Little Victories

12 May 2021

Hannah Bushnaq overcomes difficulty, looks to change the way we think about waste

Winter 2020/2021

Written By: Michelle DeLong & Evie Carrick | Images: David Bowers

Hannah Bushnaq lives her life by a single quote: “Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity.” The words were spoken by Horace Mann, a 19th century education reformer known for his commitment to public education — and they set a high bar. But Hannah isn’t deterred. She has a knack for overcoming difficulty.

Hannah grew up in a strict Muslim household in Cleveland, Ohio and overcame a childhood of abuse and neglect to follow her dream of moving out West. She left the city behind and created her own life, a life where she could be outside in nature.

“This process of overcoming adversity has continually related to my current life in Jackson because I have grit and resilience,” she says. “I continue to live and learn and find the silver lining.”

Her lifelong aspiration to win some “victory for humanity” is realized in her passion for mental health, where she makes a point to be open about her challenges growing up and the ongoing healing process. But in addition to healing herself — and sharing her story to help others heal — she is on a mission to heal the Earth.

When Hannah moved to Jackson, she discovered a community that felt the same way she did about the outdoors — Jacksonites used the mountains as a gym, therapist’s office, playground, and happy hour. It inspired Hannah to start a business that would contribute to the area’s overall sustainability. The result is Enviromates, a waste removal service that encompasses garbage, recyclables, and food compost.

“A glass Pellegrino bottle can become another Pellegrino bottle. A Campbell soup can can become another Campbell soup can. Avocado skins can become rich soil for local farmers,” she explains. Hannah started Enviromates when she heard that food waste makes up 20 percent of our landfills, and produces methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

“Currently the city of Jackson is at a 35 percent diversion rate and our goal is 60 percent by 2030,” Hannah says, explaining that the diversion rate is the amount of waste diverted away from landfills. “When this business opportunity came up, it felt like the perfect way to do the right thing for the planet. I also love connecting with customers. There are so many inspirational people in this community, and it feels like, together, we are weaving something that is part of the greater whole.”

And that community support is key, because Hannah launched her business in the midst of a global pandemic and had to immediately adjust and adapt to the changing times. An easy-to-use app let the Enviromates team know when waste was ready to be picked up and they developed contactless container delivery and pickup.

And while Enviromates, which was available through the summer and into the fall of 2020, was a short-lived project, it’s only the start of Hannah’s work to help the Jackson community rethink waste. “I learned so much and made great connections and plan continue learning how to serve the community and ultimately the planet,” she says. “My next step is to continue learning how to take my passion for sustainable living and nature and apply this information to work logistically on a larger scale.”

When she’s not dreaming up some way to make the world a little brighter, Hannah is often found at the gym, cooking, gardening, and volunteering. “Growing up all I ever knew is I wanted to help people and be outside,” she says.

If her accomplishments so far are any indication of what’s to come, we should be seeing a lot more from Hannah Bushnaq (and potentially a “victory for humanity,” too).

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