Big challenges — like the environment — demand big ideas. Some of the big, industrial-sized ideas for dealing with the climate debate are fuel efficient vehicles, renewable energy, and massive shifts in tax codes and technology. But what if you cannot afford a Tesla, or a Prius? Or what if solar panels are out of your reach? Can a single person — or company — really do something of scale to make a significant impact?
Here is the good news: Our waste is intrinsically linked to the environment, and everyone can do something with their waste.
We all have a relationship with waste. Andy Warhol once said, "A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. ... All the Cokes are the same and all the Cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it, the bum knows it, and you know it."
I like that quote, because it means that everyone is the same, where Coke is concerned. I believe everyone is the same where waste is concerned. Everyone creates waste and no amount of money will change that. Even the President throws things away. We each throw away about five pounds of waste each day. Some portion of that can be recycled, and doing so can have an enormous impact on our environment. The best part is it costs very little to be more mindful about how you dispose of your waste.
Rubicon was founded specifically to introduce technology to the waste and recycling industry, and provide better options for our customers. By giving our customers an option to redirect waste from landfills, we make it easy for almost anyone to contribute to a better outcome for the environment.
We also saw an opportunity to reframe the environmental debate. Greenhouse gases released from waste sent to landfills represent one of the largest contributors of carbon emissions in the United States, along with natural gas systems and methane emissions from animals mirroring the level of emissions of some of the most damaging sectors in our economy. How long can we continue to bury garbage in the ground and avoid thinking that it has a big impact on water quality or air quality? We know that everything we bury in the ground gets into the soil and water, which ultimately gets into our food, which gets into our bodies. Burying garbage at scale does not make a lot of sense. Simply put, waste is a monumental design flaw.
If we are producing a lot of waste, that means our manufacturing could be run better. That means that the products that we are producing could improve in the way that they are being manufactured and in the materials that we are using. That means that we need to have some behavior change, because there is also an economic benefit to that as well, aside from the environmental implications.
Eliminating waste creates jobs. Advances in the waste and recycling sector come with new opportunities for employing workers here at home. Managing our waste, instead of burying it, creates economic opportunity in parts of this country where opportunities have been scarce. The next big gold rush is going to be in the waste and recycling sector.
I grew up in Kentucky, with very few resources. I learned to find a use for everything. Waste, to me, is offensive in any of its forms, whether in wasted tax dollars or wasted material. As a country and as a whole, we are conditioned to believe that wasting things is okay. We must reframe this debate. If we waste less, we are going to have better environmental outcomes. We are going to save money, we are going to create opportunity, and we are going to run better businesses as a whole.
Waste is a great starting point for building better businesses, and for entering the world of Environmental Social Governance (ESG) reporting. Better management of waste is the easiest, fastest way to get on track for the 21st Century. Within a matter of months, businesses can get tangible results and report big wins and cost savings to major stakeholders.
Let us not wait for the government to tell us what to do or change the tax code. Being a conscientious business person and entrepreneur — and a socially conscious person — can have a big impact. It can be the business leaders of this country that help drive this change, not the people out of Washington.
Everyone can do something with their waste. Waste is the easiest way to get engaged with the environment, and I challenge the rest of the business community to come along and be a part of the market-driven solution to waste and our environment.