The GSB Interview: Reduction In Motion’s Kelsey Hallowell, Helping to Efficiently Reduce Waste at Camden Yards and M&T Bank Stadium

Kelsey Hallowell is a Professional Trash Talker.

She plies that unusual trade for Reduction In Motion, a forward-leaning waste reduction consultancy in Baltimore. One of Kelsey’s clients is the Maryland Stadium Authority which, among other things, owns Camden Yards (home of baseball’s Orioles) and M&T Bank Stadium (home of the NFL’s Ravens).

GreenSportsBlog talked to Kelsey, whose official title is Communications and Outreach Coordinator, about the unique aspects of working with sports venues.

And talking trash.

GreenSportsBlog: Kelsey, I love your job title! How does one get to be a professional trash talker?

Kelsey Hallowell: Well Lew, for me it started out as a little girl in Duxbury, Massachusetts. I was always outside playing – the joke with my family is as a toddler, my parents would set me beside them as they gardened, and I would eat handfuls of dirt.

GSB: Uh…Another way of saying you have “an appreciation for the environment”

KH: YES! Then I ended up attending Washington College, a small liberal arts school in Chestertown on the Eastern Shore of Maryland…

GSB: Sounds like an outdoorsy place…

KH: …It is. In fact, I got to be a part of the first cohort of something called the Chesapeake Semester. It was amazing. Rather than being stuck in a classroom, we went out into the environment, into the field to learn. Talked to and worked with farmers, scientists, and historians for environmental causes throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

 

Kelsey Headshot Color

Kelsey Hallowell, trash talker at Reduction In Motion (Photo credit: Reduction In Motion)

 

GSB: What a great program! I can see how you would end up in the trash talking, waste reduction business.

KH: Actually I started in the recycling and waste world while at Washington College. I worked with the Center for Environment & Society (CES), which is linked with the college and Chestertown. CES focuses on social and environmental issues.

GSB: What was your role?

KH: I worked on a variety of projects. Not too surprisingly, I was one of a handful of students who helped with recycling on campus. We got into the nitty gritty of it, which was a great experience.

GSB: What do you mean by nitty gritty?

KH: We collected the recycling by hand, separating glass by color, while also separating plastics, metals, paper and cardboard. We also helped to reinvigorate composting on campus and started a campus garden.

GSB: Not glamorous but it sounds like a great training ground…What did you do once you graduated?

KH: While I was still at Washington College, I went to a presentation by an alum who worked at Reduction In Motion. I thought, “what they do is really cool.” One thing led to another and, in 2012, I became a trash talker at Reduction In Motion.

GSB: So what does Reduction In Motion do?

KH: The company was started in 2002 by Bill Griffith. He worked for a long time in the hazardous and medical waste industry. He saw how much waste went into the red bags designated for regulated medical waste and how much of that didn’t really belong there. Bill also realized that hospitals — and many other types of businesses and venues — really had very little idea about their waste: how much they generate, where it goes, how much it costs…

GSB: How could hospitals not know how much their waste hauling cost?

KH: That’s what Bill asked! So he launched the company to help hospitals and other healthcare facilities understand their waste streams better, more efficiently deal with it, and save money by doing so. I started as a Greening Facilitator for hospitals in Baltimore City.

 

Bill Griffith at Audit

Bill Griffith, founder of Reduction In Motion, taking part in a waste audit (Photo credit: Reduction In Motion)

 

GSB: What is a Greening Facilitator?

KH: I basically helped the ‘waste generators’ – clinicians, administrative staff, food service and waste handlers (housekeeping and facilities) – make sure the different types of waste went into the correct waste or recycling stream.

GSB: How did the doctors and hospital staff react?

KH: Some were really into it, some not so much. A few hospitals really got it. One had an already-established Green Team by the time we arrived. We worked with them to use compost to help fertilize a garden they had established.

GSB: That sounds like a real success.

