Taylor Loewen of Ridwell: Giving new life to household trash
The Companies that Care podcast highlights companies and business leaders who are making a difference in the world, like Taylor Loewen, Portland general manager of Ridwell, a sustainability startup that makes wasting less easy for its members.
Ridwell is a rapidly growing company that picks up stuff from your front door and makes sure it gets sustainably reused or recycled. Ridwell was founded in Seattle in 2018 by Ryan Metzger. Ryan and his young son Owen were trying to responsibly reuse and recycle household items like batteries.
Ryan compiled a list of places to recycle household items and began calling his neighbors to see if they had anything to contribute. When “Owen’s List” got traction and began spreading beyond their own neighborhood, Ryan realized this is a common problem for Americans. We feel guilty throwing things away but don’t know what else to do with it. And so Ridwell was born.
Taylor’s background is mostly in nonprofit and political campaigns, with a good dose of environmental organizations thrown into the mix. She was drawn to Ridwell because it’s a small business trying to have a positive, tangible impact in their local community. Their ties to nonprofits made it an ideal fit for Taylor as a career choice.
Ridwell hired her to launch their Portland headquarters from scratch. They started in November 2020 with 223 members. Now, 10 months later, that number has ballooned to 16,000 members. The Seattle area has about 25,000 members, and they’ve also just expanded to Denver, Colorado. They have plans to continue to expand to other major cities across the United States. Taylor began driving around delivering bins and picking up trash, and now she’s managing a team of 30 employees less than a year later!
How does Ridwell work? As a reuse and recycling service, Ridwell offers members a solution to keeping household trash out of the local landfill to help fight climate change. They work with a variety of companies and nonprofits to give new life to household trash.
Members pay a monthly fee to receive a Ridwell metal bin with five canvas bags, with pickups every two weeks. The four core categories are lightbulbs, batteries, plastic film (including Amazon plastic mailers, Ziploc bags, etc.), and threads (rags or clothing). The plastic is turned into things like composite for decks, tracks, benches, or playground equipment, and the threads are either donated or turned into cleaning rags.
Taylor describes the fifth rotating feature category as her favorite. Items like school supplies, eyeglasses, pet accessories, bags and purses, wine corks, jewelry, bike accessories, and Halloween candy are donated to nonprofits.
They also offer add-ons for an additional fee, such as clamshell plastic (like the containers berries or salads come in), fluorescent light tubes, and Styrofoam.
Ridwell faces skepticism because of news about recyclables actually getting thrown away. That’s why the company is committed to serious, transparent vetting, making sure that everything stays domestic. They communicate regularly with their members to share how much is being recycled and where it goes.
Taylor loves the process of working with partners to find a place for new items to recycle…in addition to working with nonprofits to benefit the larger community.
Would you like to try a free month of Ridwell? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in trying it out! Curious to see if Ridwell is in your city? Check it out here.
Next week, I interview Daniel Sartin on the Finding Fertile Ground podcast. Daniel was born into foster care and has experienced trauma, addiction, suicidal ideation, and abuse in his 24 short years on earth. In spite of that, he's facing life sober, self-aware, and self-confident, determined to do whatever he can to help people facing houselessness and despair.
I alternate the Companies That Care podcast with my original podcast, Finding Fertile Ground, which shares personal stories of grit and resilience. On both my podcasts I strive to highlight voices from historically excluded populations, people who don't always get a platform.
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With 30 years of experience in the environmental consulting industry, I am passionate about sustainability and corporate citizenship, equity & inclusion, businesses that use their power for good, and doing everything I can to create a kinder, more sustainable, and just world. We help organizations and people discover what makes them special and help them share that with the world.
As a podcaster for justice, I stand with my sisters from the Women of Color Podcasters Community. We are podcasters united to condemn the tragic murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and many others at the hands of police. This is a continuation of the systemic racism pervasive in our country since its inception and we are committed to standing against racism in all its forms.
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