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Russ: This is The Businessmakers Show, heard on the radio and seen online at TheBusinessmakers.com. It's guest time on the show, and we're coming to you right in front of City Hall in downtown Houston, Texas, and my guest is Laura Spanjian, the director of sustainability for the city of Houston. Laura, welcome to The Businessmakers Show.
Laura: Thank you for having me. I really appreciate it.
Russ: You bet. Now you're the first director of sustainability for the city of Houston. Right?
Laura: I am. I am, yes.
Russ: And based upon what I've seen, you've been pretty active.
Laura: I've been trying to do a lot of stuff because we're trying to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Houston, so there's a lot to do.
Russ: All right. A lot of people don't think of Houston and sustainability in the same sentence, but you're changing that.
Laura: I'm trying to change that.
Russ: But we're here right now for a real specific mission. Share that with our audience.
Laura: Absolutely. So one of the problems we have in Houston is that we don't have a good recycling program. Most Houstonians actually cannot recycle right in front of their homes like a lot of other cities. Apartment complexes, people who live in apartments have a very hard time recycling. And so therefore, our recycling rate is one of the lowest in the country. So a few months ago, Mayor Bloomberg actually issued a challenge to every city in America and said, “Come up with an innovative idea that changes city government for the better,” and every city got to pick one idea. Every mayor got to choose one idea, and our idea was an idea to provide recycling services to every Houstonian.
It's called One Bin for All, and what it is is it's a revolutionary new program that will allow Houstonians to put every material, everything, trash, recycling, you name it into one bin, and using game changing technology that hasn't been done before, we'll be able to take all of those materials, sort it at the facility using this new technology, and create revenue for Houston.
Russ: Sounds pretty exciting. Does the technology work?
Laura: It does work. We've done research in cities in Europe, in Canada, in California. They all have pieces of the technology, and not only is our technology innovative, but it's the way we're putting it together. It's the process. It's really a process innovation that makes our system unique because it's able to sort everything at the facility as opposed to you and I making hundreds of decisions every week on what's recyclable and what's not.
Russ: Sounds really cool. Now you mention Mayor Bloomberg's challenge, and so there's more to this than just this new idea.
Laura: There is. So not only winning money, we actually could win up to $5 million if we're the top winner in this competition. We made the top 20, so out of 305 cities, we're in the top 20. So he thinks we're one of the top 20 ideas in the country. So we're trying to win the big money. But in addition, we can also win $50,000.00 if Houston thinks we have a good idea because they're running a fan favorite competition right now until March 6, and we want people to go and vote for One Bin for All and make it the fan favorite.
Russ: Okay, so the other cities that are in the top 20, do their ideas have anything to do with sustainability?
Laura: A few do, a few do, but I really do think ours is the most innovative and has the best shot at changing something that really is a problem for a lot of cities.
Russ: And we're going to have the link to the voting location at TheBusinessmakers.com.
Russ: So if you're listening to the radio, go to TheBusinessmakers.com, find Laura Spanjian's interview, and click on the link, and vote for Houston. Right? That's what we're trying to do.
Laura: Yeah, it'll take you ten seconds to vote. It's real fast and easy, and we want all the votes we can get.
Russ: All right, sounds like a contest Houston needs to win.
Laura: We do. We absolutely need to win.
Russ: All right, really cool. I thank you for sharing that with us, and I hope we win.
Laura: Thank you so much. I really appreciate being on your show.
Russ: You bet. That wraps up my discussion with Laura Spanjian, the director of sustainability for the city of Houston, and this is The Businessmakers Show heard on the radio and seen online at TheBusinessmakers.com.