It is officially golf season in Pennsylvania, and this past week has afforded me two unique and rewarding opportunities when it comes to the growth of Spring Mill Solutions.
On Friday, May 6th, I attended a workshop conducted by the Professional Recyclers of Pennsylvania (PROP) at Toftrees Resort in State College, PA on Zero Waste Programs. This was the second day of a two day conference, and the day-long session was led by Joanne Shafer, Deputy Executive Director/Recycling Coordinator for Centre County, PA.
Joanne began the session by writing a phrase on an easel in the front of the room, “The road to zero waste starts at the beginning, not the end.” What this means is that the key to any zero waste program’s success is looking at what is coming in to your facility. The old adage “Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.” is still important, however, the emphasis must be put on the reduction and, when possible, reusing of items that will eventually end up in the landfill. By focusing upstream through actions such as optimizing amounts of items purchased in order to reduce waste, you should be able to see a difference in the amount of times your waste service provider has to pull your dumpster.
Furthermore, Joanne introduced the term “extended producer responsibility”. This means that some suppliers will work with you to not only reduce the amount of packaging they are sending you, but they may even take back some of the packaging. Not only could this allow them to keep their costs lower by possibly reusing packaging, but at the very least it helps to keep the waste out of your dumpster. Who wouldn’t want to work with a company like that?
Another valuable component of the workshop was the networking aspect. There were approximately twenty waste professionals from central and eastern Pennsylvania in the room that day. Most of them work for municipalities and were present to earn continuing education credits toward their certification. Having them in the room was truly valuable for me, as I was able to get real insight into how the industry functions. Also, it is always nice to be around other like-minded people to make you feel as though what you are doing carries merit and has a purpose.
My second opportunity came four days later, on Tuesday May 10th. I was afforded the opportunity to speak about zero waste at clubs in an educational capacity to the Philadelphia and Vicinity Chapter of the Club Managers Association of America educational seminars at Llanerch Country Club in Havertown, PA. , I obviously jumped at the chance.
While I have gotten used to standing in front of people and teaching, this was a different animal altogether. Now I was an “expert” speaking to accomplished men and women who had risen to the ranks of General Manager or Assistant General Manager at their respective clubs throughout the years. And here I was standing in front of them telling them how they could, and should, change their operations to become more efficient. It is a thin line to walk, telling someone how to run their business, but I felt as though it went quite well.
I was able to utilize much of the information I had learned at the PROP conference, and add it to existing slides and knowledge that I have accrued over the past two years. The group was attentive and participatory, and I walked out of the clubhouse feeling encouraged that my message got through.
Overall, the past week has been a good learning experience for me as I move Spring Mill Solutions forward. I have a couple of special announcements to make in the coming weeks, and I am very excited to share them with you once everything is finalized. So, please be on the lookout on our website, as well as our Facebook and Twitter pages.
If you would like to have me come to speak at your club or association meeting about the benefits of a zero waste program, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Travis Lesser is an Entrepreneurship Instructor at Penn State University, and is also the Owner and Founder of Spring Mill Solutions.