Greening Obama’s Inauguration; AUNE Alum Heads it Up

If waste diversion sounds like a dull career, talk to David Mayer, MS ’10, director of business development and sustainability for Pritchard Sports and Entertainment Group. But better wait until after January 21, because Mayer is very busy. Very busy. He’s in charge of cleaning and greening recycling and compostingPresident Barack Obama’s inauguration.

That means planning for every single candy wrapper, coffee cup, apple core, and shrimp cocktail scrap left by 600,000 to 800,000 people. It sounds like they did very little recycling and composting at the 2009 inauguration, so there is much to improve upon, Mayer said.

Mayer was the salesman who marketed Pritchard’s cleaning service to C3 Presents, the promotion company which is organizing the presidential inauguration. Since then, he has been working with the Presidential Inaugural Committee on greening initiatives and strategies.

That entails overseeing thousands of crucial details involved in collecting all trash, recycling, and compost right down to the manure from 164 horses on the parade route.  It means mapping out locations for all the waste stations, which include compost and recycling bins and trash receptacles, and coordinating volunteers to work at each station. To make sure the recycling and compost aren’t contaminated, Dumpsters must be placed strategically and, sometimes, guarded.  He also works with the waste haulers to make sure the event diverts as much waste as possible and to get sound statistics on the diversion rates afterward. And he’s planning the cleaning and greening for the Jan. 19 Day of Service Celebration, a huge party for military personnel on the National Mall.

The top priority, of course, is security. Safety of the President is first, Mayer said. We have to use all translucent bags so any potential hazard can be seen. We can’t use certain garbage containers on the parade route or near the President, due to bomb issues. We have to get our employees cleared by the Secret Service to work. Getting those employees cleared by U.S. National Park Service, which oversees the National Mall, and the U.S. Secret Service has demanded a lot of effort and planning.

Even being the green ace of the Inauguration hasn’t shielded him from politics, he said. Most of the inauguration committee members are new interns with great ideas that cost way too much and should have been suggested months ago. But we entertain them nonetheless! Mayer said.

Big-name Clients
Pritchard is based in Maryland, but Mayer works out of his home in Branford, Connecticut, although he’s not there very much. He’s on the road between 60 and 75 days a year, marketing their cleaning service to sports and entertainment facilities. His clients include big names in sports the Professional Golf Association, the United States Tennis Association, arenas for professional basketball and hockey teams, stadiums for professional football and baseball teamsas well as large concerts and music festivals like Lollapalooza. In fact, Mayer’s company got the inauguration gig because he did such a good job with the 2011 and 2012 Lollapaloozas for C3 Presents.

Mayer also helps his clients make the most of their sustainability efforts. Since we are the folks on the ground that perform the actual cleanup, collect the waste, and organize the waste hauling, we have the most influence on the waste stream of a facility or large event, he said.

I organize the event’s waste diversion efforts, which may entail setting up a recycling and/or composting program where one never existed, and I work with haulers to ensure waste goes to the proper place. The greatest challenge is that every region of the country handles recycling/composting differently, so I need to make sure that any program we implement is economically and logistically feasible as well.

After an event is over, Mayer calculates how much waste was diverted, using the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Waste Reduction Model (WARM) calculator, so the client can use the statistics in its marketing. Mayer’s biggest success has been Lollapalooza, which draws nearly 100,000 people a day, over three days, to Chicago’s Grant Park.

The Greening of Lollapalooza
In 2010, Lollapalooza only diverted 27 percent of its waste and composted nothing, while other similar-sized festivals were doing much better, Mayer said.  The next year, Pritchard more than doubled Lollapalooza’s diversion rate, to 60 percent, and helped it compost more than 30,000 pounds of organic matter. That saved 267 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in greenhouse gas emissions, equal to taking forty-nine passenger vehicles off the road.  Waste Management called the composting effort the largest at any event in Chicago history, and it was even more successful in 2012.

Mayer had done an AUNE internship for Pritchard, which led to his full time job in January 2010, during his final semester at AUNE. When I worked part-time at golf events, I was amazed at how much waste a sporting even produced and how little waste was diverted, he said. That inspired him to do a compost feasibility study, at a major tennis event in Miami.

While he was at AUNE, he also earned his certification as a Green Associate (GA) in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), which has been very helpful in his career, as well as his BPI (Building Performance Institute) certification.

Read about Mayer’s success at Lollapalooza here and here.

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