KH: It was. We’ve found that one of the keys to success for our clients is to stick to the basics: What and how much waste are you generating? With recycling, what kind of bins do you have? Is signage clearly communicating what goes into which bin? Are you following where the waste and recycling goes after it leaves your premises?

GSB: Simple, yet important.

KH: That’s really it. Set it up and help maintain the program.

GSB: You then moved up from Greening Facilitator to your current trash talking position: Communications and Outreach Coordinator. What does that entail?

KH: Well, we’re a small operation with less than 10 employees, so the job has a bit of everything in it. I help support our clients, from Virginia to New Jersey, with educational materials and the aforementioned signage. Management of our website and social media, developing presentations, and supporting sales are also parts of my day to day.

GSB: Sounds busy and also varied. Now, what is the Reduction In Motion business model?

KH: Good question. We call ourselves “waste-based sustainability consultants” and we mostly work on a monthly fee basis. Recently, a project-specific model has become popular. We show cost savings to our clients by increasing the amount of waste that goes to recycling and composting and cutting the amount that goes to trash, because sending waste to landfills is more expensive. Our metrics for success are diversion rates and money saved. But things have gotten much more challenging recently.

GSB: Why is that?

KH: Recycling just became infinitely more difficult because China — where the US and many other countries sent most of its recycled material — enacted a new law, banning the import of American recycling because there was too much contamination.

GSB: I heard something about that. How much contamination is too much?

KH: It needs to be less than 0.5 percent but the US was sending recycling to China with contamination rates north of 15 percent. That’s one big reason why we emphasize examining waste streams at the client site to make sure they’re not contaminated.

GSB: So where’s the recycling going to go if not China? Can we keep it here?

KH: Great question. The domestic recycling infrastructure needed to support the recovery of the materials we were previously sending to China needs to be greatly expanded if we are going to keep it all here. To truly fix the issues the recycling industry is facing today, manufacturers need to get involved. How2Recycle.info is a great website that explains not only the confusion consumers are facing when trying to recycle but it also addresses how to solve the problem. We need standardized, clear, concise messaging included on the products we buy every day. All packages should be labeled so the consumer can quickly and easily determine how to dispose of everything the package contains the right way. Think of a box of cereal. There is the outer box and the inner bag containing the cereal. Most consumers are well aware that the outer box can be recycled but get confused when it comes to the inner bag. They think, “it’s plastic so it can go into the recycle bin too,” but that’s just not the case. This could be solved if a label was printed on the outside of the box in an easily viewable spot, clearly explaining that the box is recyclable but the plastic bag is not. Standardization of information labels on packaging materials will do a great deal to cut down on contamination rates found in today’s recycling stream. Once the disposal of packaging materials has been standardized, the materials recovery facilities (MRFs) can get to work on how best to recover the materials here in the US, increasing jobs and eliminating the need to export recycled material out of the country.

GSB: We should do a separate interview about what needs to happen to build domestic recycling infrastructure. But for now, let’s talk about how Reduction In Motion got into working with sports venues…

KH: Sports venues are different than hospitals. Hospitals run and generate waste 24-7. Sports fans are at a venue for a few hours and not every day. But when they do go to a game, they generate huge amounts of waste in a relatively short time. Our first sports clients were two two minor league baseball teams in Maryland, Aberdeen IronBirds, who play at Ripken Stadium and the Frederick Keys, whose home base is Harry Grove Stadium. We received a grant from the state to conduct waste audits for them. From there, we moved up to the big leagues as we started to work with the Maryland Stadium Authority. It operates Camden Yards, the home of the Orioles, and M&T Bank Stadium, home of the Ravens.

 

RIM Minor League Baseball

Reduction In Motion team members and volunteers sort trash and recycling generated at a Frederick Keys game at Harry Grove Stadium as part of a grant-funded project by Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) in 2015 (Photo credit: Reduction In Motion)

 

GSB: What do you do for them?

KH: We conducted waste audits as part of both stadiums’ LEED certification efforts, including identifying all the waste that’s generated, from plastic to metal to glass to compostables and more. That led to us working with the Stadium Authority to help the venues understand and improve their diversion rates. We developed fan and staff education content about which types of waste goes into what bin.

