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February 29, 2008

The Business of Green Part 2: Janice Sitton of Good Green Graces

 

I first met Janice Sitton during my tour of the San Francisco recycling center and transfer station, aka The Dump. Janice was one of the attendees, but she also seemed to know an awful lot about recycling and garbage already. She explained to me that she was a member of the Northern California Recycling Association and, like Doug Farquhar of Renovos, she had started her own consulting business, Good Green Graces, helping businesses and events become “green.”

A month after that tour, Janice arranged another tour, this time of the Jepson Prairie compost facility in Vacaville, California, and invited me along. I was happy to trudge with her, as well as a couple of employees from San Francisco Department of Environment, through the muck and mud to learn how the waste that’s discarded into the green bins in San Francisco is transformed into compost material for home gardens as well as commercial operations like local vineyards. We both took pictures, but Janice also took copious notes and wrote up an excellent description of the tour. I encourage you to visit her blog to learn more about how a commercial compost facility actually works.

I’m always interested in idealistic people who are making a living doing what they love, so I asked Janice to share how she got started in environmental consulting work. She told me that she first got involved with the green movement in Asheville, NC while working for a green event production company called Seven-Star, Inc., which handles the operations and booth sales for large events like Green Festivals and the Green Business Conference. She says that working for this company

opened up a whole new world for me. Although I had recycled since my college days, I had no idea there was a green movement, or what being sustainable meant. I learned quickly, and soon started incorporating sustainable practices into my own life.

Eventually, she tired of event work and moved to San Francisco to be at the forefront of recycling and resource management. Unfortunately,

I soon found I had vastly underestimated this field and how I could contribute to it with relatively very little knowledge of how the industry worked. When I was not able to get a job in the industry, I volunteered as a board member for NCRA, the Northern California Recycling Association.

Through my work with NCRA, I got involved in researching a story about bottle bill legislation in Connecticut. The politics of the industry were fascinating. I started reading everything I could get my hands on about bottle bills (redemption programs for bottles & cans) and recycling. The more I read, the more I realized just how many materials were not being recycled, but wasted instead. I started having dreams every night of piles and piles of waste, of blue bins and green bins. After a few weeks of these dreams and the fact that my interest was still growing versus waning, I realized I had found my passion in life. All I wanted to do was reduce waste.

Janice started her own business, Good Green Graces, so she could devote all her time and energy toward reducing waste. She’s helped the Craigslist Foundation Nonprofit Boot Camp event at UC Berkeley (2007) achieve an 85% diversion rate; achieved a 69% diversion rate at a Bluegrass event that was a true learning experience; is currently assisting the SF Farmers Market (CUESA), which will launch their Waste Wise program (collecting compost and recycling at their Tues & Sat markets) during the week of Earth Day; and also works as an intern for StopWaste.Org (the organization that coordinates Oakland’s recycling and waste diversion programs) helping out with market development and learning a lot in the process.

Almost seven months later, I am still as passionate about waste reduction, and now waste prevention, as I was when I started my business. I have expanded my services, and now help businesses and special events prevent and divert waste through strategic purchasing and planning, and through composting and recycling collection. I especially enjoy the training and education part of what I do. I find people are much more likely to recycle and compost once they understand why materials go where they do.

There is a huge demand for recycling and composting, but even in California, we are still landfilling roughly 50% of our discards, which are really our resources. Even when we recycle, the majority of our materials are shipped overseas to be reprocessed because we don’t have enough infrastructure locally to convert the materials here. So, I am also turning my attention toward market development of recycling based businesses. In addition to preventing waste, I want to ensure the US has the means to reuse its own resources rather than shipping them away.

The enthusiasm of people like Janice is infectious to me and leaves me with a sense of hope for our planet’s future. Of course, regardless of whether or not the activists and green business people of this world are ultimately successful in restoring the health of our Earth, the fact that they are willing to dive into life and follow their passions in the present moment is what’s truly important.

