Net-Zero Hero: Lisa Apfelberg

Lisa Apfelberg

I'm helping make Austin Net-Zero by composting, upcycling and reusing! 

Austin is green and we all want to keep it that way! As a community, we’re committed to reaching the target of Net-Zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, which will ensure a safe, healthy, vibrant Austin for many years to come. Here’s the story of how one person can make a difference.


Meet Lisa Apfelberg, Director of Development for Goodwill Central Texas. Lisa contributes to Austin's Net-Zero goal in several ways, including her continuous efforts to find new ways to recycle, reuse and upcycle. We spoke with Lisa on her successes, challenges, and what advice she has for others looking to live Net-Zero. Read more below. 


What inspired you to take action?

As a small child, I was very concerned with a world where we might run out of natural resources and urged my family and friends to do things such as using both sides of the paper and turning off lights. It has always made more sense to me to buy things that are upcycled, used, or consigned versus brand new, because it’s more affordable AND it avoids using resources to make new things. I became a vegan ten years ago, but decided by age six to become a vegetarian.  At that time, it was because I didn’t want to hurt animals; but later I learned that eating a plant-based diet also makes much more sense for our planet. As I learn more, I adopt more practices that have less impact on our planet and my carbon footprint.


how did you do it?

As I learn about how to live more responsibly, I just do it!  For example, as I learned about composting, I started to compost. When I learned about chemicals that leak into groundwater through harmful cleaning supplies, I replaced those. When I learned about the harm that commercial make-up or other personal care products cause the environment, I looked for alternatives.  When I heard about how and what I eat can contribute to global warming, I changed my diet. 


what's been the toughest part?

It’s not very tough at all but in other parts of the country I know that the city garbage pick-up also picks up compost and I would love that.  We have had to replace our composter every few years because of how hot and sunny it is here and eventually the plastic of the compost container breaks apart.  And while it can be an interesting science experience, I don’t love to see all the larvae! 

As far as upcycling and reuse, it is tough to do that with my kids.  They don’t always want to have something bought at consignment or reused. 


have there been any unexpected benefits?

As a vegetarian family, we have a lot of vegetable waste!  Our garbage is usually pretty empty, and it’s great knowing that vegetable and fruit cores and peels are not waiting for years to decompose at a landfill, but instead are getting processed through the composting process. Working with Goodwill Central Texas has also been a great experience for me because of their commitment to recycling and diversion from landfills. Goodwill’s commitment to our planet was what caused me to begin volunteering there and eventually led to my becoming the Director of Development.




what advice do you have for others?

Start small – the best way to achieve goals is by doing one small thing at a time.  Try turning up your air a bit in summer.  Try shopping for clothes at Goodwill stores or some of Austin’s other amazing vintage or consignment stores.  Try meatless Mondays – it’s only one day.  Be smart about turning off water when you are washing dishes or turning off lights when you aren’t in a room.  Switch to LED bulbs. Even though they are a little more expensive, they last much longer. 

And since I have a bit of a platform here, I encourage people to stop sitting in their idling cars with the AC on for long periods of time. On comfortable days, turn off the ignition and roll the windows down.  Or, if it’s boiling out, go inside instead of staying in your car, wherever you may be waiting.  Car idling is incredibly damaging to our planet.  Small changes like this could make a huge difference.




Recyclables that are thrown away in Austin could fill the UT Tower 29 times each year. Help keep these items out of the landfill by recycling, upcycling and reusing. Every action counts! 





To learn more about Austin's Net-Zero Goal, view the Community Climate Plan.

Share your Net-Zero contributions with us on Twitter or Facebook and use #NetZeroHero. If you know a Net-Zero Hero who should be recognized for their efforts, send your nomination to