Making the Sustainable Attainable: Meet Athens’ Sustainability Team
In observance of Earth Month, we’d like to introduce you to the new Athens Sustainability Team (AST).
Environmental sustainability is one of the three pillars of our company’s business philosophy, The Athens Way: Service, People, and Environment. Athens is dedicated to protecting the environment of our communities. We also believe that sustainability begins with us and applies to our internal practices.
Consisting of representatives from across the organization, the AST is dedicated to minimizing Athens’ environmental impact and helping develop sustainability goals company wide. Their mission: “Our commitment to the environment is a keystone for all that we do, reflected in the services we provide to customers, the design and operation of our facilities, our outreach and education initiatives, and the safe work environment for our employees.”
The AST has implemented company-wide initiatives, including the following:
- The Reusable Red Cup Program to eliminate single-use, disposable cups.
- An eco-friendly printing policy.
- Outgoing email signatures reminding recipients to mindfully consider their printing needs.
- A soon-to-launch, six-month Zero Waste Campaign.
Here, they share their experience and knowledge in taking care of the environment.
- Name: Keng Baloco-Wong
- Title: Commodity Sales and Logistics Manager
- Location: City of Industry Materials Recovery Facility (MRF)
- Joined Athens: 2017
- Primary duties: Find markets where we can send our recyclable materials, ensure quality control, and stay current on foreign trade policies regarding recycling.
- How did you get into the waste and recycling industry? I started in human resources in 2007, then decided to pursue commodity buying and trading of recyclable scrap. I have been in this role here at Athens since 2017.
- What is a little-known fact about the industry or the work you do? It’s interesting to see how recyclables are processed, recycled, and turned into an end product that we use every day.
- Do you have a favorite sustainability tip to share? Reduce single-use plastic as much as possible.
- Why is environmental protection important? Environmental protection is necessary. Those of us in the recycling and environmental industry are the gatekeepers that help protect the environment, preserve our natural resources, and lead conservation efforts. It is important to continue to send a message to the world on why environmental protection is important and what we can do as individuals to help play a role.
- Name: Stephanie Daniels
- Title: Environmental Compliance Coordinator
- Location: Sun Valley MRF, Pacoima
- Joined Athens: 2017
- Primary duties: Ensuring each Athens yard is abiding by environmental compliance of their operating permits, as well as storing and disposing of hazardous materials properly.
- What is a little-known fact about the industry or the work you do? We collect rainwater samples and have them tested. We do this to ensure that no contaminants flow into city storm drains, which lead to the ocean.
- Do you have a favorite sustainability tip to share with others? I buy salads and greens in bulk and store them in airtight containers with a dishcloth inside to absorb moisture. They last for weeks. I haven’t had to toss out wilted salad in at least two years.
- Name: Crystal Baxter
- Title: Office Administrator, Athens Services’ San Bernardino County landfill operations
- Location: Ontario
- Joined Athens: 2007
- Primary duties: Process invoices and order and stock all supplies. Make sure our supervisors have the purchase orders and supplies needed to run the day-to-day operations for all San Bernardino County Landfills and Transfer Stations. Maintain reports to the County.
- How did you get into the waste and recycling industry? I had grown out of my previous job. As a single mom, I needed a job with stability where I could grow with the company. Athens welcomed me.
- What is a little-known fact about the industry or the work you do? Our landfill, transfer station, and compost workers do not get enough recognition for what they do. They work out in the elements every day to make sure trash is taken care of, whether there’s a heatwave, high winds, snow, or rain.
- Do you have a favorite sustainability tip to share with others? I never knew there were specific “codes” under plastic containers or what they meant until I worked here.
- Why is environmental protection important? We need to learn more about the environment and what we can do to make it better. We must reduce landfill waste and recycle as much as possible to preserve the environment for our children.
- Name: Thor Schmidt
- Title: Director of Outreach and Customer Relations
- Location: LA North office, Pacoima
- Joined Athens: 2010
- Primary duties: Support the outreach and education needs of the cities and communities we serve. Promote and educate our customers on the many diversion programs that are available to them.
- How did you get into the waste and recycling industry? I started as a recycling coordinator 21 years ago. I learned about recycling and organics, the importance of diversion, and preserving our natural resources.
- What is a little-known fact about the industry or the work you do? In my job, I get to hire enthusiastic young people who are passionate about the environment and sustainability. I show them how they can actually make a difference through outreach and education. I’ve seen nine recycling coordinators get promoted and take on new challenges.
- Do you have a favorite sustainability tip to share with others? A plastic bag is used for an average of 12 minutes but will remain in the environment for 1,000 years before it decomposes. Use a reusable bag.
- What does it mean to be part of the Athens Sustainability Team? I really enjoy working with people who are passionate and knowledgeable about the environment. The Athens Sustainability Team is taking steps to make sure we are doing what we preach and leading by example. That’s pretty cool.
- Name: Brian Hunter
- Title: Operations Manager
- Location: Sun Valley MRF
- Joined Athens: 2016
- Primary duties: Manage all operational aspects (production, efficiency, safety) of the Athens Sun Valley materials recovery facility (MRF).
- How did you get into the waste and recycling industry? I was interested in learning more about the processes and procedures that manage my waste after I dispose of it at home.
- What is a little-known fact about the industry or the work you do? More than 70,000 tons of recyclable material is processed at the Sun Valley MRF.
- Do you have a favorite sustainability tip to share with others? Always remember to Waste Not and Keep it Clean.
- What does it mean to be part of the Athens Sustainability Team? It is always a great feeling to be a part of positive change in our environment. Being able to do the little things now that will set up a brighter future later is my goal.
- Name: Dave Oeffling
- Title: Environmental Compliance Manager
- Location: Irwindale
- Joined Athens: 2015
- Primary duties: Ensure Athens’ facilities are in compliance with all environmental and regulatory requirements while planning the development of new MRF facilities.
- How did you get into the waste and recycling industry? I was closing out my two-year term serving as administrator of the Thousand Oaks Environmental Business Cluster (TOEBC). It was one of the first environmental business incubators in the country. We created 15 small businesses and 60 jobs – all revolving around various environmental technologies and professions. When the TOEBC incubator project ended in 1997, I joined one of the “hatchlings,” Eco Telesis, and began a career as a solid waste consultant for local cities in LA County.
- What is a little-known fact about the industry or the work you do? One of our responsibilities in the Environmental Compliance Department is to ensure pollution prevention measures are in place at all Athens facilities.
- Do you have a favorite sustainability tip to share with others? When conserving water, you get a 2-for-1 benefit because you are also conserving electricity. It takes a lot of power to pump water from its source to the tap in our home or business.
As a family-owned company, Athens will continue engaging, listening, and raising public awareness of the importance of environmental stewardship. As the AST works to make Athens offices more sustainable, learn how you can too at Office Tips.