PROTRASH’S Winning Strategy to Clean Up Poverty and Waste!

The world needs social entrepreneurs and it is our mission to help create 1 million Change Creators in the next 10 years. That’s why we want to celebrate those social enterprises that are on the ground changing the world and making money while doing it. Every week, I choose an amazing team, individual, or social enterprise out there changing the world. Let’s get started!



 Team Members

  • Andrea García López
  • Valeria Sanchez Navarro
  • Yuvia Lopez
  • Monica Lopez Vargas

They are a team of four Mexican women, Andrea, Valeria, Yuvia, Monica, eager to create more economic opportunities for our country. They have grown up seeing wealth polarization, poverty, and waste accumulation all their lives and they decided to take action in order to change this reality.

How long have you been running this business?

2 years


PROTRASH is a social enterprise that empowers women in low-income communities, by exchanging their recyclable waste for money in an expense card.

What are the big problems that PROTRASH is solving?

  • Poverty
  • Waste accumulation
  • Wealth polarization

How is PROTRASH solving the problems?

They generate a sustainable culture in low-income communities, collecting the recyclable materials in order to generate an extra income, that we pay with a card in order to create a financial inclusion.

What is PROTRASH business model? How does PROTRASH make money?

They collect the trash in the communities and sell it to recycling industries. From every Kilo they sell 60% goes to the community, and 40% goes to PROTRASH as gross margin.

What has been the biggest challenge and how did PROTRASH overcome it?

The process of getting the government permits was a huge challenge — they couldn’t operate without them. They created a model that circumvented that process so they could continue forward.

What has PROTRASH accomplished?

  • They currently have 89 active users and operate in 4 communities in Mexico
  • 4300 kg of recyclable waste has been collected
  • Selected as one of Top 5 finalists at Hult Prize for 2016
Team Pro Trash presents during the Hult Prize Finals and Awards Dinner 2016 at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2016, in New York. (Mark Von Holden/AP Images for Hult Prize Foundation)

Related: 5 Women Social Entrepreneurs Reinventing the World (Get Inspired)

What impact has PROTRASH had?

They are changing the way people collect and repurpose their trash, creating income for families. This creates a new system of economic opportunity for communities while improving the environment on a real grassroots level.

PROTRASH pays people in low-income communities with an expense card which can cover their basic necessities.

What’s next for PROTRASH?

  • Expanding PROTRASH Machine —  a more compact machine that can be placed anywhere in the city, an original model of exchanging waste for incentives.
  • Creating PROTRASH Card —  which gives people more access to their points for goods, or allows them to give them back to reinvest in expanding their impact. The machine can be adapted to any place where there is electricity and where the points accumulated in the PROTRASH card by the person inserting the recyclable materials can be exchanged.

  • Developing PROTRASH App for smartphones that registers every transaction of recycling waste that is made in the center. The mobile device is connected to the scale with Bluetooth and transfers a number of points for every transaction automatically to the PROTRASH card.

Why should we pay attention to PROTRASH?

Because they are a company that is focusing on revitalizing low-income communities by implementing a sustainable culture, so they can lift their economy by themselves. We’ll be on the lookout for what these women can do! 

Yarden Garden: Starting a Social Enterprise Spotlight

Social entrepreneurship is the new sexy. Not only that, we and the world need social entrepreneurs. We love when people are out there making the world a better place. Let’s give some love to the social entrepreneurs and social enterprises out there that are making a difference but might not be getting all the PR and media that they deserve.

Here’s where we change that. In this feature showcase,  I choose one social entrepreneur per week and introduce them to you. So, let’s get started!

Name: Jason Coleman
Company Name: Yarden

How long in business:

10 months (less than 1 year)

What big problems are they solving?

1.Lack of health literacy and food literacy

Today, people don’t have local access to gardens or food literacy. According to Jason’s experience of losing 165 lbs by eating healthy, such as fresh vegetables that his family grew, and of seeing his nephews eat the same exact food as he was, health literacy is about the same as his was growing up and schools, all they are teaching about eating healthy much are the same diet was being fed to them.

2. Commodity Crop Farming (Food waste, water waste, massive unhealthy and unnecessary food)

65% of all home in America had a garden during World War 2 and it turned to commodity crop farming now for the purposes of turning into processing foods, which is completely unhealthy and unnecessary, and unfresh. Much of our crop fresh produce is more than 90 days old, which brings us to gases and GMOs to help all the produce, grow bigger, last longer and sustain the wear and tear distribution travel chain.

Commodity crop farming leads mono crop culturing with high usage of pesticide and the distribution for those crops requires millions of gallons of fuel per year to burn lean to go to the atmosphere. All these problems that we have, climate change, water waste and food waste, human health awareness, need to be addressed in an impressive but practical way.

How are they solving these problems?

Yarden is a home gardening platform for people who want edible gardens. Yarden maintains gardens that their customers own, harvests their produce, and set it at the door steps ready to eat. The “Yardeners” handle that distribution and are out maintaining the gardens weekly, and they also harvest and pack produce.

The reality is that people grow vegetables in their gardens without proper knowledge so it ends up ruining the vegetables and wasting water. On the contrary, “Yardners” are professional. They know how to grow vegetables and herbs, so to the customers, the gardening gets done without too much effort. All they need to do is just to decide what to do with the produce, which is trade and eat it, sell it to the restraints, or give it away to the charity to the local food bank.

Yarden decreases food waste, water usage, pesticide usage, the greenhouse gases due to food distribution, and increases health and human wellness, food circulating in the community, and job creation.

