photo: Marc Strand / BildVerstaerker
Former real estate specialist, social entrepreneur in Hamburg since 2018. Dog rescue angel. Early bird, who loves cold showers. And – Mount Hagen heavy user. My Zoom-Coffee-Chat with Nadine Herbrich from reyclehero.
B: Hi Nadine, thanks so much for taking the time to have a coffee with us. Do you mind introducing yourself and recyclehero?
N: Sure. In 2018, my co-founder Alessandro any I started recyclehero. We provide a service to collect anything recyclable from plastic to used paper, glass and more from our private and corporate clients. This way we cover the last mile of waste management: From the door step to the container or recycling centre.
How we do it? In a way, that corresponds with our values: climate-friendly with our cargo-bikes. Socially responsible with employees who face huge changes on the job market due to various kinds of handicaps.
Recycling itself is quite a hot topic. We want to recollect it, to increase the numbers. But with all idealism: We are a „normal company“, too. We provide a service, that does cost money. Our approach is not to be an NGO, but a business, that creates impact by fulfilling a purpose: A service that creates noticeable relief and adds value at the same time.
B: How did you get the idea? You mentioned that your former profession was a slightly different one…
N: I’m from East Germany originally, my whole family has been shaped by this. Growing up, it was not about „Try everything and find something that’ll fulfil you “. No, it was rather „Do something decent “. But there was one constant feature in my life: animal protection. Then, I wanted to become a vegetarian, which quickly led me to being vegan. Imagine what people in our little town had to say about that! (laughing…)
So yes, I ended up studying something „decent “: Real Estate. I spent time abroad, worked in a consulting company in the U.S. for six years. Looking back, it has been crucial to get know the business world this way. Working hierarchies, contract negotiations and so on… But my personal life looked quite different: I continued to stand up for animal welfare and environmental conservation, helped to organize demonstrations. It was a double-life because both sides were extremely important to me.
B: A vegan real estate shark…?
N: (smiles) It was funny indeed. At some point, I looked in the mirror and asked myself: “What am I doing?” Sure, I could have kept on earning more and more, I had a fantastic flat in Munich, a nice company car… but what I also had, was the feeling that something was heading in the wrong direction. It was a combination of fear of losing myself on the one hand and the anxiety of risking it all and ending up in old-age poverty on the other hand. Very ambivalent and bizarre.
It was in the beginning of 2017, when Alessandro and I decided: We are going to quit our jobs. We are going to walk off, travel and see what we might want to do. A little later, in the summer of 2017, the idea for recyclehero was born. At a start-up contest, we introduced the concept and: won! It was like receiving a „this can really work“-approval of an expert jury. So, while we kept on travelling Europe with our camper van, we spoke to all kinds of social entrepreneurs and companies. Just to see, how others approach it. And, to separate from those restrictive idea of what you “should” do in life… talking about “decent”. A very meaningful step along the way: We did not come back alone. In Greece, we found a puppy in the woods, adopted him and ever since then, Visko has been by my side.
photo: Marc Strand / BildVerstaerker
After our return, in April 2018, everything kicked off: At sometimes, Alessandro worked full-time, sometimes it was me. One year later, I quit my job, managed to finance 3 bikes through crowdfunding and from that point, my only focus was recyclehero. It was a huge change: On the one hand, I felt so free but on the other…. you can ‘t even imagine, how many things we had to take care of. Now, that we both started to push recyclehero forward full-time, we really had to work hard and speed things up to be able to achieve our goals.
B: What’s the greatest part?
N: Having so many touchpoints with issues, that are important to us. Basically, everything leads us in this one direction. People’s awareness towards sustainability increases, the infrastructural conditions change. We have the chance to really push recycling, social aspects, and climate-friendly logistics within cities forward. There is no better time than now. And this is pure joy: to create, to see what opportunities are there.
N: My greatest learning: Even if your upbringing was different, you can do everything. I can be everything. And I can make a change. Of course, you’re always doubting yourself: Can I do this? But being able to make a change, as a matter of fact, is the biggest gift.
B: Did your sense of time change?
N: Absolutely. I am carefully weighing when to take time for what every day. Prioritizing has become very important to me but also the time for self-care. I even started to block certain times in my calendar just for that.
B: Looking back now: what would you say to your younger self?
N: Two things. Don’t be afraid, listen to what you are passionate about and try to build something out of it. Don’t let anything or anyone scare you away. That’s the one thing. The second…start saving money early.
N: Let’s put it this way: Access your financial situation carefully at an early stage to give yourself the freedom to make your own decisions and don’t depend on a job. Money means freedom at the end of the day. I strongly believe that many women would be better off today if they were more independent.
B: Speaking of „being better“: What do you need in the morning to have a good day? Any morning rituals?
N: That’s easy: getting up at 5:30, 6:00 a.m. The first walk of the day leads straight to my hand coffee maker with Mount Hagen (really, this is no infomercial….editor’s note). I pour myself this mug (it is h-u-g-e…. 2nd editor’s note). With this, I hang on the couch together with my dog to start the day. I mean, sometimes you’re like “shit shit, shit“ when you’re getting up. On those days, I try to find out if there is a reason for this? No! So I choose to not accept panic and change my mindset to „this is going to be a really good day“. After that: Taking a (cold) shower and in the best-case scenario, I’m at my desk at 6:30 a.m.
Later in the morning, I walk the dog – and my mug (laughing). When I start my day disciplined and well structured, and this includes the Mount Hagen coffee, it’ll be a good one for sure. In the last two years, this has been my favourite coffee. Before that, I really never had „my“ coffee brand…
B: There is no better closing statement! Thank you, Nadine, also for being so open.
N: Only a year ago, I would probably have approached this conversation differently (smiling). But I believe, that being open and seeing that there are people who feel just like you, it gives you a great deal of satisfaction.
B: That’s the whole concept of „A coffee with…“. Thank you so much.
If you want to learn more about recyclehero and its green service, check out their website: recyclehero.de
Geheimtipp Hamburg / Lisa Knauer