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Information and Decision Making

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Wisdom Learning From Others

> DECISIONS TURN POTENTIAL INTO ACHIEVEMENT

Tom Szaky is an “eco-capitalist”—someone who turns sustainability into profits. While a freshman at Princeton University, Szaky ordered a million red worms, thinking he could use them to recycle campus waste. In conversations with classmate Jon Beyer, the idea shifted to selling liquid fertilizer made from worm excrement. But, they couldn't afford the expensive plastic bottles for packaging.

Many conversations led to creating TerraCycle with a mission to “find a meaningful use for waste materials.” Szaky's book, Revolution in a Bottle, is all about “upcycling”—the art, if you will, of turning waste that isn't recyclable into reusable packaging.1

TerraCycle upcycles waste products like cookie wrappers, drink containers, and discarded juice packs into usable products like tote bags and other containers. Szaky says: “First we identify a waste stream, then we figure out what we can make from that material. This is our strength—creatively solving the ‘what the hell do we make from it’ issue.”

Szaky's foray into the entrepreneurial world of eco-capitalism could have ended with the red worms experiment. But he and his friends didn't stop there. Learning from experience, they persevered and made decisions that turned ideas into accomplishments.

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