The GSB Interview with Colin Tetreault: Part I — Former Phoenix Sustainability Director Helps Arizona State Become Green-Sports Leader

Colin Tetreault of Arizona State is both a Green-Sports visionary and top-level practitioner. This was made clear when he moderated the Thought Leader panel at the Green Sports Alliance Summit in June. Next up, thought leadership-wise, for Tetreault is a home game of sorts: the Sports & Sustainability Symposium at ASU this winter. GreenSportsBlog spoke with Tetreault in a two-part interview.

Part I deals with Tetreault’s pre-Green-Sports life: His passion for the environment, as well as his sustainability work at Arizona State and in the mayor’s office in Phoenix. Tomorrow’s Part II delves into Tetreault’s and ASU’s Green-Sports leadership and where he thinks the movement needs to go.

 

GreenSportsBlog: Colin, you have an impressive — and, I have to say, long job title: Senior Sustainability Scholar and Global Sports Scholar, Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability at Arizona State University. You’ve worked with Major League Baseball, USA Triathlon and others on innovative Green-Sports initiatives. And, as I experienced first hand at the Green Sports Alliance Summit in June when you moderated the Thought Leader panel and workshop, you’re also working to push the Green-Sports movement forward faster. So I’ve been looking forward to this interview. How did you get to this place at the leading edge of Green-Sports?

Colin Tetreault: Thanks so much, Lew. Hey, I’m the proud product of a west coast business-guy dad and a Delaware Quaker mom. I grew up in the outdoors, climbed my first mountain when I was 9, learned contract negotiation at 12, did migrant refugee social work in my early teens, and gave thanks for the “return of a bull market” in high school. I have a background in capitalism and environmentalism, marketing and social work. Since my mom worked at ASU, I’ve been in that community since kindergarten. I did my undergrad and grad school work there.

GSB: You are a Sun Devil through and through! What did you study?

Colin: Well, after peaking in kindergarten I studied marketing and sociology as an undergrad. I was part of the inaugural cohort, back in 2007-08 in the sustainability graduate degree program, which emphasized the need for purpose in business.

 

Colin

Colin Tetreault, Senior Sustainability Scholar and Global Sports Scholar, Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability at Arizona State University (Photo credit: Colin Tetreault)

 

GSB: Ahead of its time…

Colin: I was very fortunate in terms of my timing, to say the least. While in grad school I started S2 Consulting. We showed corporate leadership how sustainability could drive business…How to do well while doing good. Clients included Intel, Starbucks, and PetSmart.

GSB: What did S2 Consulting do for these A-List companies?

Colin: We basically applied a sustainability lens to business consulting, showing our clients how leading on environment, as well as the social and governance aspects of sustainability, would help drive revenue, mitigate risk and drive brand image upward.

GSB: WOW! What did you do next?

Colin: I wanted to serve students, but didn’t want to go for a PhD — I didn’t want to write a dissertation that no one read, nor did I want to teach students to do the same. Instead, I wanted to help students interested in sustainability in a more practical fashion. In 2010, ASU offered a new Masters of Sustainable Solutions. It quickly became the most popular masters degree program at the School. It involved one year of studying and one year of doing.

GSB: That sounds right up your alley…

Colin: It was. I mean, if you want graduates to get hired in cool, sustainability-oriented jobs, what they needed was practical experience. So corporations would come to our program and we connected them to students, who then worked on sustainability projects that were material to the enterprise. And that set them up for jobs once they graduated

GSB: That is how a graduate school program should run. Now I understand you also got involved in politics at around that time. Talk about that…

Colin: Yes. I was a Director on the Phoenix Green Chamber of Commerce. This was 2011-12. There was a mayoral election then. If memory serves, there were 11 candidates running. They had a debate on sustainability. Eight of the candidates were on stage; two of them were respectable on environmental issues. One of them actually understood that sustainability was more than trees and recycling. That was Greg Stanton. He said “if I’m elected, I will appoint Phoenix’ first full time sustainability policy director.” I said to myself, “I want this job!” I was qualified, had the subject matter expertise and was known as an honest broker in the community. So when Greg won, I went for it and — what do you know — he appointed me to his team!

 

Colin 2013 Eugene Scott Mayor Greg Stanton. Grid Bike

Colin Tetreault (l), Eugene Scott (now a Washington Post reporter) and then-Phoenix mayor Greg Stanton promote bike share in the city in 2013 (Photo credit: Grid Bike)

 

GSB: That’s AMAZING! How did ASU react?

Colin: They were great about it. The university loaned me to the city. The city was able to save cost on a director level role and the university was able to be of service to its community.

GSB: That’s quite the win-win. What did you do in the sustainability policy director role?

