“Waste nothing.” With Penny Bauder & Matthew S. Hollis

It really all comes back to our company motto: Waste Nothing. This philosophy has guided me personally and our business for over a decade. Identify one way that you waste time, another that you waste money and a third in which you throw something away that shouldn’t be. Work to correct each of those three […]

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It really all comes back to our company motto: Waste Nothing. This philosophy has guided me personally and our business for over a decade. Identify one way that you waste time, another that you waste money and a third in which you throw something away that shouldn’t be. Work to correct each of those three over the next several weeks and if we all do that, it would have a huge impact.

As part of my series about companies who are helping to battle climate change, I had the pleasure of interviewing Matthew S. Hollis.Matthew S. Hollis is the co-founder and President of Elytus, a third-party administrator that helps clients streamline waste and recycling operations while becoming more sustainable in the process. As apart of its #WasteNothing motto, Elytus believes in saving time, money and the environment.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

When I founded Elytus back in 2007, I was a sophomore in college and at the time efficiency, not sustainability, was really the goal. I wanted to bring efficiency to paper-based processes in the waste hauling industry reducing wasted time and costs. To do this, we built a web-based platform to help large waste hauling companies reduce the paper (contracts, invoices, W9s, etc.) needed to communicate with their subcontracted vendors. Finding success in this space is what really helped me identify my passion to Waste Nothing. At the time, it was solely focused on time and money. During this process, we discovered a lot of interest from chain retailers who saw the utility of our platform in managing their waste volumes across multiple vendors and geographic areas. With this in mind, we pivoted the business and started designing programs to serve this industry. In doing this it became clear that organizations wanted assistance in finding ways to reduce their environmental footprint. This aligned really well with our existing passion to Waste Nothing and so we adapted to become experts in the field of waste sustainability.

What is the mission of your company? What problems are you aiming to solve?

Our mission is to Waste Nothing. Our goal is to help our clients streamline their waste and recycling programs to save time, money and the resources of our environment. This ultimately leads to a more sustainable program overall.

Can you tell our readers about the initiatives that you or your company are taking to address climate change or sustainability? Can you give an example for each?

Our mission to Waste Nothing extends to everything that we do. At our headquarters, we did a renovation featuring repurposed woods, windows, flooring, and various recycled metals. Additionally, we retrofit the entire building with LED lights and have electric car charging stations. The project that we’re working on now is turning our headquarters into a zero-waste facility. We started that process by purchasing reusable cups, plates, and silverware paired with a dishwasher to eliminate single-use items. Our team has also done a great job going paperless and now we’re focused on trying to solve the organics challenge.

How would you articulate how a business can become more profitable by being more sustainable and more environmentally conscious? Can you share a story or example?

I love the phrase “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure”. This is essentially what the entire recycling industry is built on. For example, let’s say that your operations receive a lot of product on pallets, shrink-wrapped and packed in boxes. Your operations team is then responsible for unpacking the product and displaying it in your facility for purchase by your customers. During this process, your team can throw everything into a compactor and forget about it. Under this model, you’re paying for the hauling of the compactor and the disposal of the material in it once it arrives at the landfill. However, the cardboard, shrink film and pallets all have a value. If your team would bale those commodities, they could then be sold. This not only brings in revenue to the business but it eliminates the cost of hauling and disposal, producing a double net effect. Before the collapse of the recycling markets a couple of years ago there were numerous businesses that had significant revenues from their waste streams. While those revenues still exist today, they’re not nearly as strong.

The youth led climate strikes of September 2019 showed an impressive degree of activism and initiative by young people on behalf of climate change. This was great, and there is still plenty that needs to be done. In your opinion what are 5 things parents should do to inspire the next generation to become engaged in sustainability and the environmental movement? Please give a story or an example for each.

As a parent myself, I’m encouraged by the next generation’s passion for sustainability. While it’s important to teach children how to recycle, it’s also crucial to articulate the value of prevention. Five simple things that parents can do would be as follows.

  1. Teach the value of meal planning and build leftover nights into your schedule.
  2. Turn off the lights when leaving the room or install motion sensing light switches.
  3. Reduce the thermostat when leaving for the weekend or on a vacation.
  4. Turn off the faucet while brushing your teeth to avoid wasting water.
  5. Implement a household recycling program for all of the packaging that you receive.

Regardless of how you approach these valuable lessons, the mindset to Waste Nothing can become habit at a very early age. This in turn creates a lifelong environmental consciousness that your kids and grandkids will be thankful for in years to come.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?

There are a number of lessons that I’ve learned from my short experience in the industry. A few of them are as follows.

Sustainability is more than just saving the planet. It’s a combination of people, planet, and profits. Not everyone you meet is going to be compelled towards efficiency just for the environment’s sake. However, the cumulative effect of sustainable actions can be enormous, regardless of the intentions.

Next, sustainability work is important and fun, but hard. The landscape surrounding sustainability is constantly shifting, and we work diligently to be aware of the coming trends before they impact our clients. While we attempt to plan for every possible change, we are ultimately constrained by certain factors. However, in making a company more sustainable, there is an element of exciting creativity involved that makes it all worth it in the end.

Small incremental changes implemented over time can have huge impacts. Data is your best friend when it comes to measuring the environmental impact your program can make. Rather than being intimidated by the goal, start with small steps.

When it comes to professional development advice, think of the work you’re doing in terms of a career, not a single year. It takes time to make a difference.

Finally, an expert is considered to have 10,000 hours or more of experience. After being in business for more than a decade, I am still constantly learning to this day and hope that never changes!

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My business partner, Alan Dillman, was a substantial mentor in helping to shape my professional world. I can remember countless times where he would let me fail and then teach the lesson through my failure. However, he always had the guardrails there to ensure I didn’t run off the cliff. To this day I’m a firm believer that some of our best lessons are from our biggest mistakes.

You are a person of great influence and doing some great things for the world! If you could inspire a movement that would bring the greatest amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

It really all comes back to our company motto: Waste Nothing. This philosophy has guided me personally and our business for over a decade. Identify one way that you waste time, another that you waste money and a third in which you throw something away that shouldn’t be. Work to correct each of those three over the next several weeks and if we all do that, it would have a huge impact.

Do you have a favorite life lesson quote? Can you tell us how that was relevant to you in your own life?

“Waste Nothing” is my favorite life lesson. It’s a passion that drives everything I do, both personally and professionally.

What is the best way for people to follow you on social media?

Stay in touch with Elytus on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and LinkedIn.

This was so inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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