in five months ago.  We are the only recycler of printers, CPUs, etc. in the state to be asked for one, and of course we are asked with a weeklong deadline.   It's pretty easy since the stuff they said was missing is on Page 2.  In response to our plan to ship CRT glass to TDM in Mexico (approved by Mexico's SEMARNAT and USA EPA and CA) ANR also verbally notified me that Mexico is no longer in the OECD, we need to let OECD know this as the organization has elected the delegate from Mexico as it's Secretary General.  This month, the organization announced a new emphasis on green jobs in emerging markets;  the session was held in Mexico City.  And Retroworks de Mexico is on the agenda.

A little more about "Vince Lombardi", the Green Bay Packers Coach, after whom the Super Bowl Trophy is named (wikipedia 2012.01.19)

In 1960, on at least one team, a color barrier still existed in the NFL.[108][109] But Jack Vainisi, the Scouting Director for the Packers,[74] and Lombardi were determined "to ignore the prejudices then prevalent in most NFL front office in their search for the most talented players."[110] Lombardi explained his views by saying that he "...viewed his players as neither black nor white, but Packer green".[111] Among professional football head coaches, Lombardi's view on discrimination was not de rigueur in the midst of the American civil rights movement.[112]
An interracial relationship between one of the Packer rookies and a young woman was brought to the attention of Lombardi by Packer veterans in his first training camp in Green Bay.[113] The next day at training camp, Lombardi, who had a zero tolerance policy towards racism, responded by warning his team that if any player exhibited prejudice, in any manner, then that player would be thrown off the team. Lombardi, who was vehemently opposed to Jim Crow discrimination, let it be known to all Green Bay establishments that if they did not accommodate his black players equally as well as his white players, then that business would be off-limits to the entire team.[114] Before the start of the 1960 regular season, he instituted a policy that the Packers would only lodge in places that accepted all his players.[115] In the all-white Oneida Golf and Riding Country club, of which Lombardi was a member, Lombardi demanded that he should be allowed to choose a Native American caddy, even if white caddies were available.[116] Lombardi's view on racial matters was a result of his religious faith and the prejudice he had experienced as an Italian-American.[117]
Lombardi's unprejudiced attitude was not confined to his players, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. Lombardi was aware of tight end Jerry Smith's homosexuality, and upon arriving in Washington, told Smith in confidence that it would never be an issue as long as he was coaching the Redskins. Smith flourished, becoming an integral part of Lombardi's offense, and was voted a First Team All-Pro for the first and only time in his career, which was also Lombardi's only season as Redskin head coach.[118] Lombardi invited other gay players to training camp, and Lombardi would privately hope they would prove they could earn a spot on the team.[119] At the Washington Redskins training camp in 1969, Ray McDonald was a gay player, with sub-par skills,[120] who was trying to make the Redskin roster again[citation needed], but this time with Lombardi as the Redskins' new head coach. Lombardi told running back coach, George Dickson,[121] 'I want you to get on McDonald and work on him and work on him - and if I hear one of you people make reference to his manhood, you'll be out of here before your ass hits the ground.'[122]

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