Colin: Well, when I came into the city government, Phoenix was known as the “Bird On Fire,” the least sustainable city in the USA…

GSB: …So there was only one way to go: UP!

Colin: I served with a great team in the writing of the city’s first sustainability plans. We made sure they were 100 percent policy driven, not a political document. That way we could get much more buy in. After two years, I’m proud to say that we were able to author one of the best sustainability turnaround stories for a city.

GSB: What were some of its key tenets?

Colin: Let me frame the situation we faced: Phoenix is the fifth largest city in the nation. I was tasked with serving 1.7 million people over an area that is 520 square miles. You can fit Paris, Rome, Manhattan, and San Francisco into the legal borders of Phoenix. That doesn’t include the two dozen additional cities in our region. To add to the challenge, our state-level politics and historical orientations didn’t make sustainability practice difficult, it made it outright hostile. But that didn’t stop us. We rolled up our sleeves, made our work focused on cost efficiencies to create buy-in, and set out to create positive change.

Some of the big and fun ones were energy, waste, land use, and transportation.

In energy, we built a $25 million deal – the largest in the nation – in partnership with the Department of Energy and a regional bank – to accelerate home rooftop solar deployment in the city. It only makes sense that place with the best solar capacity should empower its residents to take control of their energy bills and reduce their environmental impact in perpetuity. We specifically carved out this program to be reserved for folks of low-to-moderate income areas. We believed — and still do — that we are judged not on how we treat those with the most, but how we treat those with the least.

We also authored the most aggressive approach to waste in the history of the state. Prior, the city and region had no waste management goals. None.

GSB: How was that possible for the fifth largest city in the nation?

Colin: Crazy, right? Well, we became the first American city to partner with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation to create a “circular economy”. We basically said there’s no such thing as trash. While setting a 100 percent Zero Waste goal, we also looked to transform “trash” into resources. We called the campaign Reimagine Phoenix, asking folks to reimagine a future with no waste…just resources and opportunities. We built, in partnership with ASU, a public-private tech accelerator to cultivate and build local companies that could address the waste stream and grow private-sector jobs. Here are a few examples: palm fronds. Yeah, those things people like to sip umbrella laden drink under…turns out that they are a pickle to compost. The fibrous nature of them precludes them from being incorporated into normal compost operations. For anyone who has been to Phoenix knows we’ve got trees in spades. The city partnered with a private enterprise to break those fronds into a material that is incorporated into an animal feedstock. Another venture takes hard to recycle plastic items and breaks the polymers into base-level monomers…the building blocks of other items. From there, they can make “stuff” and keep materials in play…not downgrading them or sending them to a landfill.

 

Reimagine Phoenix

 

GSB: That is very cool…What about land?

Colin: Land…oh boy…don’t get me started! There was a 2000 article indicating that nearly 40 percent of the Phoenix region was vacant land. Not only does that look terrible, it depresses property values, which reduces tax revenues, which means school budget cuts. It also adds to the urban heat island effect, and reduces community cohesion.

GSB: Not a good look.

Colin: Not at all. While certain land use policies are primarily the purview of the county and state, we showcased what reform could look like. We worked with Keep Phoenix Beautiful to transform 15 acres of vacant land in the heart of central Phoenix.

GSB: Fifteen acres of vacant land? Downtown?

Colin: It was the largest vacant piece of land in the heart of a downtown in the nation…and it had been that way for over 20 years. We — and a dozen community partners — built the largest and most impactful community space in the state. Refugee gardeners built and operated businesses. We hosted veterans therapy groups to help treat those with PTSD symptoms, built gathering collaboration spaces for LGBTQ youth bullied out of high school, hosted concerts and more. We called it PHX Renews. We wanted to renew our urban fabric. And we did. The fun part…everything on the site was made to be interim and moveable. Here’s the cool part…that giant piece of land…is going to be redeveloped. Our work didn’t disappear, it moved – like germinating seeds – to grow opportunities all over the Valley of the Sun.

GSB: Finally, on transportation?

Colin: We brought bike share to the city, accelerated the deployment of more light rail, and sought to create a policy of “complete streets” where thoroughfares are designed to move goods, ideas, peoples and services…not just cars. Instead of a banal streetscape that consists of 4 lanes of vehicular traffic with episodic, anemic tree or shade cover that is not just uncomfortable for, but openly hazardous for pedestrians and cyclists – in addition to vehicle operators – “complete streets” paints a more virtuous picture for all. By embracing slower vehicular speeds, with more purposeful pedestrian and non-motorized transit options and gathering spots, places and businesses flourish. Look to intersections from Manhattan to Curitiba. What were once solely car dominated areas are now bastions of commerce and culture. By the way, it also has positive environmental impacts by tailpipe emissions…so it’s got that going for it, too.

