Stacy Savage is a lifelong Texan born and raised on the Gulf Coast where both her parents worked at oil refineries for a collective 75 years. Her personal experience with rotten egg smells, brown, hazy skies, and cancers that affected influential family members stamped her career path in environmental stewardship.
Stacy has been a “recycling nerd” for nearly 20 years. Starting in 2003 as a grassroots community organizer, she knocked on tens of thousands of doors across several states to educate and engage residents in tackling local pollution issues.
She then played a pivotal role in passing 2 pieces of statewide legislation for free, responsible manufacturer recycling of toxic electronics known as the 2007 Texas Computer TakeBack Law and the 2011 Texas Television TakeBack Law.
In 2013, Mrs. Savage founded Zero Waste Strategies LLC, an environmental consulting firm specializing in Zero Waste best practices to support the newly emerging Circular Economy.
Through her multi-tiered online courses and in-person consultations, clients receive customized waste reduction plans for increased revenue, deeper customer loyalty, employee empowerment, and a green marketing edge.
Her client list includes Fortune 500 companies, local government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and institutional campuses.
Stacy is a co-founder and the former Chair of the Austin Zero Waste Alliance (2009-2015) and served for 2 years as an Austin City Council appointee to the Zero Waste Advisory Commission (2015-2017).
She is certified as a TRUE Advisor through Green Business Certification, Inc. (GBCI) and volunteers as a business mentor through the TRUE program and the Austin Young Chamber.
Stacy lived in Austin for 20 years but has recently moved just east to the pine-forested area of Bastrop with her husband, Jon, and their fur babies, Willie (Pitbull rescue) and Tex (orange tabby rescue).
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Table of Contents
We are thrilled to have you join us today, welcome to ValiantCEO Magazine’s exclusive interview! Let’s start off with a little introduction. Tell our readers a bit about yourself and your company.
Stacy Savage: I’m a lifelong Texan, born and raised on the Gulf Coast where both of my parents worked at oil refineries for a collective 75 years. My personal experience with rotten egg smells, brown, hazy skies, and cancers that affected influential family members stamped my career path in environmental activism and green business leadership.
I’ve been a “recycling nerd” for nearly 20 years. Starting in 2003 as a grassroots community organizer, I knocked on tens of thousands of doors across several states to educate and engage residents in tackling local pollution issues. I played a pivotal role in passing 2 pieces of statewide legislation for free, responsible manufacturer recycling of toxic electronics known as the 2007 Texas Computer TakeBack Law and the 2011 Texas Television TakeBack Law, as well as multiple local Austin recycling ordinances for residents and businesses.
In 2013, I founded Zero Waste Strategies LLC, an environmental consulting firm specializing in Zero Waste best practices to support the newly emerging Circular Economy. As a certified TRUE Advisor for Zero Waste, my clients include Fortune 500 companies, local government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and institutional campuses. Through my multi-tiered online courses and in-person consultations, clients receive customized waste reduction plans for increased revenue, deeper customer loyalty, employee empowerment, and a green marketing edge.
Although I lived in Austin for 20 years, my husband and I recently moved just east to the pine-forested area of Bastrop with our fur babies, Willie (Pitbull rescue) and Tex (orange tabby rescue).
2021 and 2022 threw a lot of curve balls into business on a global scale. Based on the experience gleaned in the past couple years, how can businesses thrive in 2023? What lessons have you learned?
Stacy Savage: Oftentimes, societal changes drive huge market shifts. It’s crucial for businesses to have enough fluidity in their operations to pivot quickly to an alternate model designed to answer industry demands accurately.
Before COVID, my Zero Waste consulting firm relied on servicing clients 1-on-1 where our team would be flown out to a corporate site. There, we would assess the facility, conduct a comprehensive waste audit, interview managers, train staff, and draft a master plan for waste reduction to landfills.
During COVID, we had to pivot sharply and created a 6-week online training program for upper management teams on Zero Waste best practices and customizable waste mitigation plans.
The silver lining is that now we have much more to offer clients through our 3-tiered system, which allows alignment with their varying budgets and the level of program assistance desired. We can help more clients in their collective sustainability journey, rather than one at a time, which broadens our company’s impact on corporate responsibility.
The pandemic seems to keep on disrupting the economy, what should businesses focus on in 2023? What advice would you share?
Stacy Savage: The pandemic has revealed quite a bit about the fragility of our economy. From businesses getting exposed across social media due to “greenwashing” tactics to workers becoming more knowledgeable about their labor rights and the worth of their work, having sustainable operations is important now more than ever.
These green efforts can be marketed to attract new sales, boost employee morale and retention rates, and entice more funding from investors.
This article states, “In a recent survey of Investopedia and Treehugger readers, pollution and waste management garnered the most support from ESG investors, with 80% of respondents selecting it as an important consideration. Fair and safe working conditions came in second at 71%, and carbon emission reduction came third with 69%.” (https://bit.ly/3CrDb1N)
Developing sustainable upstream supply chains and properly handling downstream material discards, including internal employee waste diversion programs and external customer takeback recycling systems, are cost-effective ways of not getting “canceled”.
How has the pandemic changed your industry and how have you adapted?
Stacy Savage: My industry is business consulting, and my niche is implementing Zero Waste protocols to support the newly emerging Circular Economy. The pandemic has put sustainability issues front and center for investors, shareholders, employees, and consumers. In turn, it has also put the corporate world on notice.
Despite rampant inflation, this recent survey states, “In 2022, 95% of surveyed consumers consider the sustainability of a product to be important. And more consumers are putting their money where their mouth is: 84% of these consumers have purchased a sustainable product in the past six months, up from 67% in 2021.”
