By Mark Peterson

Recently, I have been giving a lot of Toward Zero Waste presentations to a widely varying audience. The audiences range from nearly a 100 Fairhaven Middle School students to a smaller group of 10 interested Rotarians. I enjoy public speaking and also sharing the knowledge I have gained over my nearly seven years as a waste reduction specialist. It is nice to know that what I have to share is well received and thought provoking. This in turn reinvigorates me in all aspects of the Toward Zero Waste work we do at Sustainable Connections including the stinky and slightly gross waste audits.

Part of what makes these presentations rewarding is the engagement of the audience and seeing people begin to understand and realize the scope of the waste issues facing us today. I sometimes forget that people aren’t likely to have multiple waste reduction newsletters arrive in their inbox weekly let alone find the time to read the enthralling Sustainable Management Materials plan for the state of Washington. I’m happy to be available and regarded as a trusted source of information about waste issues locally and on a global scale.

I benefit from these presentations in a number of ways including the fact that I learn too. I am always looking for the most updated information, new infographics and statistics as ways to illustrate the current state of waste, while also providing an update on recent happenings weaved alongside longer-term historical perspective. In a way, public presentations force me to stay sharp because if I am not, I will inevitably be put on the spot by knowledgeable and passionate member of the audience!

What I gain from sharing the Toward Zero Waste message in public most is hope. While trash may not be top of mind for everyone it is clear that everyone truly does care – they don’t like wasting food or the effects of plastic pollution either. The community at large does understand the issues and challenges facing us in terms of waste reduction.

But, what is even more encouraging is the audiences I present to are motivated to do something whether it be on and individual basis, a new plan for their business or an initiative at their school. At the close of my presentation and when I’m done with a lively question and answer period and as I walk out the door, I have a great sense of pride. Pride for the organization I work for and the community in which we live and I’m grateful for the chance to help make a difference.

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