Some come to America to improve their family’s standard of living, but one BYU civil engineering major came to America in hope of gaining an education that would allow him to improve the standard of living in his native country for generations to come.
Jamir Lopez, a 22-year-old junior in BYU’s civil and environmental engineering program, came to the university from his hometown of Mexico City, originally aiming for a mechanical engineering degree that would allow him to design robots. But Lopez discovered a special connection with nature while serving his mission in Veracruz, Mexico, and found his interests drifting in a slightly different direction — away from designing robots, and toward a dream of helping his native country join America’s quest for a more eco-friendly culture.
When Lopez returned to BYU to complete his degree, he said he tried to become more involved in local environmental issues, including recycling. He hoped to become involved with a small recycling business called One Man’s Trash, but soon found the graduation of the business’s founder last spring had left students in off-campus housing without a convenient option for transporting recyclable waste to nearby recycling facilities.
Around the same time, Lopez met another BYU student, Nathaniel Shipp, 22, a sophomore studying business, and relayed to him the need for an off-campus recycling service and his plan to create such an organization.
“I had had similar ideas myself, but what really drew me in was that there was an opportunity,” Shipp said. “I needed to chase that opportunity.”
So Shipp and Lopez teamed up to create Think Green, Recycle, the business they officially launched on Aug. 15, to bring recycling services back to off-campus students. The business relies on a simple process Lopez calls the R.S.S., or Rinse, Smash, Sort, system — once students have emptied, rinsed, crushed and sorted their recyclable waste into bags provided by Lopez and Shipp, Think Green picks up student subscribers’ recyclable waste at their apartments and takes it to Rocky Mountain Recycling in Salt Lake City each Saturday morning. Subscribers pay $1.99 per month, and in return receive pick-up services and everything they need to make their recyclable waste ready to be shipped.
Though the business has to make a profit, Shipp said he and Lopez have made providing the off-campus community with an affordable service a priority.
“We want to make it as cheap as possible,” he said. “Because we are students, we know how much it costs to go to school.”
In the weeks since they opened, Lopez said Think Green, Recycle has already signed up about 20 customers, and he believes there will be plenty more business to come.
“There are people everywhere [who are interested in recycling],” Lopez said. “They don’t have to be environmentalists or anything, they just know it’s the right thing to do.”
Matthew Silski, 22, a senior majoring in geography and one of Think Green’s first customers, said he signed up because his parents taught him a sense of environmental responsibility.
“I was raised to respect the Earth and the resources we have,” Silski said.
Think Green, Recycle has a good concept, Silski said, and so far has proven more reliable than the company’s predecessor. However, Silski said Think Green’s monthly payment system is not as convenient as paying for a recycling service up front.
Ultimately, recycling is just a part of a bigger picture, Lopez said. In that image, he sees an eco-friendly culture of resource conservation spreading throughout the world. While it may not bring about world-wide change, Lopez said Think Green, Recycle was a step in that direction, one that would instill in BYU students eco-friendly habits they would carry with them after completing college.
“I wanted to take a step toward the future,” Lopez said. “That’s where we’re headed. And if we’re not headed that way, we’re not headed in the right direction.”
But Lopez said his family and friends back home aren’t entirely on board with his dream. Instead, Lopez said, some of those he knows from Mexico feel his plan to return to his native country is the wrong decision.
“Most of my friends — they say, ‘Just stay there, you’re living the dream,’” Lopez said. “But if I go back to Mexico, I feel like I can give something back.”