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Erlene Howard, Collective Resource, Inc. (CRI)

"The Resource is singular, because we only have one planet"

· Waste Disposal
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Tell us about yourself and your business!

CRI provides education and services to reduce landfill use. The largest part of our work is to keep food scraps from creating methane in the landfills and to make beautiful soil amendment from them. We do this by helping households, restaurants, and office collect food scraps in a separate container and then we pick them up and take them to a commercial composting site.

Why did you start this business? What's your origin story?

I started CRI because I wanted composting to be easy so more people would join us in this important planet-saving work.

I started hauling waste in the trunk of my 2002 Camry where I could fit 13 buckets and then used a tarp to protect the back seat so I could fill 14 more buckets there. The smell changes with the season and what customers collected. Not an odor you would smell if you were next to the bucket outside, but once the solar heat of the car would go to work, it took some getting used to.

My son Kevin Macica, 21 at the time (January 2011) was not in school and only working part time when I was juggling my prior job and the growing compost collection routes. I wanted him to be working full time and he lacked motivation or opportunities to do that. We were sharing one living space and I made a rule that he had to work for Collective Resource, Inc. if he was not working somewhere else.

I thought the physical, dirty work would push him into working somewhere else, but that wasn't the case. After about three weeks Kevin came to me and said I like this job and I want to grow this business with you. This has been a good experience for both of us!

What's the story behind the name of your business?

Collective = all of joining in to reverse climate change. Resource = (singular) because we only have one planet.

Why did you choose to locate your business in Evanston? What do you love about coming to work here?

Evanston has been home for Erlene Howard since 1995. CRI is home based office and Erlene continues to love living and working here.

What sets your business apart from others that perform the same service?

We provide a clean container with every pickup, taking all of the work out of food scrap diversion for the residents, businesses, and restaurants and we operation year round. Also in Evanston we are part of the City's compost program which is the largest municipal program in Illinois.

What advice would you give to someone who was thinking about opening a business?

Follow you heart and only do what you love. Have faith that it will work out and ask for help when you don't have the answers.