This is the first post of our latest addition to the 3p team of writer-visionaries — Tom Szaky, CEO of TerraCycle, named by Inc. Magazine as the “Coolest Startup in America — The ultimate growth company, built on garbage, run by a kid, loved by investors.” 3p interviewed Tom in August and he will be writing regularly on his experiences as a social entrepreneur and visions for business and technology that leave the world better off right here on TriplePundit.
Everyone experiences those formative “A-ha!” moments when a scene or image strikes us in a profound way. Many spend their lives building beliefs and passions stemming from that very moment. My life’s dream, to champion the triple bottom line business model and eco-capitalism, was inspired by very two similar moments in my formative years. My family left Hungary as political refugees in eighties and after a brief stop in Holland, settled down in Toronto. It was in this environmental progressive city that my first moment occurred. Wandering, as children do, through my family’s apartment building I found a stack of old televisions ready to be thrown away. In Hungary, a TV of any kind was a luxury, so I was taken a back that these perfectly fine TV sets were being discarded simply because they were outdated. I found the wastefulness of this image staggering, that people would freely discard goods or materials that must still have value seemed unfathomable.
The second occurred years later when I moved to America to attend Princeton University. One night my freshman year, as I walked to my dorm, I saw large tubs of cafeteria food being discarded in dumpsters. I thought of all the energy, work, money and raw materials that went into making and cooking that food and how all of that was going to waste. It really shook me! It seemed environmentally harmful, socially careless and incredibly economically wasteful (how much of my tuition went to buying and cooking food that was thrown away!) It was that moment that I knew that garbage was my key to making a difference in my world and that instantly inspired me to find ways to work with waste. Only months later I was digging through the very same dumpsters for food waste to feed to my worms and TerraCycle was born.
What are your seminal moments of social awareness? As a new member of the 3p community, it would be great to hear about other powerful scenes that have had this affect on other people’s lives! So please, whether you have started a business or only patron responsible ones, all of us want to hear your story!