If you visit Stasia Erickson’s 5-acre homestead in Black Forest, you’ll find alpacas, chickens and a honeybee farm, one sign of her love of nature.
Erickson moved to Colorado 20 years ago from Maine, and said she wants to do her part in supporting the environment.
For the past year, Erickson shared her passion with the public as the business development director for Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado’s recycling program, GoalZero Recycling, a former social enterprise that supports the nonprofit organization.
When it opened in September 2016, GoalZero, located at the La-Z-Boy Furniture warehouse on 2265 Waynoka Road, sent trucks to pick up recyclables from subscribed businesses.
On Sept. 25, GoalZero stopped its pick-up service, except to a select few businesses, and opened its warehouse drop-off location to the public for free. The site takes recyclable materials such as cardboard, plastics and wood pallets from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
GoalZero, which has collected 400,000 pounds of cardboard since opening, sells its materials to buyers and returns all of its revenue to Care and Share. Erickson said that 100 percent of the materials GoalZero collects are recycled.
As business development director, Erickson handled the business operations of GoalZero and maintained relationships with buyers. Erickson now works as the agency relations director for Care and Share, but will continue to volunteer at GoalZero while Care and Share Chief Operating Officer Stacy Poore takes over the program.
Erickson spoke with the Business Journal about GoalZero’s switch from a social enterprise to a nonprofit.
How did you get involved with GoalZero Recycling and Care and Share?
I was drawn to GoalZero because of its mission of collecting recyclables and diverting them from landfills, and more importantly [because of] the connection with Care and Share Food Bank, where [GoalZero is] making an impact on the local community.
I’ve always had a passion for the outdoors and for the environment — I spend a lot of time outside. A lot of my experience is in business and management and … my customer service background also played into this. I felt that I could incorporate all of those skills and help this new enterprise … launch.
Why did GoalZero switch to a nonprofit model?
We found that we were generating a lot of material here at our public drop off — more so than we were when we were collecting it from the customers we had — so we made a business decision to focus on free recycling through customer drop off.
It was [also] a better business move for our overall expenses. Collection with customers [was more expensive] because of the containers [we use] and with the truck going to pick up the material and bring it back. … We’re able to have a profitable margin focusing here on the collection of materials.
What challenges have you faced in the last year?
Customers are focused on single-stream recycling where they think everything is recyclable, and it really is not. So it comes down to the education part to the public, and that has been a little bit of a challenge. But we have determined the best thing to do is be very clear on what we are able to collect and then to educate them on where it’s going and the product it ends up being manufactured into.
What is the status of recycling in Colorado Springs?
[GoalZero has buyers] for all materials we collect. We are having some challenges with plastics — we do collect plastics No. 1 and 2 because there is a market for it. We are able to sell that material. However, plastics 3 through 7 are usually exported. … There’s just no market for those materials domestically. … But we want to make it easy for the community and help Colorado Springs increase its diversion and recycling rate.
What advice would you give to other professionals and social enterprises?
As a new operation, there’s trial and error, but you learn from those experiences and you become more efficient — you’re able to improve your processes. Don’t be afraid of taking a risk and trying different things. … As long as you’ve done your research and it’s a measurable risk, you have a good chance to be successful. We tried the subscription [model and] found there’s a big opportunity with the public, with free recycling, that we just pivoted a little bit. We shifted our focus and we’re finding that to be more successful. That’s key, to know what is working and what isn’t.