Insights / Sustainability

Sustainability Changemakers: Alejandro Medina Aristizábal 

This blog is part of our Changemakers at Berlin series that highlights our people whose work positively impacts people, communities, or the planet.  

How do we help our customers unpack positive impact and transition to sustainable packaging solutions? Meet Alejandro Medina Aristizábal, Senior Sustainability Analyst at Berlin Packaging, who works with our customers to help meet their sustainability goals and design sustainability strategy for the short, medium, and long term. He shares his diverse international background accelerating impact at scale, how his passion led him to found a startup, and his advice for how people in diverse careers can drive collective impact. 

Could you tell us about your sustainability journey? 

I’m an engineer by training: I earned my bachelor's degrees in Environmental Engineering and Chemical Engineering in Colombia, and later, earned my master's degree in Water Supply Engineering in the Netherlands. Early in my professional career, I got involved in a project with Indigenous communities in the Amazon rainforest, where we worked hand in hand with them to design and implement fresh drinking water systems. Through that experience, I became passionate about water management and realized the importance it has in our everyday lives.  

I recognized the value of collaborative work to help empower communities and design systems according to their needs. Moreover, it gave me a first-hand experience to realize that on a macro scale, water management is indispensable to all types of economic activities and industry sizes and that it is a critical resource to drive sustainable development.   

Later in my career, I was called back to my alma mater to help create and implement a program to train companies about sustainability — specifically, circular water management. This was an incredibly valuable experience; I was now working in sustainability but not in the engineering department. Instead, I was part of the business faculty department running sustainability programs directly aimed at companies. The main lesson learned after all these years working as a consultant, researcher and lecturer, was to translate technical information into simple and actionable knowledge, with a clear and powerful goal: increase productivity through sustainability. 

Since then, I’ve expanded my career from being a pure engineer to becoming a sustainability enabler across different types of industries. Now, my goal is to build sustainability champions within companies, mainstreaming the business case for sustainability and implementing initiatives that translate into better economic, social, and sustainable performance. 

Alejandro giving a presentation
Group shot of team gathering in conference room

As a circular management consultant, Alejandro helped design a circular water capacity building program and guided 20+ companies to design collaborative watershed projects for water security on the company and regional level.  

Tell us more about what you do at Berlin Packaging. 

At Berlin, I help design and implement strategic plans that position sustainability as a business case and an opportunity for growth. I work closely with Balaji Jayaseelan, our Vice President of Sustainability, and our team to unlock sustainability throughout our value chain and translate it into initiatives for our packaging consultants and customers.  

This involves analyzing data and conducting quantitative assessments, which provide a strong foundation for our strategy. Due to our comprehensive packaging and sustainability capabilities, we’re well-positioned to help innovate and mainstream sustainable packaging solutions. Were also working to drive broader change within the industry, such as sharing our experience with non-profit organizations and working with government partners to achieve shared sustainability goals.  

Overall, I envision a future where we’re collectively working together to build a more sustainable future. As part of that, I want Berlin Packaging to be recognized as a key enabler of sustainability. The key to building this is creating synergy among all stakeholders. 

You’re also a startup founder! Tell us about how you founded your sustainability startup, Eisenia Col.   

Eisenia Col is a passion project that started when I became interested in worm composting, also known as vermicomposting. I wanted to have a vermicomposting bin in my apartment, which got me thinking of a quote I read from Bill Gates about how almost 40 years ago he envisioned that every home would have a desktop computersomething completely out of the ordinary back then. Today, computers are completely normalized. Eventually, I started designing and building my own vermicomposting bins with my cousin, who’s an artist.  

We named our startup after “Eisenia,” which is the species name of worms, and “Col,” which represents Colombia—where I’m from and where we began this project. We worked with skilled carpenters in Colombia who handmake our composting bins, which are made from sustainable materials. Our goal for our composting bins is to make them beautiful and redefine our relationship with waste. In the end, it’s an empowering process through learning about waste, nature’s cycles to recycle and reuse nutrients, and driving tangible change from everyone's homes. 

Eisenia Col vermicomposting bin with founders
Man cleaning vermicomposting bin
Berlin Packaging team with vermicomposting bin

What advice do you have for people who want to break into the field of sustainability?    

Break into the space and embrace your interests. This is how you can identify what unique role you can play to address specific issues. Sustainability isn’t a space meant for just environmental engineers or designers. People from different professions bring valuable perspectives to the table, and we need diverse perspectives to drive truly holistic solutions. 

Ultimately, a passion and a willingness to learn and adapt are essential! And don’t be afraid to take the time to understand the complexities of sustainability. See the forest, not just the trees—in this way, you can uncover the true challenges and opportunities. In the end, that’s how you can make a meaningful impact. 

Bicylist taking a break near mountains
Cyclist riding down Columbian road

Outside of work, Alejandro is an avid cyclist! While in Colombia, he cycled every morning for up to four hours in the mountains. While he’s now in Chicago, he still cycles to and from work! 

By: Celine Yang
Date: June 15, 2023

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