My name is Sara Fuentes. I am the Co-Founder and President of Smart Waste. With over 10 years of experience in the waste and recycling industry, my focus is on finding solutions to abate commercial waste. I draw on my experience from working as an educator and as Vice Chair of the Women in Cleantech and Sustainability organization, where I am an impactful leader and friend. My indigenous heritage has influenced my perspective and drives my passion for creating a better world – I am a co-creator of a cleaner planet!
Smart Waste is a minority women-owned and operated start-up with a focus on waste technologies, waste systems, and vendor management for zero waste programs. The goal for customers is to save money and reduce trash!
Why do you think climate change and sustainability is such an important topic today?
Sustainability is important for all people – no matter the age, gender, and race – because we only have one planet that we all share. As individuals we are extremely wasteful, and as a society we are wasteful. Waste is counterproductive. YOU can change your lifestyle and habits to improve the environment by leading a more conscious lifestyle.
Climate change is also important to me because I’m a mom. As I was admiring nature on the drive home from Castle Rock State Park the other day, I apologized to my son. I apologized for the unknown future effects of climate change that he will have to live with and through. It’s a harsh reality to think my son may not have access to clean, safe water and clean air. As a parent, we plan to the best of our abilities to support our children and for a while, they are dependent on us; when it comes to climate change, we are dependent on our fellow humans.
This is one of the very reasons why the circular economy is so important – it starts to make a difference when everyone embraces change! The more resources we can keep in the supply chain, the less resources we need to take from nature and the more we can recycle. Pollutants and microplastics are in the air, water, and many products we consume. This is a result of humans devaluing mother Earth. Humans are directly responsible for pollution and environmental suffering and we have an opportunity to change every day: we need to value nature in the same manner we value our individual health.
What do you envision your industry looking like 10 years from now?
In ten years from now, I imagine touchless pay. I envision autonomous garbage trucks that create cleaner waste streams. I see more electronic recycling vending machines in malls and supermarkets. I see us adopting European infrastructure that has been successful and embracing more efficient, cleaner ways of life.
If we don’t change, I see resources becoming scarce. I see commodities costing more money. We may have to continue to wear masks due to poor air quality, which includes debris, methane, and air pollution. We will start to mine our landfills for resources – unless we can do our part as individuals and companies to keep them in the supply chain.
What can the average person do to make a difference?
Collaborate with companies who share core values — for us, those are transparency, circularity, and people.
Smart Waste’s goal is to keep resources in the supply chain – and YOU are a huge part of that equation! Educate yourself on the local recycling programs in your community (MRFs), reduce single-use items, compost when you can, and opt for sustainably-sourced products.
Smart Waste supports a number of companies on various projects, and often, big transitions. Whether it be coordinating waste management for construction projects, connecting consultants for an eWaste recycling initiative, or implementing technology to create smarter waste programs, Smart Waste is a co-creator of a cleaner planet.
There are many podcasts out there that help educate individuals and organizations on better waste management – you can check out Smart Waste’s podcast titled: What the hell do I do with this?
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