GSB: I know there are studies saying that fans care about the environment but do they really care about putting the right type of waste into the right bin?

KH: Some do but some don’t. That’s why it’s so important to establish and roll out a plan, then continue to engage with the key stakeholders, like leadership, operations teams and the fans. By focusing on bin selection, placement, color-codes, and messaging, we try to make it as easy as possible for fans to do the right thing. This approach allowed us to help the University of Richmond with their 2017 ‘Rethink Waste’ basketball game: Recycling contamination was reduced by 54 percent from their baseline and compost was collected at a 93 percent compliance rate! For more details on how we did it, you can read the full story here.

GSB: …So that’s where talking trash comes in!

KH: …You got it! The truth is it’s easier to do the right thing if we make it easy.

GSB: So true. How are Camden Yards and M&T Bank Stadium doing, diversion rate-wise?

KH: Both have improved over the past several years. Camden Yards’ diversion rate increased from 10 percent in 2012 to 30 percent in 2017. M&T Bank Stadium is doing great; in 2017 they were up to a 58 percent diversion rate, an increase of 40 percent since 2011! Similarly, we’ve had good success in the college sports world. We helped the University of Richmond achieve an 87 percent landfill diversion rate at the aforementioned ‘Rethink Waste’ basketball game.

 

UR (2) RIM

Reduction In Motion and University of Richmond’s student volunteers conducting waste audits during a 2017 Spiders men’s basketball game (Photo credit: Reduction In Motion)

 

GSB: WOW! Congratulations. You make this sound easy but I know it isn’t. What factors might hold down a sports venue’s diversion rate?

KH: Buy-in and consistency. Ensuring you have an understanding of the operations while getting leadership’s understanding and approval can be a tricky balance, and that’s where we come in. Recycling seems easy, but achieving a high, uncontaminated diversion rate will take time and energy. And it takes even more time and energy to maintain and further improve your diversion rates. Things are always changing, whether it be the workforce, those in leadership roles, and, as seen in the China case, the rules of recycling.

GSB: Stadium workers have tough jobs so the communications have to be powerful and the incentives need to be real for them to consistently do the right thing regarding waste. Is sports a growing sector for Reduction In Motion?

KH: It is. More and more, pro and college teams and venues are embracing sustainability — we saw that phenomenon in person at the Green Sports Alliance Summit in Atlanta last month. We also see that fan engagement on recycling and other environmental initiatives is on the rise.

GSB: Hallelujah!!

KH: Definitely! In fact we are providing guidance and ideas to the Maryland Stadium Authority on fan engagement.

GSB: That’s great to hear, Kelsey. Congratulations on your and Reduction In Motion’s success to date. I look forward to hearing about how you and the company will go beyond Maryland’s borders to talk trash and thus help green more sports venues.

 


 

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2018 Green Sports Alliance Summit Recap: Substance and The Art of the Possible

The eighth Green Sports Alliance Summit that concluded Wednesday in Atlanta was the most substantive of the five such events I’ve attended. From the plenary sessions to the workshops to the stadium tours to the conversations with vendors at their booths, the hallmark for me was that I learned a ton!

With that as backdrop, here is a final recap of the substantive Green Sports Alliance Summit 2018.

 

PANEL DISCUSSES MICROGRIDS FOR SPORTS VENUES

“We are in the Excuse Removal business!'”

Karen Morgan, President and CEO of Dynamic Energy Networks, began “The Art of the Possible: New Business Models to Achieve Your Community’s Energy Goals” panel discussion with that proclamation.

 

Karen Morgan

Karen Morgan, President and CEO, Dynamic Energy Networks (Photo credit: Dynamic Energy Networks)

 

What excuses are Morgan and her team aiming to remove from the lexicon of sports owners?

That their stadia and arenas can’t become hubs of a microgrid — a form of distributed electricity generation that brings together a small network of electricity users with a local source of supply that, in the main, functions independently of the grid — because doing so is too costly, technologically challenging, and/or just too different.

