Today we’d like to introduce you to Michelle Salas.
February 12th, 2020
See original article here
Thanks for sharing your story with us, Michelle. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
Back in 2008, while I was working in commercial real estate, I had noticed a lot of businesses were not recycling and when they were recycling, I noticed a lot of contamination in the recycling bins. Since my teens, I knew I wanted to start a business but wasn’t sure of what. I knew it had to be in something that I was passionate about that would help bring positive change. I’ve always been passionate about the environment and animals. So when I saw this opportunity in recycling while working in real estate, I felt like it was aligned with my goals and mission in life. I learned that the waste industry was not an easy one and I quickly learned that most plastic materials are very hard to recycle through conventional streams.
It wasn’t until 2010, while in graduate school that I decided to finally launch the recycling company. I was studying Environmental Studies at the time and I took this one class that focused on sustainability and how nature sustains itself through three main principles, one being nutrient and chemical recycling. Nature wastes nothing and I learned that we should mimic nature’s way of being sustainable since Earth has been doing it for billions of years. This class helped reinforce my idea of starting a recycling company and it was very motivating for me.
I shared my idea with two of my classmates at the time and to my surprise, they really liked the idea and believed it could work and were even willing to help out. This motivated me even further. I decided to drop out of grad school but I was able to sit in several classes while not having to pay the tuition. So we started working on it. I was working up to three jobs at one point to be able to sustain myself and fund the business. It wasn’t until 2012 that I was able to quit my full-time job and work full-time for Lady Green. We are currently servicing over 1,000 locations throughout Miami.
Has it been a smooth road?
It has not been a smooth road. It’s a very tough industry to get into as a small company, especially being a Hispanic woman with very little resources. I didn’t realize how heavily regulated and monopolized the waste industry was. It’s been my experience that municipalities’ compliance systems make it difficult for small haulers to be able to operate in this industry. What has helped me so far has been my tenacity, my passion for the environment, networking and of course my Lady Green team.
Please tell us about Lady Green Recycling. What should we know?
We offer customizable waste pick up, recycling, and education services. For waste pickup and recycling, we offer the Pay-as-you-throw/recycle model which allows our clients to notify us when they are ready for a pickup. This helps lower the pickup frequency making it more efficient of our clients. We are also involved in every part of the launch process for new clients and their continuing education. We go out to their offices or schools to introduce the recycling program and discuss the details. We also properly label recycling bins and have QR codes that take them to their instructional recycling video we tailor specifically for them.
Our education products include our Lady Green app (which contains a sorting game to teach people how to recycle properly), our activity book, customized educational videos for clients and more. The education component has always been an integral part of our business because it’s important to educate people on how to recycle properly and to explain the ‘why.’ So I’m very excited to be expanding and developing further our education programs through technology and innovation. What makes it more exciting for us is that we’ll now be able to reach schools and communities throughout the United States and abroad. It’s been a dream of mine for a long time and I’m really enjoying the process of continuing to develop our Lady Green education products.
Is our city a good place to do what you do?
Our city and Florida in general, have very low recycling rates. Floridians on average, produce double the amount of garbage than the national average, which national average is 5lbs per capita. It is also mandatory to recycle in Miami-Dade County even though there is currently a lot of non-compliance. There is a high demand and urgency to develop sustainable waste management programs, to increase education as well as increase recycling rates.
Since I launched Lady Green in 2010, I’ve never seen so much interest from our local community to recycle than what I’ve seen in the last two years. I think our serious problem with plastic pollution in our oceans, climate change and the China ban have all played key roles in the increased interest and concern from residents to improve recycling throughout the US.
Some advice I would share to people starting out; I would let them know there are tons of opportunities out there and to try and be innovative with their ideas. To go out and network as much as possible, not just to learn but to find new partnerships and potential clients. If it’s to start a business, all that is important as well as doing a competitive analysis. To learn about demographics as well as getting very familiar with your local industry, municipalities and their rules and regulations wherever you choose to do business. This can save you a lot of time and money.
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