Hidden Gems: Meet Sarah Currie-Halpern of Think Zero
Today we’d like to introduce you to Sarah Currie-Halpern.
Hi Sarah, so excited to have you on the platform. So, before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
My career journey started at the tender age of 5 in kindergarten when my mom asked me if I wanted to help her help our town start to recycle. My Mom was on our town of Greenwich, CT’s waste advisory board when the town began its first recycling program. We did a commercial where my mom was the “Green Witch” I was one of a few little kids singing “re re re re recycle, re re re re reuse it…” from then on, I was hooked with the notion that reducing waste and recycling are critically important if we are to preserve this precious planet we call home.
Fast forward to 2007, I was in NYC and worked my way on to the Manhattan Solid Waste Advisory Board where I served as member, chair of several committees, and finally Chairwoman, for 11 years.
In 2012 I met Bill de Blasio as he was starting his campaign for Mayor and did some pro bono waste consulting work for him. Once he won as Mayor of New York City, his sustainability office hired me as their first Senior Policy Advisor working on Zero Waste programs and policies. This launched not only my career in waste reduction and diversion but also a determination to achieve zero waste within my own family and spread the zero-waste dogma to the rest of my family and friends.
In mid 2016 I left the mayor’s office and launched Think Zero LLC with Ushma Pandya Mehta. She and I met through sharing cloth diapers among our daughters! While Think Zero has grown in size and scope, servicing clients large and small in their waste reduction efforts, our mission has stayed the same, making the greatest impact possible towards changing our wasteful culture in America.
We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
Yes I would describe it as a relatively smooth road. For 10 years before working in waste I did marketing for real estate companies and then with many different clients when I had my own small marketing firm. I knew I wanted to transition into a career in sustainability and was super lucky I had the opportunities I had with MSWAB and de Blasio that allowed me to make that career shift. Working in waste can be very challenging as well. Behavior change work is hard, sometimes we don’t make quite as much impact as we would have liked or it takes longer than we hoped to change behaviors in an office or home.
Great, so let’s talk business. Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
Think Zero LLC was founded by my business partner, Ushma Pandya Mehta, and I, in 2016 after we met sharing cloth diapers between our daughters. I am proud to say that we are a women- and minority-owned business. We help companies and real estate owners reduce the overall amount of waste they generate and divert more materials from landfills and incinerators. We are passionate about zero waste but realize that this is a lofty goal for many businesses so we first help our clients set waste goals and then we work hard, with them, to achieve these goals. We like to call ourselves a small but mighty team, there are four of us plus a large group of waste audit contractors whom we have trained to do waste audits for our clients. We specialize in behavior change, so getting people first to care about the issue of waste and why it matters to them and then to understand what they can do about it and finally to commit to making small changes in their daily lives to reduce waste. We believe if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it so collecting great data and then providing it to our clients is an important part of what we do.
Can you talk to us a bit about the role of luck?
Luck has definitely played a role in my life and business; I consider myself a lucky person! If I hadn’t worked for the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability in NYC, I would likely not have started Think Zero LLC- that job really launched my career in waste. I also met a few of our first clients while running the Mayor’s Zero Waste Challenge. Throughout my life luck has definitely played a role in moving things in the direction I wanted to go, but I am also a spiritual person and I do believe God has helped guide me, and my dad, who passed away almost 6 years ago, is also my angel and has helped make things happen in my life.