Ken Kurtzig: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Getting rid of a couch, dishes, or an entire office building full of furniture? Ken Kurtzig, founder of iReuse, and the 2006 Green Entrepreneur of the Year award winner, can help. What makes him green is that by reselling, donating (to nonprofits), and recycling, iReuse keeps 1.2 tons of material out of our landfill each day. What makes him an entrepreneur is he does this faster and cheaper than his competitors. For example, when the owner of Pell Plaza in Novato wanted to clear out his fully furnished 69,000-square-foot office building, he contacted iReuse. The company reused 95 tons of office equipment, the owner saved $49,000 by not hiring a hauling company, and he also received a $100,000 tax deduction receipt.

Kurtzig’s idea for a company based on the reusing and utilizing of local resources started at Salsalito Taco Shop just two years ago. After learning that the owner, Joanne Malik, paid up to $2,500 a year to dispose of her used vegetable oil, Kurtzig, who drives a biodiesel-fueled black Jetta, was compelled to investigate a new career path, one of connecting businesses and making the county more environmentally efficient.

Kurtzig was inspired by parents with two very different approaches to environmentalism. His mother, a technology entrepreneur, told him to be financially successful first and then philanthropic and environmentally conscientious. His father, an environmental consultant, believed in day-to-day realistic solutions. “I launched iReuse several years after my father passed away,” says Kurtzig. “But I know he would be proud since the company is based on his concept of saving green by being green.” His mother, however, was “a brutally honest skeptic.” After all, where’s the profit in getting rid of people’s stuff without charging dump fees like the other junk removal companies do?” Kurtzig shrugs. “We have a win-win-win situation.” Now that revenues are growing rapidly and his client roster includes Autodesk, Charles Schwab & Co. and Toyota of Marin, his mom is finally on board. “The day my mother changed her mind about iReuse was the day I knew I had a great company!”

Mimi Towle

Mimi Towle has been the editor of Marin Magazine for over a decade. She lived with her family in Sycamore Park and Strawberry and thoroughly enjoyed raising two daughters in the mayhem of Marin’s youth sports; soccer, swim, volleyball, ballet, hip hop, gymnastics and many many hours spent at Miwok Stables. Her community involvements include volunteering at her daughter’s schools, coaching soccer and volleyball (glorified snack mom), being on the board of both Richardson Bay Audubon Center. Currently residing on a floating home in Sausalito, she enjoys all water activity, including learning how to steer a 6-person canoe for the Tamalpais Outrigger Canoe Club. Born and raised in Hawaii, her fondness for the islands has on occasion made its way into the pages of the magazine.