By Casey Brandon
In any job position, the first few months of a hire are as exciting and confusing as any time over the course of the position. No matter how prepared an employee is for a specific position, properly preparing for the nuances of the specific company they work for takes time. As is the case for an AmeriCorps service term, in which all of us members are thrown into a new environment, often times a new city, to learn as we go. Working with the City of Missoula, Sierra and I have a head start up the learning curve: the development of our project took place within the city of Missoula, we had the opportunity to meet with our supervisor (Chase Jones, Missoula’s Energy Conservation and Climate Action Coordinator) prior to our service, and we were already fairly well versed in the project we are working on. Even still, however, there are things that we have had to learn on the fly.
While the process of understanding how a specific company or organization can be stressful, it is also a very humbling and rewarding process to go through. From understanding what is acceptable to wear in the office (Missoula dress code is so odd), to learning the names of each employee in the office, there are some things you just don’t know until you step foot in the building on your first day. The beauty in this is that it allows anybody to flourish, so long as they are able to learn the inner workings of the specific operation.
The bulk of the work that Sierra and I are doing is helping different businesses and organizations here in the City of Missoula work towards their individual zero waste goals. While the city itself has an adopted goal to be zero waste by 2050, coined ZERObyFIFTY, many of the local businesses still have wasteful practices. To do this, we start by conducting a waste audit of the specific business, calculating their total waste streams by weight, their contamination rates, etc. We then produce a report for the business, detailing this data, and meet with them to go over the results, at which point they choose to take the pledge or not. For Sierra and I, this is all new. While I had once previously conducted a waste audit for an internship I held at the University of Montana, the methodology and process of sorting through a businesses trash is certainly something we are learning as we go. This has been the most rewarding part of the job: making mistakes, realizing ten minutes after the fact that we should have done something differently, and walking away each time with a better understanding of the work that we do. Having done this a couple of times now, we are starting to get into a rhythm, perfecting our craft of sorting through trash.
While waste audits and raw data collection are not always the prettiest projects to get involved with, it’s been very valuable for me to do the base level work that goes into sustainable business consulting. In the future I hope to do similar work, evaluating a company’s practices and helping them reduce their environmental footprint. Environmental consciousness has increasing prevalence in today’s society, and as this movement grows, businesses across the world will need to take larger action in regards to sustainability. Transparency is becoming the name of the game, and sooner or later I believe environmentally sustainable business practices will be standard across the board. Much of that entails a slight reworking of how business works today, with things like hyper-consumerism and wasteful practices, and while it may be a long and difficult path, it will inevitably happen. Society, like Sierra and I, will have to learn as we go, and that is quite alright.