An Uncommon Wine Country Leader

Long before Christy Abreu ’89 became the second woman to serve as president of the California Refuse Recycling Council, she wrote a senior thesis outlining a hypothetical recycling program for Saint Mary’s College.

Though the communication major lived in San Francisco and worked in advertising after graduation, her thesis topic proved provident. Rattled by the 1989 earthquake and realizing she preferred the countryside to the city, Abreu joined her family’s Napa County business, Upper Valley Disposal and Recycling, 29 years ago.

“We’re proud that we’re returning electricity to the grid. Our compost is certified organic and goes into wine making and farming. Our business touches everyone’s business and everyone’s home. Sometimes they complain, but we use that as an opportunity to educate,” said Abreu.

She is involved in educating about recycling along with building relationships through community and political outreach. Abreu believes participating in Collegiate Seminar at SMC helped her do this successfully. 

“Sitting at a roundtable discussing great stories was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. I think that’s where I learned to communicate,” she added.

As president of her industry’s trade association, Abreu is particularly gratified to have spearheaded the publication of a book that better equips members to communicate with state legislators and regulators about their industry. 

But her leadership role comes at a challenging time: New regulations are changing how the industry operates. Abreu explained, “This is a paradigm shift. It will involve tracking and documenting every single piece of recyclable material that enters and exits a facility, or is in a customer’s cart.”

She nonetheless continues to find her work with both the association and her family business rewarding. “When the days are great, there’s nothing better,” Abreu said.  —Amy DerBedrosian