Is this a rock band or a recycling company?
Looking at the photo above, it could be hard to tell. But that’s part of the branding strategy behind Clear Intentions. The Denver-based glass recycling startup wants to be a little edgy. Co-founders Brittany Evans and Todd Lehman aspire to change the image of recycling and people’s habits around it.
“We're Millennials,” says Evans, 27, of the four-person start-up where nobody is yet over the age of 30, a rare thing in the waste management industry. “It’s not that the industry is new, but what we're doing is new.”
Evans and Lehman, joined by Damon Michaels and Tiffany Keen, are tackling the problem of glass recycling, specifically. The “glass” emphasis is uniquely highlighted in their website name, ClearIntentions.glass. This name is another innovative aspect of their overall branding strategy.
“Off the bat, people can look at the website name and say, "Okay, they have to do with glass,” Evans says of their choice to select a new "not-com" domain name. “Just having a new twist on it, a new flare to what we're doing is helping to get the attention of our generation.”
Clear Intentions is gaining the attention of Millennials, and beyond. The team behind it wants to fully recycle all glass in Denver and greater Colorado by acting as a specialized waste management service.
Why the focus on Colorado? And why glass? Answer: The state is 49 out of 50 when it comes to recycling glass. In fact, only 17 percent of Denver’s glass gets recycled – that’s 1 in 6 bottles. Colorado throws away nearly 500 million glass bottles every year, according to Clear Intentions.
“When you think of Colorado, it really shocks you at first,” says Lehman, referring to the progressive culture many identify with the state. “I thought Colorado was such a green state. And it is, in a lot of areas. But in recycling, it’s really, really terrible.”
It comes down to the way recycling is handled in Denver and greater Colorado. Currently, all recyclable materials are deposited into one recycling stream, versus being separated out by source (paper, plastic, glass) by the consumer.
However, when glass is added to this single-stream, or co-mingled, recycling process, the majority of it does not get recycled. Instead, the glass breaks down into small pieces that machinery (or humans) cannot effectively sort, and all of that broken glass eventually ends up in landfills anyway – something the very act of recycling is intended to prevent.
“The second you pull glass out of that co-mingled system and just have glass separate, you can recycle 100 percent of it into primary sources without any loss in quality,” says Evans. “A bottle or a cup that you and I are using today could be used thousands of years down the line with our great, great, great, great grandchildren.”
This knowledge was the seed for Clear Intentions, which started as a college project by Evans some six years ago. Lehman later joined her, and together they refined the business plan to eventually land a $250,000 grant from the Colorado Department of Environmental Health – a grant specifically dedicated to building up Colorado’s recycling infrastructure.
They launched in 2014 and have been putting recycling programs in place -- rallying support from local bars, restaurants and municipalities -- with a goal of making glass recycling accessible and easy for all involved. The website, ClearIntentions.glass, plays an integral role in the effort by featuring drop-off locations; a glass recycling application; and the company's “Glass Valet” service. It also includes an educational component, "Trash Talk," a section of the website dedicated to news and facts surrounding glass recycling.
Evans says the name of the company helps their passion resonate with the public at large. It is a name that came to her as she was emptying out the dishwasher while brainstorming business names with Lehman.
“I said to him, "I really want people to know that we're authentic and have it include glass. I just want it to be clear, like glass … like clear intentions.’ It just popped out,” she recalls.
Combining it with their ‘dot-glass’ (.glass) domain, the business name communicates it all -- while reflecting a 21st-century edginess that inspires curiosity and ultimately, a motivation to do some good for the Earth. (The company, by the way, also purchased the domain name Recycling.glass, which currently redirects to the ClearIntentions.glass.)
“Sticking out in your industry is important,” says Evans, who hopes to expand the business beyond Colorado. “Getting something that's obvious, easy to remember and different at the same time – that mixture is very rarely found. Having ‘dot-glass’ in our domain name, it did all three of those things.”
Learn more about this business by visiting the website www.ClearIntentions.glass.