Baby's First Interview

Talks with Voyage LA
November 3, 2020
Interview Conducted with Voyage LA on July 29, 2019

Today we’d like to introduce you to Monique Figueiredo.

Monique, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I grew up in Cambridge, MA and my years of city life made me cherish the time I spent with my hands in the dirt. When I moved from Boston to LA, I quickly realized that composting in my backyard was not something I could continue to doing. I was living in a large apartment complex with no access to outdoor space. There also were not any compost pickup services in my new community. With the support of my friends and teachers at UCLA’s Sustainability Certificate program, I decided to do my part in tackling this need. I started with a business plan as a class project and gradually continued to make that plan a reality. After a year of speaking with experts, designing brand content, researching zero waste supply chains, and forming partnership, Compostable LA launched on June 10, 2019!

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Oh man, I wish I could say yes! But there were many internal and external obstacles I had to crawl over to get up and running.

First, I had to overcome my own self-doubt and fears. Would this be successful? Could I afford the financial risk? Should I pursue a cushy office job? That nagging feeling of “I’m just me, I’m no trailblazer”. I never envisioned I would start my own company, so I had to wrap my mind around the idea of being an entrepreneur. This is where my support network was crucial in reminding me that every company I value started with someone just trying it.

I also had to ensure it was a legal venture to pursue. Los Angeles operates under a waste hauler franchise agreement, with exclusive rights being given to the winning vendor in each area. This system was set in place for fantastic environmental reasons, but as with all regulations, there can also be impediment to small business growth. I met with the Chief Sustainability Officer at LA’s Department of Sanitation to discuss the perimeters in which I would be legally allowed to operate under the franchise system and AB 1826.

Additionally, finding zero waste supplies took months of research. It was important to me that my company helped mitigate waste in more than just the organics industry. For instance, it didn’t want to purchase buckets made of virgin plastic, but there are very few options for ones made of post-consumer materials. Eventually I decided if I could not purchase buckets made of recycled plastic, then I would find purchase ones second-hand. My buckets were previously egg white containers used by a bakery in Los Angeles!

Compostable LA – what should we know? What do you do best? What sets you apart from others?
Compostable LA is a food waste pickup service operating on the westside of Los Angeles. Our mission is to close the loop in our food systems by turning former waste into future nutrients. I see Compostable LA affording people the opportunity to reduce their organics waste despite any personal obstacles they may face, such as limited space, busy schedules, or personal discomfort. We are working to build sustainably-minded communities by cultivating individual awareness, empowerment, and collaboration. I want every subscriber to feel part of the solution and connected to something positive and wide-reaching.

I have worked in non-profits for over nine years, and often see various organizations providing a similar service while competing for funding. So when developing Compostable LA, it was my personal goal to ensure it did not operate in a silo. I wanted to only provide the specific need that was missing while bolstering already established organizations in the community. This is why the foundation of Compostable LA is built on vital partnerships, strategically chosen to co-advance one another’s missions. When you sign up for Compostable LA, not only are you reducing food waste, you are also reducing plastic waste, wood waste, fabric waste – all while supporting other local green enterprises. This ripple effect of mutual support fills me with indescribable pride.

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
Every bucket I drop off at the farm represents a person that made the choice to make a difference. It’s another carrot that isn’t clogging up our landfills, another banana peel that can feed the growth of new plants. It’s cleaner air, better nutrition, and a thriving green economy.

I want to see composting food scraps become as second nature as recycling. For people to pause when they go to throw away those coffee grinds, knowing that there is a different option that requires little personal adjustment to their daily routine.

I hope for Compostable LA to grow so anyone who wishes to compost in Los Angeles has a means to do so.

Check it out by visiting Voyage LA!

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