JUNE 2008

A Closer Look E-mail the author

Green Girl/Green Mountain Recycling

Bridget Johnson • 303-442-7535
—Bridget Johnson

Green Girl’s catchphrase is “we make recycling easy” and when it comes to serving the customers in the mountainous areas of Boulder County, Colorado, that can be a big deal. While other recyclers might ask that the recyclables be placed at the end of the driveway, Green Girl trucks will go into the customer’s garages, if requested. Bridget Johnson, owner of Green Girl explained that “in the mountains, the end of the driveway can be a mile [from the house].”

Green Girl was founded in 1998 as a way to provide convenient residential recycling in Johnson’s own neighborhood. At the time, Johnson was living with three other single girls in a Boulder neighborhood. She said, “I was the only one responsible enough to do recycling.” Johnson would load the recyclables into her car and haul them to a nearby recycling center.

But after the girls hosted a few gatherings and the pile of recyclables got bigger, Johnson looked around to find someone who would pick up the material. The prices were too expensive for her budget, so she came up with another plan. She started talking to neighbors to see if they’d be interested in doing more recycling if she did the hauling. “I knocked on doors for 100 days straight,” she said.

From that effort, Green Girl got its start, and “By 1999, it was paying the bills.” Johnson said. Most of Green Girl’s customers are residential, with a few commercial customers. In 2004, that changed when Johnson bought Green Mountain Recycling, which had a mostly commercial customer base.

Johnson said that the company takes almost everything that is recyclable, including most forms of paper. “We partnered with Eco-Cycle eight years ago.” Johnson said, and most of the paper goes there for processing.

“We track everything we take in, and everything we recycle,” Johnson said. Part of that is for her own records, but Johnson also sends a letter out each year, to every customer, detailing what was picked up, and what that amount of recycling is equivalent to in terms of resources saved.

Besides residential customers, “we do a lot of print shops,” Johnson said. Green Mountain also services several well-known customers; one office generates 3000 lbs. per month in office paper alone, a grocery chain produces 3-4 tons of cardboard a month, and a nearby hospital generates 1000 lbs. per month of paperboard. Johnson said that if you add up all the paper and recyclables picked up in a year, “it would fill a football field 5 feet deep.”

While the commercial accounts are probably the most profitable, Johnson said, “The little houses are my favorites. You get to know the people.” She said that she enjoys meeting the customers individually, and “I never want to grow too big to handle the growth. Everyone should get the best service. I really care about getting everything recycled.”

“It’s exciting,” Johnson said of the business, but it has its ups and downs, particularly in the mountains. “Trucks break down all the time,” she said. “Driveways can be a nightmare.” And, like everyone else, “We’re constantly battling the price of gas going up.”

Johnson is no stranger to the trucks. She said that she still has the first Green Girl 1978 Ford 350 4x4 flatbed. “I love that truck,” she said. A new addition is a 16-yard trash truck that Johnson is converting for hauling recycling and compost.

Johnson’s husband, Matt, also knows all about those long mountain driveways. He’s the one who usually drives the mountain routes, and he’s in charge of safety, keeping track of DOT issues, and routing the other trucks. Including Matt, the company has three drivers, and two part-time employees who work on an as-needed basis.

Before getting into the recycling business, Johnson had worked at ski areas in international sales and for the ski patrol. Later, she moved to Boulder and went to school for business. “I always knew I’d own my own business,” Johnson said, “but I didn’t know what the business would be.” Her father’s advice was to do something she felt passionate about, but she didn’t quite know what that passion would be until she started knocking on doors and talking to her neighbors about recycling.

Now, she knows that she found the right niche. “I’m always upbeat, probably because I like what I do,” she said. “I feel good when I go to bed at night, knowing that I’m making a difference.”