Ashleigh Garnes doesn’t have the decades of experience in the waste industry but her drive, determination, and ability to adapt has laid out a successful path throughout her career thus far. The leadership qualities she possesses has allowed her to take charge on meaningful projects and help serve her community.
Something that Garnes is incredibly proud of is that her company, Meridian Waste Virginia, is the primary service provider for Virginia Tech, which happens to be Garnes’ alma mater.
“I cannot speak enough about the wonderful relationship that we have with Virginia Tech. … It’s definitely my baby. I love walking around campus and my little boy, he’s like, ‘Mom, there’s your trash can!’” Garnes said about the relationship her company has with Virginia Tech. “To see their [garbage collectors] day in and day out, they are true service providers and do a phenomenal job, not only for Virginia Tech’s campus but for our community.”
Along with the partnership, Garnes also serves as a board member on the Climate Action Commitment Team at Virginia Tech. The Climate Action Community Team is composed of university officials, students, and the community. The team’s work has helped increase recycling rates of old corrugated cardboard (OCC), single-stream recycling, and compost 43% (up from 29%) in 2020.
“Because we’re the boots on the ground, touching it every day, that can really assist with them as they make some major improvements and exciting changes at the university.”
Trying to continue that upward trajectory Garnes says that education is the biggest factor to continued success.
“Recycling is 100% education. … It’s important that you have a plan in place to educate those freshmen and that your upper class … it takes a village.”
When speaking about winning the 40 Under 40 Award, Garnes couldn’t believe it at first but then quickly made calls to friends and family to share the good news.
“It was very exciting. I was very honored, being in our industry, but especially our company. I’m the only female GM or Vice President, Area Vice President within Meridian Waste. So that’s exciting. … I always tell them [my team] you can’t teach caring … and that means a lot to me. … The only reason I’m here is because I have a great team and we’ve worked hard to build that culture.”