Moderated adroitly by Anne Kelly, Ceres’ Senior Director, Policy, “The Art of the Possible” offered a detailed tutorial on the potential of microgrids to benefit not only sports venues but the surrounding community.

Morgan set the stage: “Our team invests in microgrid projects, often including solar and other renewables, taking on the financial risk from property owners. Our capital, provided by the Carlyle Group, one of the world’s largest private equity firms, is invested upfront. Property owners pay our investors back over time through power purchase agreements (PPAs), energy services agreements and other such vehicles. Schneider Electric contributes critical software integration expertise.”

Key members of the Dynamic Energy Networks microgrid All-Star team joined Morgan on the panel.

Mark Feasel, Vice President Electric Utility Segment and Smart Grid at Schneider Electric, evangelized about microgrids’/distributed generation’s three most powerful features:

  • Digitization: “Data profoundly is transforming the effectiveness of energy assets. Solar, for example, has become exponentially more efficient thanks to digitization.”
  • Decarbonization: “Distributed generation allows for the faster integration of renewables. We see decarbonization rates of up to 85 percent in distributed generation networks.”
  • Decentralization: “For 100 years, energy was supplied to homes and businesses from a massive central hub, and consumers were passive. Now, with distributed generation, customers are proactive actors, getting more reliable, sustainable and predictable energy, sometimes at lower cost.”

Andrew Marino, Co-Head of Carlyle Group and a member of Dynamic Energy Networks’ Board of Directors, offered this take: “We see microgrids as a massive opportunity for distributed, integrated sustainable energy and a huge investment opportunity. And it’s not only renewables and storage. Electric vehicles are also part of the mix. All of our EV conversations involve integrating them with microgrids.”

Where does sports fit in?

Morgan said “Sports venues can be laboratories for energy innovation.” She then imagined the integration of Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Philips Arena^ and Georgia World Congress (convention) Center  — the three structures form a triangle of sorts — via battery-powered energy storage: “This would become a resilient center for disaster relief. Sports venues are where the community goes. Five years ago, back up power was exclusively diesel-based, meaning it was dirty and took a half-hour or more to ramp up — remember the blackout at the 2013 Super Bowl in New Orleans. Now we can leverage solar, dispatch a battery for resilience. It is cleaner, quicker, more reliable and at a lower price. Microgrids will help venues win the right to host the best and biggest events. So, to team owners, venue owners, I say be leaders on microgrids and distributed generation.”

 

CARBON UNDERGROUND PRESIDENT SAYS KEY SOLUTION TO CLIMATE CHANGE IS…UNDERGROUND

“There is no solution to climate change that does not include drawing carbon back down from our atmosphere. And there is no mechanism with the scale and immediacy to draw enough carbon back down to mitigate climate change other than the restoration of soil. Doing so will be transformational.”

So said Larry Kopald, Co-Founder and President of The Carbon Underground, as a lead-in to a brief presentation Tuesday afternoon about his organization’s important but not-so-well-known work.

Kopald asserted that “According to the United Nations, mismanagement of soil has resulted in a loss of as much as 70 percent of topsoil worldwide. And that loss of topsoil is a big contributor to climate change. If we continue at the current pace, the UN predicts we may have as little as sixty years left before the soil-based foundation for feeding the planet is gone.”

The good news is that restoring health of our soil can happen quickly, will reduce atmospheric CO₂ levels, increase the water supply and is now seen by many, including Big Food, as a winning investment. According to Mr. Kopald:

  • One acre of healthy soil stores 25,000 gallons of water
  • Per a UCLA study, restoring health to our soil, and thereby increasing our water supply and beginning to reverse climate change, will reduce healthcare costs by up to 25 percent
  • The largest food companies — Danone, General Mills and Unilever among them — support The Carbon Underground and are moving towards a system of “regenerative agriculture,” farming and grazing practices that, among other benefits, reverse climate change by rebuilding soil organic matter and restoring degraded soil biodiversity – resulting in both carbon drawdown and improving the water cycle.
  • Individuals can do so as well, through The Carbon Underground’s “Adopt-a-Meter” program. For as little as $5, folks can adopt a meter of degraded soil and bring it back to health.

