Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
Moji Igun, the Founder of Blue Daisi Consulting, is a sustainability consultant who is passionate about finding creative ways to reduce waste in pursuit of a more sustainable, equitable, and just world. In this fireside chat, Moji discusses her work in guiding communities and local businesses in Seattle toward a zero-waste future.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
As she reflects on her uplifting career transition into the sustainability field, Moji highlights the importance of applying her core values to her role.
What sparked your interest in zero-waste consulting and sustainability?
I originally studied mechanical engineering, which was what I was projected to do for my career. I had a career fair during my senior year—I remember walking up to all the stands, shaking people’s hands, and thinking, “I hate everything about this. This is not my vibe.”
I had a minor in sustainability and took a couple of classes in college. I found that subject much more interesting and realized I wanted to pursue sustainability as a career. But, I didn’t know how to connect my major to my interests.
I didn’t know I could be a sustainability consultant for a living, so I first became an engineer. I took a couple of left turns and worked in construction in the Midwest for a bit while trying to figure out how to make this degree work for me. I would walk around buildings with plans and make sure they were up to code. If they weren’t, it required rework. We’d either have to rip something out, put it back again, or continue talking to the clients to discuss other options. For example, if you put the wrong carpet color, it means the whole floor gets ripped out and thrown in the dumpster. Because of this, there are so many instances where I saw dumpsters full of trash and it made me think more about zero-waste. I realized that I need to do something bigger. In 2018, I decided that I can’t continue being an engineer. I needed to figure out a way to work in sustainability, which inspired my career shift.
Would you have considered a sustainable person before jumping into this career?
Definitely. I’ve always been sorting my trash and recycling and asking my parents my whole life, “Why can’t we just reuse things or thrift?” I just didn’t know I could do this as a job.
What inspired you to launch Blue Daisi Consulting?
The fun thing about my career is that I made up my own job! I created Blue Daisi in 2018 in response to entering the sustainability field and not finding anything that resonated with me. I help businesses find creative ways to reduce waste in pursuit of a more sustainable, equitable, and just world.
What does the role of a sustainability consultant entail?
My services are broken down into consulting, coaching, and speech. For speaking services, I like to do podcasts or zero-waste workshops at companies. Some topics I cover are: “How does zero-waste work” or “How can you approach zero-waste at home or at work?”
Consulting is my bigger project. I currently have a contract with the city of Seattle’s Green Business Program, where I do outreach to small businesses all around the city. I introduce them to zero-waste resources, offer them zero-waste audits, and help them understand the rules. There are a lot of standards that people have to understand because Seattle is very ahead of the game in this space.
I also like to do coaching. I either work with a company founder who wants to know where zero-waste fits into their business or a green team in a company who wants to take it from being a personal passion to a work initiative. They usually ask, “How do we make sustainable choices at work?” Coaching involves working 1:1 or in small groups to help people understand what zero-waste can look like given limited resources and capacity.
What’s the process of working with a new client?
Full transparency—none of my clients are completely zero-waste. My goal is to help them move towards it and make progress. It’s important to ask them the following questions:
1) What questions do you have?
2) Where are you currently at?
3) What goals are important to you?
For some clients, they want to spend money or they want to save money. They also might want to change a certain part of the business because it works for branding. Some clients might be open to changing because they know zero-waste is important. It’s crucial to see what people care about, and what they personally value, and try to align that with something that helps them move towards zero-waste.
For example, I met an owner of a pasta company in Seattle. She makes beautiful handmade pasta and she sells it in plastic bags because it’s good for sales. Customers can see the pasta, which is not possible if she puts it in a cardboard box because no one is going to see what it looks like. My first thought would be for her to use compostable cardboard paper. However, that doesn’t work for her, so compostable plastics are a helpful alternative. Compostable plastics aren’t compostable everywhere, but she mainly sells in Seattle where there are resources. I realized that since she only sells in Seattle, this solution would work for her and meet her goals. It’s a price increase, so you should always ask a client how they feel about that. Switching from regular plastic to compostable plastic seems simple, but for her, she didn’t know where to start. My role is to help people understand their options.
