The Journey from Angry Recycler to Socially Responsible Investing

Raising four teenagers in a blended family can be challenging.  In fact, if memory serves me correctly, if you lose your sense of humor teens can be impossible to be around.

In our kitchen in our waterfront home (well, more like a rambling near-shack) we had a pantry cupboard that I had removed the shelves from.  It wasn’t much different than all cupboards in the kitchen, for years missing the hardware.

I wanted to paint all of the old 1960’s plywood fronted and varnished wood a nice clean flat white.  I got so far as to bust the shine and prime part of one shelf on one cupboard before I had to abandon my best of intentions to deal with other things.  9 years later when we sold the house it still had that one shelf half-painted, but along the way the cupboard and drawer hardware had reappeared.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t finish what I start, or that I’m not a good handyman.  It’s just that having a two-story eight-bedroom, two-thirds of an acre home required more work than I could reasonably handle, even with a lot of willing help.

In fact, Linda called it the money pit.  That’s not quite fair; it had good bones and a decent layout.  It had never been finished well by the original owner and while linoleum floors and cheap carpeting might have been embarrassing, our four teens and their assemblage of friends didn’t care.  In fact, by dint of location and who the teens were, I’m sure there are few people from Sudbury between the ages of 30 and 35 who haven’t partied at the house.

Getting Back to that Pantry 

Unlike the garbage which sat next to the fridge, the pantry had a big plastic garbage can lined with recycling bags.  Big recycling bags.  Into it went all the empty cans, bottles and cardboard that a bunch of teens could generate.

I watched on many occasions one of the four opening the door just wide enough to pitch an empty onto the pile.  Opening the door fully meant confronting the fact that there would be a flood of recyclables rushing out.  I kid you not, I watched all of them sneak around, being environmentally conscious, but avoiding Linda.  Mama O didn’t brook attitude; if she saw it she would deal with it, which meant whomever was closest would be stooping over, picking up the rush that Linda caused and hauling the bags outside.

As a man, I appreciated teen avoidance behavior.  As an adult, if I opened the door and found disaster within, I was going to have to deal with it, which inevitably included fitting all the debris into two bags in a pantry with a one bag limit.  I worked on a more elegant version of avoidance; I just wouldn’t recycle.

I wouldn’t recycle, that is, until my oldest daughter Cara called me out.  Rather than sheepishly admit that I was doing the dad-version of sneaking a pitch, I went on some self-righteous rant.  Digging out my recyclables from the garbage, I yanked the door open in anger, dropped an f-bomb, and waited for the flow of cans, bottles and cardboard to come to an end.  Too embarrassed to do much more than pick it all up and haul it out, I never fully reconciled our kids’ environmental stewardship with their unwillingness to do much more than a sneaky pitch.

Our household never came to understand why, in early 2003, the great recycling drama would come to an end.  Rather than deal with the inevitably tension-filled back and forth, I would check the pantry a couple of times a week when I woke up early, and if it was nearing overflowing, quietly stuff the bags before carrying my morning coffee and the recycling out.

Today Rob and James proudly point out that they only generate one little garbage bag a week because of their recycling and composting efforts.  I quite frankly want to use the verbal equivalent of throttling them:  you know, something sarcastic about what an effort that may take.

Environmental Concern Should Inform our Investing

Environmental consciousness comes easily to me.  When I was ten, growing up on the South Shore, I would troop down to the STOP (Society to Overcome Pollution) depot with the week’s haul of newsprint and spend a couple of hours volunteering.  This was driven more by a 1960’s “hippy” philosophy than it was the economics of filling up landfills.

Now that I work out of the CSI co-work space, I am even more acutely aware of the effort necessary to be responsible stewards of the environment.  I carry around orange and banana peels to make sure they get into the compost pail.  I separate out my garbage and am aware of what ends up in my pail that I am trying hard not to empty more than once a month.  And that community influence extends to home.

For a while now Linda and I have been trying to divert most of our wet waste at the condo to the compost chute.  We’ve also questioned whether using non-compostable bags makes sense or if we’re just making things worse.  We now have a 1-gallon wet waste pail lined with small compostable liners – my bio-bomb in the making (so called because wet waste makes a satisfying splat when falling down an 11-story chute).

Because of where we are, Linda and I are starting to pay closer attention to socially responsible investing.  More than avoiding “bad” companies we’re starting to look at them through the B Corporation lens.

In an ideal world, I would have a plethora of B Corp certified publicly traded companies to chose from (as far as well can tell there is only one in Canada, Dirtt Environmental Solutions).  But sometimes leadership means taking a little extra time and focusing on quietly carrying out the recycling.

David Chellew and Linda Odnokon have been life partners and in business together for almost 19 years. During that time, they have mellowed into their respective roles and enjoy working with individual investment clients. Dave is a Portfolio Manager and Linda is an Investment Advisor with iAS and work out of the co-work space CSI (Centre for Social Innovation) in downtown Toronto.


Industrial Alliance Securities Inc. (IAS) is a member of the Canadian Investor Protection Fund (CIPF) and the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC). iA Securities is a trademark and business name under which Industrial Alliance Securities Inc. operates.


This information has been prepared by David Chellew, Portfolio Manager for Industrial Alliance Securities Inc. (IAS) and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of IAS. The opinions expressed are based on an analysis and interpretation dating from the type of publication and are subject to change. Furthermore, they do not constitute an offer or solicitation to buy or sell any the securities mentioned. For more information about IAS, please consult the official website at David Chellew can open accounts only in the provinces where he is registered.