 

IN FRIDAY’S PART II: Colin discusses his return to Arizona State and how he helped it become a Green-Sports innovator.

 

 


 

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Green-Sports Startups, Part 6: Raea Jean Leinster and Yuck Old Paint; Helping Stadiums Find New Homes for (Yuck) Old Paint

Well-known global corporations, from Anheuser-Busch to Nike, have waded into the Green-Sports waters. While it makes sense for them to do so from PR and mission points of view, Green-Sports (for now) represents a small aspect of these companies’ businesses.

Then again, there are startups for which Green-Sports is a significant part of their raison d’être. Last year, GreenSportsBlog launched an occasional series, Green-Sports Startups that focuses on small (for now) companies and nonprofits that see the greening of sports as essential to their prospects for success.

In today’s sixth^ version of Green-Sports Startups, we bring you Yuck Old Paint (yup, that’s the name of the company), brainchild of Raea Jean Leinster, that finds second uses for stockpiles of leftover paint — including from places like Nationals Park in Washington, D.C.

Raea Jean’s story is colorful (there, I had to say it!), important and fun so ENJOY!

 

How does a Russian Studies major and a Czech minor who pursued a career path to work at the NSA, CIA and State Department and then became a concert violinist end up in the business of finding reuse opportunities for tons of cans of unused paint— from places like Nationals Park, home of the Washington Nats? And she calls her company Yuck Old Paint?

I know what you’re thinking: “This has to be FAKE NEWS!”

Nope. It’s the real, incredible story from the incredible Raea Jean Leinster.

 

FROM BRATISLAVA TO BELL LABS TO CONCERT VIOLINIST TO INTERIOR DESIGNER TO…

Leinster’s unlikely journey to becoming a Green-Sports pioneer started in an unlikely place: Bratislava, now the capital of Slovakia. But back in the late 80s-early 90s, just before the Soviet Union was about to collapse, Bratislava was part of Czechoslovakia. I’ll let Leinster pick up the story from there:

“I was in the middle of my Russian and Czech studies at George Mason University when the Soviet Union collapsed. So I dropped out of school to go to Czechoslovakia and teach English. While in Bratislava, I saw first-time-ever capitalist billboards in the former Eastern bloc for Apple, Coke and Marlboro. I asked myself, ‘how do these companies permeate a city like Bratislava when there was no real diplomatic US presence there?’ I realized that brands and business move faster than countries, so I redirected my career path to international business.”

 

Raea jean 1

Raea Jean Leinster, founder of Yuck Old Paint (Photo credit: Raea Jean Leinster)

 

Leinster returned to GMU and upon graduation went into the telecom industry just as AT&T was being deregulated: “I worked in telecom for ten years, helping MCI launch its ‘Friends and Family’ program and managed global channel communications and branding for Lucent Technologies for 80 countries before I was 30,” she recalled. “Then, in 2002-3, the telecom industry imploded and hundreds of thousands of people across the country lost their jobs, including me.”

So Leinster licked her wounds and took a gap year, spending much of it playing volleyball in the Virgin Islands. Batteries recharged, Leinster returned to Northern Virginia in 2004 and pivoted to a different career path, that of concert violinist/faux finisher/interior designer.

HOLD ON A SECOND…She became a concert violinist and a faux finisher? What the heck is that?

Turns out Leinster had been playing violin since she was a little girl, kept at it throughout her various adventures and continues to perform today with a variety of orchestras.

 

Raea w violin at GU

Raea jean Leinster (r), rehearsing with a string quartet at Georgetown University (Photo credit: Raea Jean Leinster)

 

And as a faux finisher, Leinster restored murals, became an expert in Venetian and Italian plasters, a gilding artist and created custom art in restaurants, commercial spaces and private homes.

 

Contemporary Metallic

A “contemporary metallic” faux finish from Raea Jean Leinster (Photo credit: Raea Jean Leinster)

 

And that led to…

 

…YUCK OLD PAINT

Over the next ten years, Leinster “…kept hearing a steady drumbeat of ‘Raea, can you help me get rid of these pallets of Sherwin-Williams off-white leftover paint in my building?’ or ‘Raea, I have 40 cans of paint in my garage. Can you take them?’”

Leinster’s initial answer was a flat NO — after all, what would she do with the paint? She didn’t have the space to store all the paint her clients asked her to take away, and in Virginia, the landfills are only permitted for residential use.

But in December 2012, she started to figure it out.

“A DC design client asked me to take away four paint cans at the end of a job. I have no idea why I said ‘yes’ after years of telling clients ‘no’. But I did,” recalled Leinster. “And to my surprise, a $25 Starbucks gift card accompanied the 4 gallons of paint that were left at the concierge desk.”

As Leinster drove away, she took stock of what just happened.

