After eight years of non-profit experience in human services, progressing from direct service management, and becoming an advocate for mental health funding and worker safety issues, Monique Figueiredo has since shifted to sustainability as her venue to serve others.
Now CEO, Founder and Co-Owner of Compostable, Figueiredo is caring for the natural world to through composting to help benefit all people.
“My purpose in life is to tend to neglected or vulnerable parts of this world. For many years, I was able to care for those struggling with mental health conditions. However, I gradually found it difficult to maintain balance within my own life,” she says. “When I came to Los Angeles, I was searching for a new way to care for my community. This led me to sustainability – what better way to tend to others than ensuring the planet we live on is safe, healthy, and stable. Composting, in particular, is so generous in the benefits it offers to our ecosystems.”
Figueiredo’s drive to care for others opened her eyes to a lack of composting resources in Los Angeles that made it accessible for people to divert their food waste. She opted to continue her education with a UCLA's Sustainability Certificate and Kiss the Ground's Soil Advocate programs, which kicked off the idea for Compostable.
“Outdoor space is a true privilege in this city, and many people are part of the gig economy, working two or three jobs. There needed to be an option for those that didn’t live close to a drop-off site and couldn’t compost on their own,” says Figueiredo. “The business plan for CompostableLA started as a final project for a class I was taking as part of my UCLA Sustainability Certificate. I was just playing around with the idea, but as it began to get flushed out more and more, the reality hit that this was something I needed to do. It was really the perfect meeting of what interested me as well as what my community wanted.”
Founded in June 2019, Compostable is a simple and accessible compost service. In this role, she gets to continue her life’s mission of caring for others.
“I believe the entirety of my role comes down to ensuring people feel cared for, whether that’s my team, my members, my partners, or my community,” she says. “I’m responsible for holding space, listening to their needs, and taking action accordingly. Every decision I make for the company comes back to the people that are part of this network. So inherently, the company is just a reflection of them.”
In her work with Compostable, Figueiredo says she is most proud of bringing people together for a common cause.
“I’m still shocked that Compostable is a real thing at all. However, I think my greatest is when I hear about my employees hanging out together outside of work. They’ve become friends, and something I created enable that to happen. If this was all to end tomorrow, that’s the part I’d be most sad to lose. Those little stories of them getting drinks or going climbing or watching movies together,” she says.
Figueiredo’s other accomplishments include establishing the LA chapter of the California Alliance for Community Composters alongside the Executive Director of LA Compost, Michael Martinez, to create a supportive network of community composters in that region.
“We wanted to create a space where organizations could come together to share ideas, form partnerships, and collectively advocate,” says Figueiredo. “Given our common goals, collaborating felt more natural than competing. Through the CACC LA Chapter, members can co-advance each other’s missions and push for more inclusive policy that paves the way for future community composters to operate freely in Los Angeles.”
Figueiredo says her goal is for more people to be aware of the community composting movement, and the values aligned with it. “Food waste is a resource, and as such we hope to keep it local to the communities generating it so they can rebuild their soils,” she says.
For anyone thinking of entering the waste and recycling space, Figueiredo advises that they approach it with the core values of sustainability: equity, environment, and economy.
“We can no longer have people working in the waste industry that are not prioritizing the health of our planet and its inhabitants first and foremost. If you approach each scenario you encounter with those values in mind, there’s an incredible amount of innovation possible” says Figueiredo. “Waste isn’t just big haulers and commercial sites. You have a place in it outside what you may envision – there’s a whole network of decentralized, small organizations that need your creative problem solving and critical thinking.”
In five years, Figueiredo see herself homesteading with her best friend, but for now, she enjoys her free time with her dogs.
“I forever want to be watching my dogs happily trot down a forest trail. Those are my most content moments. When that’s not happening, I’m outside in my garden or inside playing video games,” she says.