I feel that I work in a very creative field, in a way, because I have to come up with creative solutions specific to different business needs. My role is 80% creativity and 20% project management.
How do you connect individual action, social responsibility, and business in your role?
All three are part of the solution. For example, individuals can’t shop their way out of the waste problem by buying all the right products. Businesses can’t just give consumers products that they don’t want, can’t afford, or don’t know how to interact with. Policy ultimately needs to fuel and push these decisions in the right direction.
It’s an ecosystem. People don’t respond to just being told what to do. It’s easy to focus on policy specifics, but, realistically, it also comes down to consumer and business needs.
Getting businesses to spend money can be difficult, especially when they don’t see an immediate return on investment. How do you get businesses to accept that fact?
I don’t have a complete answer. Even getting people to hire me is difficult. The city pays me, so businesses don’t have to pay me. Because of my partnership with the city, I can offer my services for free, but someone else is paying the bill. That’s my secret way around it.
I can’t make people spend more money if clients don’t want to, but sowing people easy wins can help them realize the benefits, even if it might take more time. Many people want to do the right thing, but they need guidance. Helping them find an easy path toward the solution can help businesses be open to the cost.
Why did the city hire you? Did regulation play a role?
There’s a lot of regulation coming down the zero-waste pipeline. It has to do with the fact that we are running out of our space in our landfills. In the next 10 years, our landfills are going to be completely full. We’re trying not to dig new landfills in the Seattle area and beyond, so the city is now thinking about ways to reduce and prevent waste across the board. It’s not entirely out of the kindness of their hearts—Seattle is running out of infrastructure for landfills, which is a real city problem.
How many out-of-state clients do you work with?
I primarily work local. I live in Seattle and mostly work within the city. I have a couple of clients that are out-of-state, but I try to limit that because waste is so site-specific that I want to be a trusted resource for my area specifically.
What are the biggest challenges you faced in the consulting and zero-waste space?
When shifting into this career, it was difficult to sell what I was trying to accomplish. There’s a broad spectrum of sustainability consultants in the waste space. For example, there are people focused on certifications, climate justice, etc. There are so many different angles people take on waste and I’m not sure if there’s a agreed-upon way to communicate these differences. Explaining the differences between different types of sustainability consultants is one thing I had to learn.
Another challenge is finding where the money should come from. Who will pay me to do my services? Who pays for the landfills? Who builds the infrastructure? Who has to own the solution? It takes so many different parties to solve and finance zero-waste.
For people who are starting out, what types of skills are necessary for working in sustainability consulting?
There are some skills that I find important—first is teaching. I tutored kids from grades K-12 for 10 years. This experience helped me become a better teacher, which has helped me teach my clients about what I’m trying to change—especially when I do zero-waste workshops. I’m pulling from my time as an educator and learning how to meet people where they’re at, see their comprehension, and test their understanding. I think this skill is very important for climate communication.
Second, being able to condense complex information and simplify it in Layman's terms is helpful when working with clients. We’re often bombarded with stats and numbers, so it’s important to break it down while being concise.
Also, general problem-solving skills are crucial for awesome project management. You can practice it in any way.
Then, marketing and PR are probably two skills that are underrated. Even if you don’t move into that space, I think there’s a disconnect between do-gooders who want to act on climate change and explaining to customers and investors the reasoning behind these decisions. We want to bridge that gap.
Lastly, focus on behavior change because it can motivate people to care about the cause. A lot of people in the climate space focus on the climate angle, but you have to learn how to talk to people concerned about the financials or branding. Know what potential barriers could be in place. Learning to build a business case for sustainability is important.
What does your future vision look like?
I would love to continue teaching workshops. I love doing the same ones over and over and creating ones from scratch. I also see myself becoming an aspiring writer. I would like to write stories of what a zero-waste world could look like both in fiction and non-fiction. I also want to continue working with small businesses and guiding them in this space. Lastly, I love building a company that reflects my values. I want to continue building a work environment that is working towards a more sustainable world.
You can check out Moji’s work at Blue Daisi Consulting!
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