Vanessa Farquharson, in the final post of her year-long Green As A Thistle project wrote, “A lot of greenies take themselves way too seriously. There is so much doomsday talk out there, so much arguing about whose fault global warming is, and so much repressed hostility between tree-huggers and car-drivers, it’s ridiculous.” That may be the case, but not with the folks I’ve written about this week: Benn from ChicoBags, Doug from Renovos and BuyGreen, and Janice of Good Green Graces. They are showing that green can be fun and effective and profitable and sometimes have a sense of humor.

There are a couple more green business people I want to write about next week, particularly a woman in Canada who has one of the best business practices I’ve ever heard of. Stay tuned.
 



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27 comments
Fake Plastic Fish
Fake Plastic Fish

Hi Pie Monkey! I don't think anyone knows for sure how long plastic lasts because it's a relatively new material and no one has lived long enough to actually see it break down all the way. We do know that no one has found a micro-organism that can break it down, which is what makes a substance biodegradable... there has to be some kind of little bug that can munch on it and break it down into its basic elements. So for practical purposes, we might as well assume for now that it lasts forever. We do know that all the petroleum-based plastic that's ever been created (except for some new plastics which have heavy metal chemicals added to them to help them break down) still exist.

the pie-monkey
the pie-monkey

hello,I think that what you are doing with your blog is great. plastic wastes pollute our environment so much and its nice to know some people care about it besides me. pleas respond to this question: How long does plastic take to decompose in landfills. ive head anywhaere form 100 to more than 100,000. please answer this for me.

jafet
jafet

so the plastic fish is killing real fishes? doesn't people use plastic fishes to save real fishes or what?im impressed, bud how do you think this will eliminate plastic fish?wish you luck!

CindyW
CindyW

We started composting about a year ago and found that was the single action that reduced the most trash. We, a 4-person, family, consume a lot of veggies and fruit. So most of waste is from veggie scrap and fruit peel. Now we have 1 bag (13 gallon) of trash per week at most. Sometimes we don't need to take the trash out for two weeks. However composting is somewhat tedious at the beginning(not so once you get used to doing it). So I can understand that many households don't have the patience to deal with food scrap. A city-wide green bin (like San Francisco) is a more effective way to collectively compost. Unfortunately my county/city does not collect green waste. Picking up from Beth, I should call to request the service. If enough people do it, the service will more likely be offered.

Little Lovables
Little Lovables

Thanks for putting this out there. I know I need to do much better, and am trying to make better decisions for our environment.

Alexis
Alexis

Hey,Thanks for providing a topic for my latest post. I'm an Ad/PR major at Ithaca College so for one of my classes I'm doing a blog about green marketing. I talked about Good Green Graces after reading about it on your blog. Congrats on being a Blog of Note, keep it up.-Alexisgreenintheface.blogspot.com

R2K
R2K

Is this blog about that new radiohead song?

Chrisbina
Chrisbina

I found your writing very touching and inspiring. I recycle and I have a strong dislike for plastic bags and excess packaging. Why do we need any packaging at all, for the most part? I will keep this blog in my favourites. Do you know that in the UK Marks and Spencer (big clothing/food company) have started charging for plastic bags, I think it's noble and brave of them in this 'we need everything now for free' consumer market.

Steven Seidl
Steven Seidl

Eliminating waste is going to become huge in the next 5 years. Its going to reshape the way everything happens. The way things are produced, shipped, packaged, sold, and disposed of. Everyone of us must make an effort to reduce our impact and not wait for government mandates.

swee
swee

HiThis is one of the best recycling themed blogs I have read so far, and now wonder you have been listed as Blog of Note by Blogger.

Green is not just a Color!
Green is not just a Color!

I must admit that I hesitated clicking on your bog simply because of the name. I'm glad I finally did. :) Great blog and great work. Bravo!

