Please share a little background on the name of The Happy Beetle and how it all began:
I was adding items to the growing donation pile in our basement, knowing full well that I had no idea when I would make the trip to Goodwill, and realized that other neighbors were likely experiencing the same issue. Not just with donation items, but other hard-to-recycle items that I had no clue where to take! Batteries, lightbulbs, house paint — I knew they didn’t belong in either our trash or recycling bin, but where do they go? And when would I find the time to drive to all these different locations?
That same evening I was reading a book about insects to my 5-year-old son. Insects play vital roles in a healthy ecosystem and we read that dung beetles have the important task of breaking down dung so nutrients can be reabsorbed by plant matter, to grow new plants, which becomes food for animals. The beetles represent a crucial link in a closed-loop system, and it was exactly that same link in the system that is underdeveloped in our communities, hence the growing basement pile of stuff I needed to dispose of.
Can you please share more on your mission and intention behind building the circular economy in Denver and beyond?
My previous career was in renewable energy, and while the transition to clean energy is essential, I also saw tremendous opportunities to improve our consumption and disposal patterns. For example, ensuring that a piece of clothing or an electronic item stays in use for as long as possible reduces the need for production of a brand-new item and therefore negates the negative environmental impact that comes along with the raw material extraction, manufacturing, transoceanic shipping, etc.
Once The Happy Beetle progresses beyond this initial growth stage, we’ll pursue some innovative partnerships with suppliers of consumer goods to help close the loop — aiming to eliminate single-use items, like packaging and food containers, wherever possible. Consider the traditional delivery milkman model of fresh milk dropped off and returning the previous week’s empty glass milk jar — so many product life cycles could work like that.
The Happy Beetle provides subscription door-to-door pick-ups of “hard to recycle” items and other items that accumulate in our houses. What is the best way for people to start working with you?
On our website , we offer two pick-up frequencies, monthly or quarterly. Once signed up, we provide two collection bags that can be stuffed in a back closet, hung on a coat rack, anywhere that’s convenient, and filled up throughout the month with the various items we collect. We have an extensive list of items we collect on our website and then have seasonal specials as well, like broken Christmas lights in the winter or school supplies in the spring.
We provide reminders via email and text, making it easy for you to remember to simply place your items outside for us to pick up that morning. We make it easy to recycle the hard-to-recycle stuff.
What are your plans for the future and any potential growth?
We are intentionally very community focused. Colorado has one of the lowest recycling rates in the nation! Currently, only 18% of recyclable materials are recycled in this state, which is half the national average. As long-time residents of Colorado, we care deeply about this state and protecting it.
Two areas we’ve barely dipped our toe into are schools and small businesses. The potential reach in these two segments is tremendous, and I think this is how we’ll make our impact on improving the state’s recycling record. Both institutions want to do the right thing when it comes to protecting the environment, but traditionally it hasn’t been feasible. We aim to change that.
Originally published in the Winter + Spring 2021-22 issue.