Emily George, '20

March 16, 2022
Alumna finds her calling at the intersection of environmental impact and business  

Emily George, ’20, grew up always close to a body of water—from her home near Lake Michigan to frequent visits to family on both coasts. “I was always outside and on the water. I learned to appreciate the beauty of the outdoors at a young age,” she said.

She also came to recognize the effects of pollution and environmental harm. “I was always the kid with the reusable containers in my lunchbox at school instead of plastic sandwich bags,” George shared. With her interest in swimming and sailing, George was intrigued when Patagonia designed a wetsuit made out of plant-based materials instead of traditional neoprene, whose production requires a high environmental and human cost. 

“It really caught my attention. I have always been in touch with the industry and Patagonia is a name a lot of people recognize. I started to wonder how other companies can use this as a propulsive force and adopt similar strategies,” she said.

Interested by the intersection of these two fields, George pursued a degree in environmental studies and a minor in business. “The math equations associated with energy efficiency, dissecting large societal issues in a practical way, using data to identify potential impact—these are all fascinating areas of study to me,” George shared.

While at Richmond, as part of an Environmental Management class with Trey Sutton, associate professor of management, George and her classmates conducted a benefit analysis of using gas vs. electric landscaping equipment for the groundskeeping department. She also interned for the Office for Sustainability and was involved with the Eco-Corridor restoration, encouraging faculty to use the space as an outdoor classroom and teaching opportunity.

After graduation George joined TerraCycle and now serves as a senior business development associate. TerraCycle is a social enterprise that offers many capabilities as they make progress toward its mission of eliminating the idea of waste. Among these capabilities, TerraCycle enables brands to sponsor the negative economics associated with recycling to create recycling programs free for consumers to participate. George’s work focuses on recruiting companies and brands to sponsor these programs to provide end-of-life solutions for typically non-traditional recyclables, diverting the material from landfills or incineration. 

“It’s been a great learning experience to understand how, as a for-profit company, we can have such a large impact on sustainability and the reduction of carbon emissions, and encourage others to do the same,” George said. “We are bringing these brands’ values to life through TerraCycle’s programs. The sustainability aspect is the most obvious, but there are a lot of other benefits like increasing corporate social responsibility, providing market differentiation, and encouraging consumer loyalty. We fit all the pieces together.” 

George regularly returns to Sutton’s class, providing current students a glimpse inside the career possibilities of environmental studies and business. George credits Sutton with teaching a subject in a way that makes it relevant and inspiring to students seeking similar paths post-graduation.

TerraCycle is continually evolving to adapt to growing recycling needs. TerraCycle works with brands like Garnier, Bausch + Lomb, and Babybel to find unique recycling and reusable solutions with hair care waste, daily contact lenses, and cigarette butts, among other items.

George is also a member of TerraCycle’s Net Zero Committee which supports TerraCycle’s goal of lowering the company’s carbon emissions via the Exponential Roadmap Initiative. “I am really interested in carbon and how we can employ environmental economic policies like carbon credits to create a positive benefit to the environment, while also not having a detrimental impact on business operations,” she said.

“This is a growing industry and a great time to contribute to the huge strides necessary to create a more sustainable world. Having a hand in diverting even one package from a landfill might not seem like much, but added up it means a better future.”