 

 

 

How can the sports world chip in? It seems that sports played outside, on grass and dirt like golf, soccer, baseball, and football, should support the work of groups like The Carbon Underground. Healthy soil is something almost all humans are in favor of — why not make it the centerpiece of a fan engagement program?

 

 

A MISSED OPPORTUNITY

After Kopald’s presentation, he moderated “Food, Fans and Farmers: Teaming Up for a Healthier Planet.” Panel members Will Witherspoon (sustainable farmer and ex-NFL linebacker), Robby Sansom (COO/CFO of Epic Provisions, maker of bars from 100 percent grass-fed animal protein), and Will Harris (fourth generation cattle farmer), all agreed that animal-based foods play an important, essential role in our diets.

Beyond the panel, there is clear disagreement about that point.

In fact, that same evening, the Alliance hosted a screening of the new documentary film, “The Game Changers.” Per the Alliance, “it tells the story of UFC fighter James Wilks as he travels the world for the truth behind the world’s most dangerous myth: that meat is necessary for protein, strength and optimal health.”

 

 

With that in mind, it says here that Wilks — who was at the Summit for a post-screening Q&A — should have been a part of Kobald’s “Food” panel. Having an athlete who thrives on a plant-based diet in a discussion with animal farmers would have been fascinating and illuminating.

 

James Wilks

James Wilks (Photo credit: vegan-fighter.com)

 

Also missing from the panel was a discussion of the climate change impact of animal-based foods — it is accepted science that it takes between seven to ten times more energy to get animal-based food to one’s plate than plant-based food.

So this was an opportunity missed — hopefully a fuller discussion about food can be part of the 2019 Summit lineup in Philadelphia.

 

CLEMSON UNIVERSITY PLAYS LONG GAME WHEN IT COMES TO BRINGING RECYCLING TO MEMORIAL STADIUM

Eleven years.

That’s how long it took Tom Jones, Director of Custodial, Recycling, Solid Waste and Special Events at Clemson University, and his team to get recycling fully embedded at Memorial Stadium, the 81,500 seat home of Tigers football.

Talk about playing the long game.

As Jones told the story at the “Engagement through Operations, Staff, Fans, and Community” workshop, the Clemson athletics department was very resistant to the introduction of recycling bins at the stadium and, even more so, in the suites — they felt it would be a big annoyance. His approach: Listen to them, overcome their objections one by one, and advance recycling slowly.

“You’re not going to get anywhere trying to tell the athletics department what to do,” advised Jones. “We kept at it with a ‘soft sell’ approach. We showed them that, by having fans, whether in the tailgate area or in the stadium, separate their waste into trash and recycling would make the trash haul much lighter and quicker. They liked that. Then we showed them that the cost of recycling would be the same or lower than the cost of trash hauling. That got their attention. We got students to volunteer. That got their attention, too. But we didn’t pester them. Slowly, they started to come around. Finally, in recent years, the athletics department started coming to us, asking us to help them. Because we were solving problems. And now we have a solid partnership with athletics based on trust.”

 

Clemson Recycle

Blocks of recycled cans and bottles collected by Clemson student volunteers at a home football game in 2014 (Photo credit: Clemson Newsstand)

 

BEST LINE OF THE SUMMIT

At the same “Engagement” workshop, moderator Monica Rowand, Sustainability Coordinator at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, had us break into groups. Our task was to come up with ways to improve recycling rates among fans, stadium/arena staff and the community. One of the folks in our group was Kelsey Hallowell, the head of waste reduction consultancy Reduction In Motion. When I asked what she does day-to-day, she replied “I get paid to trash talk!”

If Kelsey had a microphone, she would’ve dropped it.

See you in Philadelphia next June!

 

 

^ Philips Arena: Home of the Atlanta Hawks

 


 

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