Warren-based environmental consultant helps businesses see green

The Courier News

WARREN —In more ways than one, Wayne DeFeo is sorting through the mess.

As the founder and principal of DeFeo Associates, an environmental consulting group, DeFeo helps government officials, private companies and the public cut through intricate laws as his clients strive for energy efficiency, better recycling programs or similar earth-friendly efforts.

"I try to take complex items, regulations in this case, and make them come across in such a way that you can understand them," DeFeo said in a recent interview.

With degrees in biology and environmental studies, a teaching license and more than 25 years of experience in the field, DeFeo has experienced environmental issues from all sides. He's served as Somerset County's recycling coordinator, the deputy director of solid waste for the state Board of Public Utilities and a regional manager for the National Solid Wastes Management Association, among other high-ranking positions.

Since going solo in 1995, DeFeo has used his skills and connections to build a network of affiliates - engineers, public relations specialists, public works experts - who help him complete the work he can't finish himself.

"If I don't exactly know the details, I know someone who does," said DeFeo, 50. "And the trick is I retain the people I need to retain."

In addition to promoting a stable of willing professionals, DeFeo also markets his company as one that understands the delicate balance of going green and still seeing green from investments.

DeFeo said corporations, especially large ones, can run the risk of being sued if their emissions are disproportionately high or jeopardize public health. Therefore, he said businesses are scrambling to offset that potential risk.

"The side benefit of that is we're going to save energy," DeFeo said. "That's a phenomenal side benefit. And by saving energy, you're saving money."

DeFeo's pitch is that business owners who conserve energy or recycle generally save cash - and the earth - because sustainability efforts by definition have a minimal impact on the environment, are economically viable and make efficient use of resources.

Or, in his line of questioning, "Why should we waste anything? Why should we harm the environment? And why should we lose money?"

To that end, DeFeo said he has started to delve into some performance-based work where he conducts an initial survey of solid waste or energy systems and projects savings for larger corporations that may be skeptical of his work.

The somewhat risky proposition is based on an agreement that if the client doesn't see any savings, DeFeo doesn't see a paycheck. But if his plan works and there is a return on the investment, DeFeo shares on the savings for an agreed upon amount of time.

"They're (clients) skeptical and sometimes it's worth it for me to address that skepticism by taking the risk because I've seen enough that I'm confident enough that they will realize a savings when they implement the program I design," DeFeo said.