The Office of Sustainability Moves to Sustainable Resources Division

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The Office of Sustainability is moving for the fifth time in eight-and-a-half years! While I have enjoyed each and every stop along the way I am hoping to find my home at Planning & Public Works in the Sustainable Resources division. Aligning the Office of Sustainability with programs focused on waste reduction, recycling and environmental education makes a lot of sense. We share interests in managing our resources and educating our coworkers and residents about sustainable living.

The Office of Sustainability has been around for almost nine years now but as I join efforts with Sustainable Resources I am realizing it is just a child in the eyes of their 30-year-old environmental education program. A recent EnviroEd newsletter featured an overview of the program and its lasting educational efforts that began when recycling was brand new.

“Thirty years ago, our solid waste division had just one educator to promote our new curbside recycling program, and offer a few lessons at schools. Today, our team of four educators serve the Pierce County community and its schools, working with teachers to custom-build programs that align with reading, math, social studies and science curriculums.

They visit classrooms all over the county, teaching kindergartners about worms and composting, guiding third graders on upcycled art projects, and helping eighth graders measure the health of water from creek samples nearby—all in an average week!

Our hands-on programs help students make informed decisions and take action to preserve the natural environment. Each program includes a community action project like a school recycling campaign or habitat improvement. And partnerships with other local organizations expand our reach beyond the schools so that all members of the community have opportunities to learn about composting, gardening, recycling, yard care and more.

Our educators are active in 40-50 different schools every year, reaching about 150 classrooms. We also partner with several local organizations to offer compost classes, educational fairs and trainings, reaching about 9,900 learners in 2017.”

What others are saying about our Environmental Education Program

With our help, Columbia Crest Academy recently restored their rain garden. One student wrote about her experience with the project:

“I loved getting to lay the bark, using my hands, and learning about what rain gardens have in common with our everyday lives. That work was awesome but I did get really dirty and sweaty. I never got to be part of the school at my old school. Wow, I learned a lot.”

“This was such a powerful real-life lesson for our students. It raised their awareness regarding their own recycling practices. They have since started educating their own families and even a few teachers. It also gave them an opportunity to practice their science lab skills using a personal real-life scenario. Thank you for being here.”
Quincy Cook, 7th grade Science/Social Studies teacher
Narrows View Intermediate, University Place

Creating a Strong Sustainability Team

It is an honor to work alongside the employees of Sustainable Resources as we tackle new challenges in the recycling world and try to maximize our educational impact. I am already incredibly impressed with the depth of experience and education (lots of masters degrees) of our team. I believe that working together we can have a much more focused impact on the residents of Pierce County as sustainable living becomes more ingrained in our culture. I want to also assure other departments that Sustainability will continue to be a county wide effort and I look forward to working with our 3,500 employees to meet the challenging goals set out in the Sustainability 2020 Plan.

Thanks for reading.

Ryan Dicks