Episode 82: Gina Lee, Founder of UPcyclers Network,
Jan 22, 2020, Updated May 23, 2021
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The Produce Moms Podcast
Gina Lee is the Founder of The UPcyclers Network and is a passionate advocate for businesses that are creating value from “waste.”
Gina has over 15 years of experience working in the areas of corporate social responsibility and social impact in the United States, China and Germany with organizations including the Aspen Institute, the American Sustainable Business Council and Mercy Corps.
Gina believes that social entrepreneurs will change the world, and she founded The UPcyclers Network to challenge our reliance on natural resource extraction and build a sustainable economy where waste is simply a resource out of place. Building a sustainable economy is imperative for all industries, especially agriculture. This vision lays the foundation for the circular production model of the future.
What is a Circular Economy?
A circular economy is presented as a system of resource utilization where the elements of reduction, reuse and recycle prevail. The goal is to minimize production to a bare minimum, and when it’s necessary to use a resource, to go for the maximum reuse of the elements that can’t be reused and recycled.
Gina recognizes that there is no solution for our world’s ever-increasing consumption of consumer goods. With the World Resource Institute and Brookings Institute predicting consumer spending to increase three-fold, action from consumers and producers is needed now. It starts with reduction, but we also need to figure out a more sustainable consumption system.
“As consumers/retailers we need to advocate to have more recycled content in our stuff…not just say-is this material recyclable? Because otherwise, this stuff is all just recyclable, but no one’s buying that recycled material back. It doesn’t work.” Gina Lee (9:29-9:47)
Waste as a Resource
How do we create value from waste that we currently send to the landfill? There are numerous ways. For example, recycling aluminum saves 95% of energy and recycling glass saves 34%. When you take a car to a junkyard and they scrap metal, that can reduce greenhouse emissions by a thousand pounds which is equivalent to 400 gallons of gasoline.
Being able to reuse recyclable materials has a huge environmental footprint. When we buy products; furniture, household goods, clothing, it creates a large stress on our planet because you need a ton of resources to consume “stuff.” Landfills are filling up so fast and we need to develop an industry that will reduce the need for landfills and make sustainable products from waste.
Call to Action
As Gina explained, the earth recently reached a point where our resource consumption exceeds the earth’s capacity to regenerate resources. It all comes back to reduction.
Recycle what you know can be recycled but also lower your personal environmental footprint by purchasing items that are re-used or second hand. If consumers are demanding it, then corporations will follow.
How To Get Involved
- Join The Produce Moms Group on Facebook and continue the discussion every week!
- Reach out to us – we’d love to hear more about where you are in life and business! Find out more here.
- Learn more about Upcyclers Network.
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- Episode 80: Let Food Be Thy Medicine with Founder and Chief Innovation Officer of Cali’flour Foods, Amy Lacey
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