Green Vision puts people first, hiring autistic workers

Green Vision Inc. in Randolph, NJ.
Beth Kujan
Green Vision’s electronics recycling program is good for the environment in obvious ways:  Keeping toxins from entering the food and water supply, and obviating the need for mining of precious metals.
Just as importantly, the Green Vision program improves the lives of developmentally disabled citizens — who get a chance to earn a paycheck and develop skills that boost their employment opportunities.
Green Vision, a nonprofit that moved to Randolph from Morris Plains in 2012, puts autistic clients to work dismantling and recycling electronics.  Clients’ progress is measurable, because they are paid on a piecework basis.
Statistics on developmental disabilities, particularly autism, bear out how desperately such programs are needed. The US Centers for Disease Control reports Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) in 1 of every 68 births nationwide.  New Jersey’s rate is even higher, with one ADS diagnosis in every 45 births.

New Jersey’s Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD) accounts for roughly 60 percent of GVI’s revenue.  The rest comes from sales of scrap materials, licensing income, charitable donations and services.

Depending on how the state’s Office on Autism assesses a person’s need, DDD will support programs of several hours a day, for up to five days per week, for a number of weeks per year.

This provides caregivers respite and the ability to hold down a job. Not every marriage survives the strain of a special-needs child. And few families can afford to pay for day programs out-of-pocket.


Eric dismantling keyboards and sorting magnetic components from non-magnetic

Because GVI clients are paid based on the number of items they dismantle — as allowed by the NJ Department of Labor–  their paychecks, tracked over time, indicate trends in their level of ability and motivation.

“Data from the past six years shows unequivocally that Green Vision improves workplace abilities required in the labor market,” said Mark Corradi, a founding board member of GVI.

Many parents contacted for this article indicated that the alternative to having their adult son or daughter in a program like Green Vision was for them to stay home alone on weekdays.

Carolyn P. of Sparta, speaking about her 28-year-old son, put it this way:

“There are such a limited [selection of] programs, I feel we are extremely fortunate to have found Green Vision and hope this program continues indefinitely.”

Solid data are vital for the State to show that public funds are being well spent.

The GVI data is very noisy.  Unlike automated machinery (which is GVI’s competition in the recycling sector), human workers take vacations with their families, have sick days, and sometimes, periods when medications are modified.

GVI also hosts celebrations, games and events.  Even with all this, however,  individual trends over time can be evaluated.

Consider clients with a diagnosis of obsessive-compulsive disorder.  Such clients have shown amazingly steady productivity, on average.

Evaluating this data is a way of assessing the noise we might expect in an “ideal case” given that a control sample is not possible.  Even if we remove the near-zero data points noting that the times line up with holidays and vacations, the data shows more scatter than a typical workplace can accommodate.

Steady Earner “A” from Jan 2013 to Jan 2017.  Average is $60/paycheck over four years.  Peak earning is $100/pay-period.  Analysis by Beth Kujan.
Steady earner “B” from Oct 2014 to Jan 2017. Average is $43/paycheck over two years. Particularly interesting here is the decrease in highest level productivity as friendships develop.  Analysis by Beth Kujan.

Most of GVI clients have less need for hourly consistency and show constant improvement over a multi-year period.  A few workers earn minimum wage.  Those who achieve minimum-wage performance consistently for an eight-hour stretch, can transition into main-stream employment.

Examples of earnings data over time are plotted below for several clients.

This client started at $13/pay-period and over three years rose to ~$50/pay-period.  Analysis by Beth Kujan.
This client started at $30/pay-period and in three years was earning ~$60/pay-period.  Analysis by Beth Kujan.
This client started at $6/pay-period and three years later averaged ~$20/pay-period.  Analysis by Beth Kujan.
This client started at $22/pay-period and four years later was averaging ~$66/pay-period.  Analysis by Beth Kujan.

Note that because many clients do not attend every day and that the length of the day can vary, productivity comparisons among clients is apples-to-oranges.

Green Vision launched as a nonprofit in 2010 at a facility in Morris Plains, and its expansion has required two relocations in Randolph.  Franchises have been established beyond Morris County:  Click here for a full list of facilities providing training and/or supported employment using the GVI program.

Says Mark Corradi, Emeritus head of the Board of Directors: “Green Vision has a sound business plan. Those with a strong business acumen and a passion for serving the autism community, should consider serving on the Board of Directors.”  Full disclosure:  the author also served on the executive board.

If interested in joining the Executive Board and helping this business grow, please contact Tim Butler.

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  1. From Sparta, NJ: We found Green Vision through our son’s support coordinator. We tried it out and Chris loved it. Green Vision operates on a vision of work skills, independence and self worth through their caring instructors our son’s social & work skills have improved noticeably.
    The benefits of Green Vision are the joy, the willingness to work every day, learning to adapt to all challenges and most of all having a place to go where he fits in.

  2. From Claudette Small, Morristown: Without this program my son Ryan would be home without having the experience he have and working with others. Ryan is very attached to the staff and to his colleagues. I didn’t have to worry during the day, because I trust Tim and is staff on how they are very patient with him.
    Ryan look forward on coming everyday to work.

  3. From the parents of Brian B, Newton NJ: Brian started at Green Vision upon graduation from Allegro School 5 years ago and enjoys going to work and using his tools to take apart electronic devices. He arrives and gets his tool box, puts on safety glasses and gets to work. There is camaraderie among the staff that makes work fun. Green Vision meets our hopes that Brian has a productive and happy life.