By Jewelle Saunders
2018 YLAI Fellow Porfirio Baez spent his free time dreaming up different ways to contribute to the preservation of the environment. So he founded his own company to do just that. Green Depot, based in the Dominican Republic, aims to make the planet, and his community members, more eco-conscious.
To celebrate Porfirio’s efforts in creating job opportunities in his community, and in leading them toward a culture of sustainability, the YLAI Network asked him a few questions about Green Depot’s successes.
Can you explain the efforts and goals of Green Depot?
At Green Depot, we manufacture biodegradable tableware, using naturally fallen palm leaf, collected by the local community. We provide sustainable alternatives to plastic that are made from 100% renewable resources.
The ultimate goal of Green Depot is to be a global reference for industrial triple impact companies (i.e., a for-profit company with a nonprofit foundation to execute charitable donations), not only to showcase what we do but to share how we do it sustainably.
I was driven to create this company due to the lack of eco-product varieties, and also to prove that eco-business could be profitable as well as traditional.
What do you envision for the future of Green Depot?
Creating a greater diversity of products using recycled new raw materials manufacturing new products for mass consumption and specialized with social, environmental and economic impact. Doing business the right way, delivering high-value products, with respect and integration of the local community and the final consumer.
We plan to achieve our goals with state-of-the-art equipment that make us grow our production capacity, delivering affordable prices and exporting our goods to the moon and beyond.
How has the community reacted to your organization?
Our community (both urban and rural) has embraced our company, not only because of what we do but why we do it. Our community is engaging rapidly in sustainable practices, not only because of us but because of other health and environmental issues that have occurred lately, like dump burns.
Do you think your organization has changed the way your community thinks about sustainability and managing waste?
I don’t believe we have changed yet the way they think, but we have definitely shown that there are multiple options to change our consumption behavior. Our community is now more than ever before committed to consuming local products.
What are some challenges you have faced as a business owner? Especially as a business specializing in sustainability?
As a small business owner, we face the normal issues as all small and specialized companies, such as limited capital, limited logistics opportunities to reach a larger impact, limited info about our type of business, the first of its kind in the Dominican Republic and the Caribbean. So being the first of its kind means a lot of good and not-so-good things. But, in the end, these challenges make us write a new history for our future generations.
What are you most passionate about in your work?
Delivering new income opportunities for rural communities, building new win-win relationships with other organizations to grow our impact, [and creating] exponential growth in the entrepreneurship ecosystem.
How has YLAI helped you achieve your mission?
YLAI has made me see a wider future in which there are really no boundaries to achieve whatever you want to, that we have an army of volunteers to help and make us see our dreams come true. Networking and info access are truly tools to build yourself up and go for it.
If you were to give a piece of advice to a YLAI Network member looking to make a difference in their community, what would you say?
Nothing is impossible. If no one is seeing it, it’s because [it] is your destiny. Go for it and make it happen.
Thanks, Porfirio, for all of your hard work and your advice!