Students’ business employs peers

Summer employment can be a topic of dread among students as a lack of available jobs in recent years may have forced some to accept less-than-ideal jobs to fund their education – if they were able to find any job options at all.

Fourth-year business student at Wilfrid Laurier University John Duff has a different perspective on the student job situation, finding himself in the position of providing students with job options after he and his brother began College Green Marketing, a distributor of biodegradable trash bags last summer.

“They use these bags out in BC in the city of Vancouver and the University of British Columbia, but no one was using them here in Ontario,” Duff, College Green’s CEO, explained.
While traditional plastic trash bags will take up to 400 years to decompose in a landfill, the biodegradable bags College Green distributes break down within four years leaving no toxic residue.

John and his brother Tom stumbled across the product, manufactured by a Vancouver-based firm, after their father was involved in rebranding the company. After presenting the company with a business model based on door-to-door sales of the bags in Ontario by students, the brothers secured the exclusive North American distribution rights for the bags.

College Green currently employs approximately twenty students for the summer. The company has had many students apply for work with them due to dubious or nonexistent seasonal job prospects according to John.

“We definitely played on that last year and we have had tons of applicants this year,” he said.

“This summer it was super hard for a lot of our friends to find jobs and that’s definitely worked to our advantage.”

The students work in groups going door-to-door selling bags with crews based in Burlington, Oakville, Hamilton and the Niagara region as well as in cottage country.

“The Ontario market doesn’t even know what they are, so [selling] door-to-door was a great way to create the awareness and create a buzz around this new product because it can’t be found in stores.” The brothers have built connections with local businesses to supply trash bags and are in talks with larger businesses including golf courses.

College Green is focusing on building their business’s image through providing their products free of charge for community cleanup efforts they organize and events including Burlington’s Sound of Music festival, as well as donating a portion of all their sales to support local ‘green’ initiatives.

The next goal for distributing the bags is to partner with Ontario universities as the bags are sourced directly from the producer and used on campuses in BC. “We want to approach the universities in Ontario and say ‘look at what they’re doing in BC’,” John said. “There’s no reason that Ontario isn’t ready for this – starting with Laurier.”

According to Laurier’s sustainability coordinator Sarah English, the university is examining its waste disposal operations, including the use of ‘green’ products. However, the Duffs may have to wait for their products to be considered by WLU.

“Certain departments are locked into certain contracts,” English pointed out. “We try and source ‘green’ products from them as much as we can, but until that contract’s over we can’t go to anyone else.”

Whether or not the trash bags on Laurier’s campus eventually come from College Green or not, John explained that the business will continue throughout the school year as he completes his final year and after graduation as well.

“At first it seemed like a one summer kind of thing,” he mentioned, “but looking at the big picture, there’s so many ways we see this going down the road.”