Recycling Right with Sustainable Westchester

by Brooklyn Flick ’24

As I move forward in my college career, I have begun to desire a way to put into practice what I have been learning in my classes. Therefore, when the opportunity to work with a company called “Sustainable Westchester” in their Zero Waste division opened up, I knew it sounded exactly right; or Recycle Right as I was later told.

While Sustainable Westchester as a whole contains multiple sectors such as landscaping, solar power, commercial heating, and cooling amongst others, I resonated most with their Recycle Right program. The defining characteristic of this division is a tool known as ‘Recyclopedia’. This tool gives its user the ability to input an array of various items they wish to dispose of and be told how to do so in the most environmentally friendly manner. This tool also offers a consistently updated calendar of the different trash days, and can even be programmed by the user to give reminders of specific days such as bulk trash, compost, etc. All one must do to garner these results is type in their address and then select either their calendar or type in the item they are trying to dispose of.

One might ask, what would an intern even do in this kind of position? And wouldn’t they need to be sufficient in some sort of computer programming language? These were my thoughts as well and they were quickly dismissed when I began to understand my role within the company. I worked within a system called ‘Recollect’ where I would make changes within an Excel sheet, which was directly linked to the Recyclopedia page. For example, if I entered the description of a tin can, this information would pop up automatically on the website. I remember feeling a sense of pride as I realized I could finally begin to see real world impacts in my collegiate journey.

Recycle Right! Participating Municipalities

I continued to chase that feeling of influence and was given new responsibilities accordingly. I had the opportunity to co-write and help edit a short video that explained to users how to use the new Recycle Right mobile application. This app essentially allows the user to access Recyclopedia. I had the idea to include this new video on all of our media channels and it is currently available on our YouTube channel and in the process of being added to the Zero Waste drop-down on our website’s homepage. We also sent the video out to each of our partnering municipalities for inclusion on their websites.

Another project that I was involved in was helping to determine where the video would best reside for the participating municipalities. I drafted mass emails to be sent to each neighborhood explaining the update in our program and our desire for it to be included where Recyclopedia lies within their website. This was the first time I was permitted to contact anyone outside of our company and it was really meaningful for me to be able to introduce myself as an environmental professional. I felt that it moved me up into a new realm of my internship where I could be counted on for public relations and marketing as well as editing and writing. I was able to do more with my writing and share my work directly with others. If you are in the immediate New York area, there’s a chance our program could be suited for you. Check out the video describing the mobile phone application here!

I was also involved in the review of the media channels themselves. I made many suggestions about the website’s flow and design and completed edits and alternative ways of communicating the information we wanted to offer. I had noticed that the webpage on the company’s website had a very long scroll time (the amount of scrolling one had to do to reach the bottom of the page). My suggestion was to create large sections headers that could be clicked on, taking the user to a completely new tab on their device. Within these new tabs, I suggested that with the company information, we could also add in paragraphs describing the environmental benefits that will occur if they use our recycling program. This corresponds to the paper I wrote for the company detailing the history of recycling.

Recycle Right! Participating Municipalities

Finally, I was responsible for coming up with what was called “Zero Waste Tips”. These would typically occur with items that had to be thrown away because the municipality could not recycle or repurpose them. If there was a sustainable alternative as was the case with plastic water bottles, I would insert a blurb suggesting a reusable water bottle or even water companies that use cardboard boxes for their bottles. (Obviously, not all of my suggestions were well received, but I just took that as part of the journey). I would also make suggestions for random items such as clothing to showcase ways in which the items can be repurposed and not disposed of at all. I found many resell sites for so many random things. I think one of my favorite parts of the internship as a whole was this research.

While it has been rewarding for me to offer these suggestions; something I’m grasping not only as an intern but as an employee at a larger, more corporate company, is the need to collaborate and work with others. Sharing tasks with others has taught me important project management skills and allowed me to focus more of my attention on matters I could assist with rather than wasting my time trying to upload a video to the YouTube channel without the password. I understand the value of group projects in my university studies more now. This made me appreciate being included in the company’s full-staff meetings where I was able to share my progress on certain projects and received feedback from not only my supervisors but people throughout the entire company. This made me feel like a part of a united force for change.

My time in this role has almost come to an end, but I will not forget the life lessons, nor the people Sustainable Westchester so graciously offered me.

Brooklyn Flick '24

Brooklyn Flick '24

Environmental Studies Student

Brooklyn Flick is pursuing a BA in Environmental Studies and a minor in Sustainability in the Department of Environmental Studies and Science at Pace University. Brooklyn is the vice president of the Pace Sustainability Initiative, Pace’s New York City campus environmental advocacy club, and helps manage the community garden on campus.