By Sian Beck
One of the more interesting pieces of this position has been learning about communication, both surrounding climate change and sustainability. A key focus of the interpretative programming here at Glacier is climate change. There are exhibits along the roads and programs entirely dedicated to the changes we have seen in the park. I, on the other hand, have focused on communicating and educating about sustainability. Through experience, this term has taught me a lot about how people work and think.
The number of times someone has said “oh, you’re the recycling person” when they meet me for the first time has surprised me. I could have sworn I talked about idling, energy usage, and transportation emissions just as much, if not more than I talked about recycling at orientation. It bothered me at first, since my service encompasses much more than recycling. I also often feel that with the mystery that surrounds recycling, it seems to be one of the less impactful parts of my service, but people latch on to what they want to hear.
This last week, I finally sent the park’s new sustainability plan to our leadership team – a team of park supervisors from each division who meet weekly to make decisions for the park. Next week we will be joining a meeting to talk about the priority for different items on the plan and how we can work together with leadership to make sustainability a higher priority in the park.
One of the aspects that surprised me most when I was first starting my Energy Corps term was the lack of drive towards sustainable practices. There’s a wide variety of beliefs that employees here hold, from devoting their lives to environmentalism through biological research to being a climate change denier. This even exists on the Leadership Team. When I tell people this, they’re often shocked. One of Glacier’s key features is the impacts of climate change on our glaciers, so it seems unusual. Through this term, I’ve had to learn to better communicate and collaborate with folks who have a diverse array of beliefs, not just with the goal of understanding, but the goal of truly working together with my superiors.
One small joy that I’ve been able to put together in the midst of finishing the sustainability plan has been energy bar recycling through TerraCycle. We’re collaborating with a local school to recycle them. They will mail in our wrappers and receive money back, giving back to the education of the members of this community whilst recycling. The students at this school already are learning the habits of recycling and they get to take field trips into the park to learn about ecology and I have hope that they will continue to fight for their environment long into adulthood.