Zero Waste Strategies has adapted to industry changes caused by the pandemic by shifting to a that delivers a 4-tiered system:
- A monthly subscription service for basic waste reduction and money saving tips for small businesses
- A 6-week “Done By You” online Zero Waste training program for business owners and managers to launch
- A 6-week “Done With You” online Zero Waste training program for business owners and managers to tackle industry-specific wastes and local/state policy compliance
- A full service “Done For You” program, including an in-person facility assessment, waste auditing, staff training, Zero Waste Master Plan development, and implementation assistance
What advice do you wish you received when the pandemic started and what do you intend on improving in 2023?
Stacy Savage: I wish I had received advice to start my business model pivot sooner than I did. I could not have known that the pandemic would still be prevalent almost 3 years after it started.
In 2022, I intend on improving our marketing messaging and outreach to enroll more clients into our monthly subscription, online training, and in-person services. Providing authentic, value-packed content will help us fill our recruitment pipeline with organic relationships built on trust and integrity.
Online business surged higher than ever, B2B, B2C, online shopping, virtual meetings, remote work, Zoom medical consultations, what are your expectations for 2023?
Stacy Savage: Many workers are choosing to start small, home-based businesses instead of returning to the office, so I expect the online commerce sector to grow even more rapidly.
Only time will tell when this pandemic will end, but corporations that still need to be prepared for an even stronger demand for sustainable operations and products, especially in the extraction, transportation, and manufacturing industries.
How many hours a day do you spend in front of a screen?
Stacy Savage: It’s embarrassing to admit it, but I honestly spend about 14 hours per day in front of some sort of screen. Administering self-care, such as camping and reconnecting with nature and daily exercise are highly important to me for balancing my perspectives on life and grounding me in gratitude.
The majority of executives use stories to persuade and communicate in the workplace. Can you share with our readers examples of how you implement that in your business to communicate effectively with your team?
Stacy Savage: Our team is small, so our daily conversations tend to be rooted in personal camaraderie. But, when I train a room full of employees, I always start off with my own journey of growing up in a polluted southeast Texas oil town where my own parents worked at the local refineries and tie that experience to my career path of environmental activism, helping pass local and state recycling legislation, and founding a Zero Waste consultancy.
My style of training centers on fun, engaging games, quizzes to test recycling knowledge, and successful business examples to make the case for going green.
Business is all about overcoming obstacles and creating opportunities for growth. What do you see as the real challenge right now?
Stacy Savage: Many established businesses are challenged in connecting with newer generations of consumers who use their values of environmental stewardship and social justice as key deciders in their purchasing decisions.
Millennials and Zoomers bring about $46B in collective buying power to the US market each year. These buyers are very savvy in researching the public benefit efforts of companies they wish to patron, such as charitable giving, worker rights, and green operations.
In 2023, what are you most interested in learning about? Crypto, NFTs, online marketing, or any other skill sets? Please share your motivations.
Stacy Savage: As a businesswoman, I am interested in learning more about passive income opportunities to grow my retirement accounts, travel more, and to pass along generational wealth to family members.
Personally, I am identifying highly effective environmental and social justice nonprofits to donate to on a consistent basis.
A record 4.4 million Americans left their jobs in September in 2021, accelerating a trend that has become known as the Great Resignation. 47% of people plan to leave their job during 2022. Most are leaving because of their boss or their company culture. 82% of people feel unheard, undervalued and misunderstood in the workplace. Do you think leaders see the data and think “that’s not me – I’m not that boss they don’t want to work for? What changes do you think need to happen?
Stacy Savage: Nobody wants to believe that they may have a poor management style or that their team might not respect their role in leadership, but not facing others’ perceptions of you could be a disservice to the entire company in the long run. Business leaders must shift to
Understanding the health of the company is critical in navigating and improving daily operations successfully and can be measured through anonymous employee surveys and internal focus groups.
When employees are given the freedom to express their opinions about corporate policies, strategies, and leadership without repercussions, they feel heard and valued and tend to become more accountable to completing their own duties to management’s satisfaction.
On a lighter note, if you had the ability to pick any business superpower, what would it be and how would you put it into practice?
Stacy Savage: I’m very lucky because I feel I already have a business superpower that sets me apart from my colleagues in my field. As a neurodivergent CEO diagnosed with ADHD, I view and approach problems and solutions from a very different perspective than most.
Even as a little girl, I couldn’t learn and study the same way the other kids could, so I had to go against the grain to keep up. I was made aware later in adulthood that I simply compete differently, and different isn’t wrong.
By consistently creating my own path throughout life and developing systems and routines that work for me, I’m efficient, effective, innovative, and accurate in my results for business clients.
What does “success” in 2023 mean to you? It could be on a personal or business level, please share your vision.
Stacy Savage: To me, success in 2022 means:
- Gaining a minimum of 100 new monthly subscribers by the end of this year
- Channeling 50% of those subscribers into my 6-week “Done By You” program
- Channeling 25% of those graduates into my 6-week “Done With You” program
- Contracting with 2-3 clients into my full-service “Done For You” program
Also, I’m a dynamic, passionate public speaker onstage and online.
Becoming a part of a speaking circuit at state, national, and global conferences to support business sustainability, employee education, and green marketing strategies would be so exciting.
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Stacy Savage for taking the time to do this interview and share her knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Stacy Savage or her company, you can do it through her – Linkedin Page
Disclaimer: The ValiantCEO Community welcomes voices from many spheres on our open platform. We publish pieces as written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team and must meet our guidelines prior to being published.