“My client was totally capable of taking the paint cans herself to the DC landfill,” Leinster thought to herself. “But she couldn’t be bothered with it.”

The client also didn’t care what Leinster did with the paint, but trusted her to do the right thing and handle it safely. The client gained more space in her condo and time.

“Turns out it was worth it to my client to compensate me for my trouble to pick up the paint and to do something with it,” said Leinster. “I then wondered, ‘How many other home owners are out there who would pay for a professional service to pick up leftover, unwanted, unused cans of latex paint?’”

Leinster spent 2013 beta testing the business concept and in April 2014 launched Yuck Old Paint, LLC.

Since then, the phone has not stopped ringing.

Four years later, Yuck Old Paint now counts among her clients several federal agencies, the U.S. Army. the Washington Nationals and Nationals Park.

 

“WE DON’T RECYCLE PAINT; WE HELP FIND USES FOR UNUSED PAINT”

Leinster’s business is based on the “reuse” model in lieu of recycling. “Our first step is to qualify paint for reuse,” reported Leinster. “About 75 percent of the paint we pick up in its original containers is perfectly good and useable.”

Yuck Old Paint gives the useable paint to theatre companies who use it for set design, and to local contractors looking for a specific type of paint. Much of it is distributed overseas, to developing countries for sale in hardware stores and for humanitarian construction projects.

Wait a second.

Yuck Old Paint gives the paint away? 

Yes, that’s what they do. Because they are paid by customers who need the paint to go away a flat service fee plus a per-can price  — $5 for one quart and one gallon can; $10 for a five-gallon bucket.

OK, back to what happens to the Yuck Old Paint.

“Twenty percent of the remaining liquid paint stockpile is not useable — think of it like sour milk,” continued Leinster. “That batch gets turned into solid waste material. Another five percent is solid and dry. In either case, we ensure it is no longer in liquid form, which is a hazard to local soil and water tables. Once it has been cured into a solid material, it is delivered into the solid waste stream.”

 

Yuck Old cured latex paint

Some of the “sour”, unusable paint recovered by Yuck Old Paint after it has been cured into solid material using organic ingredients (Photo credit: Raea Jean Leinster)

 

YUCK OLD PAINT PARTNERS WITH THE WASHINGTON NATIONALS

“Before the start of each season, Nats management repaints the entire park: from the press box to the offices, from the locker rooms to the concession stands,” shared Leinster. “And every June we get a call from the Nats to remove between a half a ton and one ton of paint.

 

Yuck Old Paint Nats

Unused paint outside of Nationals Park before it gets picked up by Yuck Old Paint (Photo credit: Raea Jean Leinster)

 

In addition to removing the paint from the ballpark, there are four important reasons the club is happy to have Yuck Old Paint on their green team:

  1. Adds to the team’s environmentally responsible brand — Nationals Park was the first LEED stadium in Major League Baseball.
  2. Earn up to 2 LEED points because they transfer the leftover latex paint waste to Yuck Old Paint, which employs a landfill diversion model.
  3. Win back much needed storage space. One ton of latex paint is about 225 single gallon cans. That takes up a lot of space! And Washington D.C., along with 44 states, has banned the commercial dumping of latex paints in the landfill. Before, Yuck Old Paint, the Nats’ only solution — as well as for many sports stadiums — was to stow it away.
  4. The Nats are no longer in violation of the fire code. Per Leinster,
    “Even though latex paint is not combustible, it is flammable. And although how much paint commercial buildings and stadiums are allowed to have varies from city to city with no statewide or national standard, there’s no fire marshal who will look past 1 ton of latex paint as acceptable.”

 

“MOST PEOPLE DON’T KNOW THEY HAVE A PAINT PROBLEM”

Leinster, with the Nationals Park case study in her hip pocket, came to the Green Sports Alliance Summit in Atlanta in June, looking to attract other sports venues. “This was my first GSA Summit,” said Leinster. “I soon realized that most facilities managers and team owners have no idea they have a latex paint waste problem! We received some very enthusiastic responses from other Major League Baseball and NFL clubs. We look forward to working with them to be their latex paint and hazardous waste solutions provider. Which is great news for Yuck Old Paint.”

And it is great news for the environment.

 

^ The first five startups in the series were: Nube 9, a Seattle-based company committed to making recyclable sports uniforms; Underdogs United, which sells renewable energy credits to sports teams in the developed world that are generated by vital greening projects in the developing world; Phononic, a tech company that views sports venues as key to its ambition to disrupt the refrigeration market, leading to a meaningful reduction in carbon emissions; Play Fresh, a nonprofit that uses American football as a catalyst to help build environmental awareness among at-risk kids and teens; and Hytch, a Nashville-based startup that uses a state-of-the-art ride sharing app and financial rewards to encourage ride sharing to Nashville Predators games.

 


 

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