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My Quest for a Greener, Cleaner Tomorrow

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Photo: Rich Anderson/Wikimedia

Last week I made up my first Twitter hashtag: #wonkygeekheaven. Which is exactly what the first Los Angeles Good Jobs, Green Jobs conference was for me. There was lots of talk about LAANE’s Don’t Waste LA campaign (which my company, Isidore Electronics Recycling, is a new partner of), passionate discussions with labor and environmental groups, analysis of the economic impact of climate change policy on cities and a rally against a big bad waste company.

Like I said, #wonkygeekheaven.

I never thought I would start an electronics recycling company. But while in my twenties I did a stint in (then) City Council President Eric Garcetti’s office, where I focused on public safety and gang intervention and prevention. There, I saw the same truth over and over: At-risk people and those exiting prison need jobs. I headed to graduate school to figure out how to make that happen, and a few years later left USC with a master’s in public policy and the realization that I didn’t want to spend years legislating for green jobs or better prison reentry programs. I just wanted to create them.

Hence, Isidore Electronics Recycling. Our mission is to provide easy, reliable systems for people to recycle their electronics in an environmentally safe and secure way, and to reduce recidivism and increase public safety by providing job training and employment for people with records. And here’s the real “green” part of our good jobs, green jobs equation: Electronic waste is the state’s fastest-growing waste stream. Last year, more than 200,000 tons of electronics were thrown away in California – putting toxic e-waste into our landfills and our environment. On top of that, it’s a tragic waste of our natural resources: e-waste contains valuable precious metals such as gold, copper, silver and palladium.

If not dealt with correctly, those electronics can end up overseas and processed with very low environmental and social standards. Isidore Electronics Recycling is safely treating this valuable waste stream in Los Angeles, while providing opportunities for jobs and training.

So what about the “good” of it? It’s no secret that we have a prison crisis here in California. Our prisons are dangerously overcrowded, and at the beginning of 2012 were at 200 percent capacity. This overcrowding has forced a “realignment” from state to local governments, meaning that when folks are released from state prison they are put in the custody of a county. Mostly L.A. County. But here’s the thing – in California we have a 70 percent recidivism rate – the highest in the nation. That means that 7 out of 10 people who leave a California correctional facility return within three years. (And it’s not because they enjoyed their stay.) So far this year, almost 4,000 people have been released to L.A. County, and over 5,000 more are expected by the end of 2012.

These folks face serious legal and social barriers to employment and a productive life – limiting career opportunities for them and creating a public safety concern for all of us. With that in mind, Isidore is on track to begin training Homeboy Industries clients in electronics recycling this summer.

This brings me to LAANE’s “Don’t Waste LA” campaign. As a business owner, I support this effort wholeheartedly, because it does its best to ensure that companies handling trash for businesses and apartment buildings in L.A. have high environmental and working standards. And the truth is, I don’t want to compete in a marketplace that doesn’t have those strong standards. I’m proud to support LAANE as it moves forward in making sure that the standards adopted by the city are realistic, fair and produce good, green jobs. I’m excited to be with them on this road that is both wonky and geeky, but also just correct and right.

PS: Want to help us out with our mission? Have junk in your garage you need to recycle? Visit www.IsidoreRecycling.com to find out more.

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