VirGogh
VirGogh

Hey, nice blog and congrats on your Blog of Note! I am new here and I really do appreciate your efforts in bettering your life, as well as ours in your actions! There are many changes we need to make in the world to protect it and I am proud to participate! Thanks alot!VirGogh

meed
meed

thinks,nice blog-----watch top 10 movie online :www.assrir.org

Plang-Plang
Plang-Plang

So i saw your blog, here is what i usually do with my plastic waste:1. In plastic bags, i use it to place my laundry in instead of buying one in the mall which is expensive.2. Turn plastic bottles into toys-I haven't tried that yet, but you can use the bottles for maracas or even bowling pins.3. Small plastic bags-I'd rather use it to keep my knick-knacks in.4. At last, i use plastic bottles for making pencil holders(by removing the top part)

NightMyst3
NightMyst3

Just a green thumbs up. I'm in the army and always trying to think of ways to helping recycle. (We only use trashbins and maybe if we are lucky see a blue recycle bin around.)

Sheena Pimentel
Sheena Pimentel

Global warming chaos, I believe, is the root problem for all these.

Fake Plastic Fish
Fake Plastic Fish

It's inspiring to hear other people's stories, isn't it?To Mutual Information -- I'm sad that you've decided not to visit anymore. I don't know if you'll ever read this comment, but if you do, I'd love to discuss with you the issue of advertising.You have left several valuable comments on this blog, about fixing things and regarding water filter jug, and I wish you had commented on my February 19 post where I asked for input on my decision to accept ads and clarified which advertising programs I had accepted and why. I'd like to know if there are specific ads that are bothering you or if it's the idea of accepting ads in general.If anyone else has views about advertising on blogs, please let me know. I'm open to discussing the issue because it's actually something I've been ambivalent about for a long time. But please read the February 19 post first so you understand my advertising decisions.And thanks to everyone who has left such supportive comments. I wish I had time to respond to each one individually!

mutual information
mutual information

Beth,I want to say I'm sorry that I won't visit your Blog anymore. I really support your efforts to educate people on the ramifications of irresponsible consuming. However, I don't enjoy the barrage of ads that are proliferating your website. As is the case with almost every Blog that gets some popularity, ads inevitably overrun the real message. I wish you much success.

MisFriz
MisFriz

I think there should be a ban on the bottled water indrustry and restrictions on all packaging. There's just too much unnecessary garbage. I have a water filtration pitcher (About a $25. investment) in my home and we usually use refillable bottles. Also, if you've never read Mother Earth News, I highly recommend it. The whole magazine is dedicated to green living...I just love it. I find some of the greatest ideas. And by the way...your blog is great, too. Kudos to you for spreading awareness! I think too many of us just don't take the time to think about it...reading blogs like yours reminds us to do our part.

Clif
Clif

One thing I really miss moving from a house to a condo is the lack of a back yard in which to compost. I used to take every bit of vegetative matter and put it in a trench I dug right next to Grampa (just kidding!) covering it with dirt as it filled. Every few months I would dig a new trench. After a year or two I would return to the original trench where, like magic (nature is magic, you know), the things I had disposed of were no more, or at least not recognizable form. It was SUSTAINABLE. Yes!

organicneedle
organicneedle

I find these posts so inspiring. I totally agree with the idea that environmental protection needs to be a part of our lives...not something we feel works against our lives. The doom and gloom just makes people feel like whatever they do it is not going to be good enough so why do anything. The truth is if we all picked a handful of things each week, month or even year to seriously improve upon there would be massive change. Once you make a few changes other things become obvious...then a few more...etc. (I hope you don't mind...I have been referencing you all over my blog. I love what you are doing.)

spiralcattalks
spiralcattalks

Hi, eliminating plastic and waste is so important and it's great that people are so dedicated to it. I think just making little decisions can help. If I see a product with too much packaging, I try to buy that of a competitor, I know it's not much, but I really think little decisions by lots of people help.

GLOBE: Green, Leading Others By Example
GLOBE: Green, Leading Others By Example

I stumbled upon your blog while updating my own. Your writing is so informative and inspiring. I have just transfered by work from Myspace to the blogger site, in hopes my work can now reach more people. I'm trying to make green living seem tangible for the skeptics and non-believers. I want to convince people of our very dire situation. Thank you for your writing. I'm so glad I found it.Best,Say

Abhishek
Abhishek

Hi this is Abhishek from bangalore..I am planning to do something similar in bagalore hope it works for the city..

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