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Lessons from a Zero Waste “Geek”
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Lessons from a Zero Waste “Geek”

I’ve written this thing in my head about a dozen times now. As I reflected on which topics I wanted to cover on my first guest blog post for Green Philly, it dawned on me that perhaps an introduction is more in order.

I’m Lisa Pellegrino, 35 years old, and I’m a self-described zero waste geek. I moved to Trenton, New Jersey just over a year ago for my dream job at TerraCycle, a triple bottom line business with the mission to “eliminate the idea of waste”. Why not move to Philly where all the cool kids are like half of the TerraCycle staff? The main reason I chose to move to Trenton is because after being a car owner for my whole adult life, I decided to reverse design my commute and try out a car-free life. This decision to go car-free was an intentional choice, of course to reduce my emissions and live in better alignment with my environmental values. But it was also about investing in my mental and physical health, and have being outside incorporated into my day-to-day.

It’s a not-so-glorious mile and a half stretch, littered with litter (you’re not alone Philly). It usually takes me 10 minutes on my bike to ride to work. (but thanks to the occasional snow, I noticed the amazing the things we can catch when we slow down.) Sustainability is frequently related with sacrifice, and I’ve found that being more green can not only save you some coins, but can also enhance quality of life.

So when I met up with the Green Queen herself, Julie Hancher, to discuss being a guest writer for Green Philly it was obvious there was an easy yet energetic connection. Our sustainability conversation at the Front Street Cafe was so interesting, the neighboring table kept apologizing for eavesdropping and chiming in. There’s no shortage of issues to discuss, and puzzles to wrap our brains around. The world calls to us in whispers and yells. I feel our greatest task is creating simplicity out of the ever-increasing chaos and complexity.

One conclusion I’ve drawn while on this waste elimination journey is that as long as it’s cheaper to bury a ton of trash than to recycle it, we won’t see the kind of tide turning we need. This leverage point in the traditional world of waste management is known as a “tipping fee”, which is the price assigned to bury a ton of trash, and varies state by state. For instance it costs $151 to bury a ton of trash in Alaska, whereas in Mississippi it’s only $24. So tipping fees are an unsexy yet important lever for change, and so is design. It all starts with design, but we’ll get there.

So it’s an honor to join in and be part of these discussions at Green Philly, and to piggyback on the hard work and conscientious community that Julie’s cultivated over the last 10 years.

My contributions will be heavily influenced by my unabashed obsession with garbage, or what I like to call ‘misplaced resources’. I’ve been fascinated and frustrated with waste for the last decade, so much that it got to the point where I knew I needed to formalize my studies and so I went and got my MBA in Sustainable Systems so I could understand the economic drivers and address this wicked problem at the root.

I want to explore with you topics like the circular economy and what our individual role looks like to transform our unsustainable linear systems of consumption, into more circular sustainable ones.

I hope to make my posts accessible and inviting, and unpack the jargon that sustainability can sometimes be stuffed with. And as cliche as it sounds, sustainability is a journey not a destination. I aim to compliment Green Philly’s noble mission to help ease your transition into a more sustainable lifestyle, and ask the tough questions like ‘why are we consuming so much?’

 Thanks for reading and engaging with this vibrant community, we’re better together. Let me know any questions you’d like me to cover in the comments.

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Lisa Pellegrino
Lisa Pellegrino is a self-professed "zero waste geek". She takes great pride (and joy!) in transforming waste streams into supply chains, through fulfilling TerraCycle's mission in eliminating the idea of waste. She got her MBA in Sustainable Systems and manages business development for the Zero Waste platform, a turnkey solution for recycling any hard-to-recycle product or packaging. Lisa enjoys collaborating with others to shift the mental model from seeing waste not as garbage, but as misplaced resources. When she's not absorbed in the world of waste elimination, she loves reading, riding her bike, and singing & playing music with friends. View all posts by Lisa Pellegrino

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