By Amelia Kanan, CBS Detroit Blogger
There are some really great aspects connected to writing this weekly blog — one being that I get to meet some really interesting people and sometimes I get to walk in their shoes.
Meet Vanita Mistry, 26, a Corktown resident originally from England, a graduate of the University of Michigan, a cat lover, and the founder of Detroit Greencycle. Greencycle is a weekly curbside recycling and composting service that is operated by one person (Mistry) on a bike.
When I contacted Mistry about my interest in writing a story about Greencycle and mentioned that I preferred the “unorthodox” way of doing things, i.e. not sitting over coffee and interviewing her with a tape recorder, she was more than accommodating to the idea of me riding along with her on her route. So, that next Wednesday I met her on my bike on a corner in Woodbridge and followed along on her route.
“Is that heavy?” I asked, gesturing to the 8 foot long trailer attached to her bike that was carrying twelve 18-gallon bins on it.
“Not at all, do you want to have a go?” She responded with a sweet smile and her awesome British accent.
“Totally!” I jumped at it but then…got nervous “How about it a bit, though?”
She laughed as we rode to our first house, where Mistry put her bike down and walked up the big front porch where there were a few big bins waiting. As I watched her carry the bins down to the curb and begin sorting her customer’s recyclables she chatted about her life and Detroit as well as all the little things. I quickly learned a lot about Mistry as we journeyed from house to house, happening upon neighbors she knew and listening to how she responded to compliments.
She wasn’t trying to be anything but herself, she is tiny but really strong, she has great style which I noticed by her sweet Nike kicks, she is extremely intelligent yet at the same time very humble and most of all, she always seems to have a smile on her face.
Right after college, with her mechanical engineering degree Mistry got a job at GM. It’s there she realized she needed to work a job that filled a need, made a difference and allowed her to use her special talents to make her community better. She was inspired on a trip to San Francisco where she witnessed a curbside composting business which was operating on bikes.
So, combining those two things, in 2010 she began Greencycle which serviced her friends in five households. Today, through only word of mouth, Mistry’s business has grown into 35 residential and small business customers
After Mistry and I picked up all the recyclables and compost at the houses, we brought everything to Recycle Here. There we (this time I chipped in) sorted everything even more. Paper, glossy paper, cardboard, newspaper, plastic 1”s and 2’s, clear glass, colored glass, etc. It was a world I had never seen before and oddly enough, the sorting was therapeutic.
That morning, after I said “thank you” to Mistry and gave her a big hug, I rode off on my bike with a big smile on my face. Part of the smile was for all the people who we had come across, every one, all different ages and races had been so pleasant. Another part of that smile was for the effort that I witnessed for making Detroit a cleaner and healthier place. And, the biggest reason for the smile was because of Mistry and her own consistent smile. It was one of the best Detroit mornings I’ve ever experienced.
Granted, it probably helped that that particular day was sunny, warm, people were out and about, pedestrians waved and said “hi” and since I hadn’t brought an extra pair of gloves, I didn’t have to get down and dirty. Mistry though, four days a week rides to pick-up for her customers in Corktown, Eastern Market, Hubbard Farms/Clark Park, Cass Corridor, Midtown and Woodbridge. She rides in the ice and snow, she’s tipped her trailer, she’s fallen, she’s gotten filthy but she loves what she is doing and she loves that it is filling a need within her community.
To support Mistry and what she is doing, help spread the word by “liking” Detroit Greencycle on Facebook or if you live/have a business in Detroit, I strongly encourage you to look into their very affordable services.
Amelia Kanan is freelance writer/photographer and a returning native of Detroit. A graduate of Columbia College in Chicago, she wrote for an Emmy nominated sketch comedy show and pursued her passion for documentary filmmaking in Los Angeles. An incomplete list of her loves: books, human rights, improv, the smell of new shoes, talking to strangers, libraries, France, yoga, furniture, music, sociology and pushing the limits.