Posts Tagged ‘upcycling’

TerraCycle’s Tom Szaky on Green Business

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

Dwight Zahringer, Tom Szaky, and Dario Chiarini

Check Out RFC’s Transcript from the Discussion with Tom Szaky

The rise of environmental concerns over the years has resulted in more businesses becoming socially responsible, however, a number of businesses still believe “It’s not easy being Green” because they are unsure about how to implement a successful eco-friendly strategy and are uncertain about the costs associated with it.

Tom Szaky from TerraCycle, Inc. recently discussed with RFC how companies can incorporate green ideas into their business, while increasing sales at the same time. He also explained how the internet can play a significant role in creating awareness of a company’s effort to stay environmentally-friendly.

TerraCycle History

Tom Szaky, 27, came up with the idea for TerraCycle while he was a student at Princeton in 2001.  His idea to use worm poop as a fertilizer started when one of his friends needed help fertilizing a dying plant. Tom’s idea not only saved the plant, but started off his journey to build a multimillion dollar company.

“We started feeding them worm poop, which is basically organic waste fed to worms and the plants started doing incredibly well,” stated Tom.

From there he dropped out of Princeton to dedicate time to developing his business of worm poop fertilizer. TerraCycle started off small, but with a big idea to eliminate waste. With the help of good friends and his persistence with big retailers like Wal-Mart and Home Depot, he was able to stay afloat and expand his business to where it is today.

TerraCycle Domination
TerraCycle has now expanded beyond worm poop fertilizer and works with national brands such as Kraft, Mars, Frito-Lay, American Greetings and other major companies to help fund them to run national campaigns. TerraCycle has developed a variety of different product line ranging from pencil cases and backpacks to shower curtains and holiday gift bows.

TerraCycle is responsible for collecting and supplying the major brands with the product, who then manufacture the product themselves and then give TerraCycle the end result to distribute nationally. TerraCycle products will also be showing up in national retailers like Macy’s, JCPenney and Kohl’s starting in 2010.

TerraCycle have been featured on national news programs like CNN, Good Morning America and Oprah, which have definitely helped spread awareness about TerraCycle. Tom stated how spreading awareness is a “critical piece” for establishing a successful business. Garbage Moguls, TerraCycle’s new TV series on National Geographic, premiered a couple months ago and is another example of how TerraCycle tries to get the word out as much as possible. Each episode follows TerraCycle as they take a waste stream, make it into a product and then sell it to a major retailer.

How Businesses CAN “Go Green”

Tom’s success with TerraCycle makes him an excellent person to give advice to aspiring businesses who want to incorporate green ideas. Tom explained how the key to development of a good environmental strategy is to not only to understand the consumer, but also build a great business.

“It’s not about what the business cares about, it’s what the consumer cares about,” stated Tom. He explains how the critical challenge is developing a “green” strategy without charging premium prices, because “as long as it is not more expensive to be socially responsible then consumers will see value in it.”

Tom explains how at TerraCycle they try and “Demonstrate that by partnering with them that companies are going to be able to grow their business and sell more products.” He also explains how companies need to make their own decision about going green and they should make that decision to help grow the business.

“I would encourage people who are out there looking to make a change in how the world, to look at major companies and (try to) help them change because that’s where really big scale will happen really quickly,” said Tom. “Most major companies are really concerned and thoughtful around the environment. These companies want to put resources there and they want do it right.”

This would be a great place to start for anyone who wants to become more socially responsible.

Going Green Online

In our discussion with Tom he stated how the internet not only creates awareness about TerraCycle, but is also a vital resource for them to stay in business since anyone wants to become involved with TerraCycle must sign-up online.

“The Internet is the best way to get the word out and get people excited and interested in what you’re building,” stated Tom.

“Blogging is a critical piece,” says Tom, which is why he blogs for Inc. Magazine and Treehugger among several other online resources. Creating awareness is the key to establishing any business. You must try to get the word out in as many ways as you can and the Internet is an excellent way to do that.

Get Involved with TerraCycle

In order to sign-up you must go TerraCycle website, create an account and choose what waste stream you want. When you sign-up for a waste stream then TerraCycle will send you free boxes for your specific waste. You simply download a UPS sticker and send it in. Then TerraCycle donates $.02 per every unit of waste you send to them, and then you must allocate the money to any charity or school in America. This system has resulted in billions of units of waste.

“Green is a very powerful thing to leverage if it’s done properly and can actually build sales in a really big way compared to traditional methods of marketing and advertising,” stated Tom.

Start Going Green Today

Here at Recycling For Charities, we love to support people who promote recycling and other eco-friendly practices. We hope that our discussion with Tom Szaky from TerraCycle will help businesses realize that while it may not be easy being green, it is definitely possible and definitely something to consider pursuing to help expand your business.

Tom’s efforts are very admirable for anyone interested in green business. Here at RFC, we encourage all of our followers to join him in his initiatives! Be sure to visit TerraCycle and sign-up to get started today!

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