A Greener, Cleaner Valley 6

EverGreen ZeroWaste Leads the Charge for Better Waste Management

Long ago, eight-year-old Davey Reindel would lurk in his Ohio ‘hood with a BMX posse, “raiding trash cans for cool stuff on pick-up day—our scores would then migrate to the woods to build forts,” he remembers. By the time he was eleven, Dave was collecting recyclables from construction sites for nickels and dimes.

Meanwhile, across the Mississippi River, enterprising little Alyssa quietly looted the neighbor’s trash bins, pilfering soda pop cans. “I’d take them to the gas station, feed ‘em to the machine, get my change and turn around to buy candy,” she recalls today.

Fast forward a few decades to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. “I got started at CU Boulder by jumping in the dumpster,” admits Alyssa, partner-owner of Carbondale’s EverGreen ZeroWaste (EGZW), now married to Dave. “People were moving in and dumping their cardboard in the trash. I just stayed in the dumpster, throwing out recyclables. ‘I said no, this is not where it goes!’” she wails.

Smiling at the memory, Dave crows out, “That’s the girl for me! That’s my girl!”

Upon sharing goo-goo eyes at a college New Year’s Eve party, destinies merged. “Between CU Boulder’s recycling program and EcoCycle—which is ‘the tip of the spear’ nationally, for a nonprofit recycling organization—we both worked at highly prestigious recycling organizations, some of the best ones in the country,” explains Dave. Both were inspired by and contributed to what he says was “this really stupendous model.”

Despite starting EGZW amid 2009’s recession, Dave is still amazed. “We’ve done nothing but grow. What helps us is that our program is a reflection of this community’s values.”

Traditionally, waste is a nonprofit industry funded by municipalities and taxes, Dave explains. “But we created this company as a social enterprise, to show that we’re all about improving our communities and showing that it can be done as an individual company focus,” he notes, adding that this hopefully leads the way to future economies.

In collecting more than a million pounds of organic waste from hundreds of homes, businesses, and events throughout the Roaring Fork Valley, EGZW’s business model has won state and national recognition. The company’s outreach impacts thousands through local school presence and presentations, and through the “greening,” or waste reduction, of community businesses and events.

“We are so appreciative of Evergreen ZeroWaste’s instruction with students and staff about how to recycle and compost,” says Sonya Hemmen, head of Ross Montessori School in Carbondale. “Their service to our school fosters environmental stewardship for our learning community. Alyssa and Dave are current Ross parents and their expertise in composting and recycling enriches our school on a year-round basis.”

These students probably won’t turn lurker or looter like Alyssa and Dave did when they were kids, but they are absorbing the value of composting—the easiest way to combat climate change. Purchasing solar panels and electric cars can be a challenge for a family, but anyone can toss organics into a compost bin.

“There are a lot of perceived barriers to starting a compost program in businesses,” says Dave. “They say, ‘We’re tight on space, we’re too busy, it’s gonna cost extra.”

“Or, there’s bears,” Alyssa adds.

However, Peppino’s Pizza is one local business that was willing to try anyway. “They started out with a half-yard bin. Within about two weeks they had another one. Two weeks later they added another. Shortly after that, a two-yard dumpster. Before summer hits, I’m giving them a three-yard dumpster,” says Dave. “They have no trash cans in the dining area. Everything they have is reusable or they ‘upstream.’”

Upstream resourcing is a fun challenge for Alyssa, one for which she has earned an Environmental Protection Agency award. She helps businesses like Peppino’s identify dead end materials (trash) and replace them with affordable, recyclable, compostable or reusable products— saving money and resources, and ultimately, preventing more pollution. “It’s the natural cycle of the earth,” she points out. “It’s the natural cycle we can operate on, too.”

No other green waste management business in the Colorado Rockies provides the services of EverGreen ZeroWaste. As Dave and Alyssa tag team stats on their company, the environment, composting, green initiatives, and future models, it’s like watching their two inner garbage-loving kids play ping pong: they’re agile, excited, on it.

By helping the rest of us make the world a better place, Dave and Alyssa have transformed a lifelong adventure into their fun labor of love.