Yarden’s customers have the option of getting a Mediterranean, East Indian & Asian, or an American Liberty garden with all the corresponding vegetables and herbs that can be found on the homepage.

Why should we pay attention to them?

Yarden has under 50 customers in the Bay Area and 98% of the customer satisfaction rate.
Since they grow 50 pounds per every 100 square feet of garden with high maintenance gardening, Yarden encourages their customers to donate their produce to the local food banks and 100% of their customers donate 20% of their produce to the local food banks in Alameda County. They are very excited that their customers are conscious enough to respond to that accordingly.

[Related] You might also be interested in checking out our top 7 socially aware clothing companies to look out for.

5 Ways to Improve Your Impact as a Social Entrepreneur

As a social entrepreneur, you are the one out there tackling social issues with your sustainable business. But, you know what? You are not a superhero. If you want to increase your impact, there are some basic things that you need to do. Here are five ways to improve your impact as a social entrepreneur:

1. Don’t try to do everything yourself.

There are so many social issues to be covered around the world; Poverty, Global Warming, Energy consumption, the environmental conservation, refugee crisis, population growth, Economic Development, Health, etc. What you can do is limited, and you can’t solve every single issue alone. That’s the dilemma. But don’t worry. It’s ok.

Collaboration is an essential key to be a successful social entrepreneur. You know why? Because what you want to achieve is to solve problems that you found one by one, not to show off who you are. It is always a good idea to partner with those who are already doing the work in the field because they must have more experience and knowledge about the affairs. It doesn’t mean they have everything they need. You might be able to fill in the gaps or pieces that are missing.

When collaboration brings energy to millions.

d.light is a global solar energy company that delivers affordable solar-powered solutions designed for the 2 billion people living without access to reliable energy in Africa, China, South Asia and the United States.

d.light started a channel partnership with Unilever. How it worked was that d.light sells solar home systems to Unilever, which places them in the small-scale retail shops that stock its products, so all parties: Unilever, d.light, and the retailers financially benefit, which all profit from increased sales.

While having access to solar lighting led to significant increases in store revenue, d.light also benefits from increased awareness of its products among consumers who shop at retailers’ stores because of the way that the light impacts the aesthetic of the shops.

Remember, “why” you do your business is more important than “how” you do it. You’d better ask yourself the purpose of the path.

2. Don’t try to be a hero in one night.

Social entrepreneurs are not superheroes (But they are force to be reckon with). You should keep it in your mind that you cannot be a hero in one night as Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Let’s focus on one small issue that you can solve as a start, then gradually pace up. Simplicity is a key to unwind complexity in the end. Microfinance is a well-known concept today, but did Muhammad Yunus see he could change the world in a blink? No.

He wanted to save a poor person right in front of him on the street one day, started a new way of lending money to the poor in a city where he lived, opened Grameen Bank there, the system expanded in Bangladesh and now around the world. One by one from a small but impactful thing.

3. Never stop listening.

Listening is so important as a social entrepreneur.

Some people think that they already have a solution to an issue, without really listening to the people they are serving. For example, when Gavin Armstrong — featured in our special Top 10 Edition — founded the company Lucky Iron Fish, a company that created an iron fish to help people around the world deal with anemia and iron deficiencies. When he began to launch his product, an iron fish, he talked to the women in Cambodia who would be using this product, cooking for their families. He listened to the local Cambodians on how he should brand and name his company. He didn’t do it alone or think he had all the answers.

Listen to your customers. This is the only way to find out what they want.

I’ll give you an example through my experience with a crowdfunding campaign called Musana Carts: The Solar Street Vending Revolution. My friends and I came up with an idea to provide food carts with market vendors in Uganda 2 years ago. We thought the carts would make it easier for vendors to move around with wheels of the carts.

However, the reality was that it wasn’t useful because vendors needed to stay in their spot that the government authorized for well management reason. So we suggested pushing carts between their houses and the market. It didn’t work either because it might create traffic accident such as vendors hit by a car. Every single idea is worth coming up with, but you should never skip the phrase “listen to your (potential) customers,” so you can sell them what they want and give them what they need.

4. Break free from the norm.

Listening to your customers is necessary, but as Henry Ford, the founder of Ford, said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses,” following their requests and doing what they ask you to do are a different story.

It is your customers’ “potential” need that you need to figure out when you listen to them. Henry Ford was smart enough to know that, and that’s why he invented Ford cars, not giving faster horses to people. But here is another question; then what?

You should know that a few ideas that you’d come up with when you start thinking of the best ways to tackle social issues are ones that tens of thousands of people even have already tried.

For example, poverty is not an issue that recently rises, but it exists for a long time. Everyone knows that poverty still exists on the earth and still needs to be addressed. You need to come up with an innovative solution to address social issues that nobody could have ever solved. Our Change Creator magazine can show you so many innovative and creative ideas with great social entrepreneurs. You should check it out!

5. Don’t be overwhelmed.

You might find out that you have SO MANY things to do and might not see yourself reach the goal yet, but that’s ok. Remember the four other things I mentioned above, keep your own pace, address the issue by one step at the time and even ask other social entrepreneurs for help if needed. You are not alone, and we need you. You are one of the most amazing people on this planet, and again, we need you. Please always remember that.

As I told you at the beginning, social entrepreneurs sound very special, but they are also people.

This blog is a reminder that you can also be one of them, or you are already one of them. If you don’t do those top 5 “Don’ts,” you’ll become a great social entrepreneur who can create a positive impact on the world.