NEW YORK (CNNfn) - Elana Amsterdam, a 29-year-old New Yorker who studied European history at Columbia University, spends her days analyzing trash.
Her lifelong interest in the environment inspired her to found Ecosav, a garbage consulting firm that produced $700,000 in revenues last year.
"We work with companies to reduce their waste removal expenses," said Amsterdam, the company's president, on CNNfn's "Business Unusual."
With clients such as Williams-Sonoma Inc., Barneys New York, Polo Ralph Lauren, and the "21" Club, Ecosav helps companies cut their trash costs by 50 to 70 percent.
"This is a great business for me because it combines two interests I have -- the economy and ecology," she said.
Amsterdam starts by studying a company's trash output. Then she sifts out items that can be recycled, such as newspapers, cardboard and white office paper.
"Companies typically don't closely track what they're throwing away," Amsterdam said.
Amsterdam was tending bar after graduating from college in 1989 when she first got the idea for the company. She noticed that the trash she brought outside each night was filled with recyclable bottles. (105K WAV) or (105K AIFF)
Later, she lobbied for environmental protection and consumer advocacy for the New York Public Interest Research Group and interned at the New York City Department of Sanitation.
After stints at the Environmental Defense Fund and a waste management consulting firm, she founded Ecosav in 1993.
She acknowledges her background might not fit her profession. But she said it's helped her in the business because she breaks the mold.
Her clients initially came to her because of the perception that the industry was dominated by the Mafia. But the New York City Trade Waste Commission has cleaned up the industry, she said.
Today, clients need her help to sift through all of the options and competitors in the market. That allows her clients to focus on their own businesses instead of worrying about their garbage. (76K WAV) or (76K AIFF)
"We quantify how much waste companies are generating," she says.