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September 26, 2013

Surveys 2013: Cascadia Consulting Group

Specialty: Waste, recycling and materials management; energy and resource conservation; climate planning, adaption and mitigation; water and natural resources; sustainability

Management: Marc Daudon, president and cofounder; Charlie Scott, vice president and cofounder; Francis Icasiano, CFO/COO; Ruth Bell, principal; Amity Lumper, principal; Laura Blackmore, principal

Founded: 1993

Headquarters: Seattle

2013 revenues: $5.3 million

Projected 2014 revenues: $5.8 million

Current projects: StopWaste Business Partnership, Alameda County, Calif.; Community Power Works energy upgrade program, Seattle; climate adaption planning for the U.S. Agency for International Development; Puget Sound Salmon Recovery Council facilitation; Seattle Public Utilities green business outreach program

The Cascadia Consulting Group has expertise in lots of areas — conservation, climate planning and sustainability, to name a few — but when Principal Amity Lumper was asked about the firm’s mainstay, she didn’t hesitate to answer: waste characterization studies.

The firm works with clients around the country to analyze their discarded stuff — what it is, where it goes, who’s tossing it out, and so on — whether it’s trash, recycling or compost.

The information helps cities, businesses and other organizations figure out how much they’re throwing out, fine-tune their recycling policies, reconsider their purchasing practices and even track contamination.

Different clients have different reasons for commissioning the studies, Lumper said, so sometimes the firm’s work ends with a report, and other times the firm goes on to help with crafting a policy and putting it into action.

Looking to expand

Cascadia has around 45 employees and offices in Seattle and San Jose, Calif. The firm is looking at other locations to expand to, likely other coastal cities, Lumper said.

The firm’s ownership and leadership is in transition as founders Marc Daudon and Charlie Scott plan for “their next chapter,” Lumper said. Scott is looking to leave the firm in the next couple of years, though Daudon plans to remain longer.

Cascadia’s clients tend to be from the public sector, making up 60 to 70 percent of its business, though its private-sector client list is growing. Lumper said that as public funding for services has scaled back, private companies are increasingly taking them on.

The firm, for example, is working with industry giant Waste Management to provide customer education and outreach services that would have once been handled by cities, but are now contracted out instead.

Recycling boost

One interesting project with Waste Management is in partnership with King and Snohomish counties. Cascadia has been working with the counties to improve recycling at apartment buildings, where rates are typically lower than at single-family houses and businesses.

Lumper said the project, which has drawn national interest, grapples with how to communicate effectively with a wide variety of residents from different countries and cultural backgrounds. In an earlier phase of the study, the firm looked at best practices elsewhere around the world.

Some solutions are simple, such as providing residents with reusable tote bags to bring materials to the recycling bin.

While behavior is an issue, so is infrastructure. Recycling has to be more convenient and be accompanied by visible signage, Lumper said.

One of the challenges facing the industry, she said, is that sustainability programs are generally voluntary, and so state and federal standards and certifications are lacking. During a bid process, it can be difficult for owners to make apples-to-apples comparisons among competing bids without, say, a standard way to measure recycling rates.

“There’s a lot of nuance in what’s in and what’s out,” Lumper said regarding the rates, “and not a lot of guidance at the state or federal level about how it’s calculated.”

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