DAY ONE: The Kickoff
Port of Seattle environmental programs manager Steve Rybolt introduces this year’s problem: reducing the Port’s waste stream by 50% in order to meet the Millennium Goal of becoming The cleanest, greenest airport in North America.
Students this year will propose their own ideas for recapturing, recycling, reusing and reducing the (non-human) waste stream that passes through the Port, specifically targeting waste that typically ends up in landfills.
Leslie Stanton, operations manager, starts the program off with an overview of SeaTac’s existing environmental goals, programs and challenges. Leslie covered everything from taxis to passenger and cargo aircraft, carbon cycles, public accountability, up- and down-stream pollution, and much more. It was an interesting talk, and definitely brought out the complexity and difficulty of this year’s project.
Just a glimpse of the many angles students will have to consider and accommodate in their proposals, courtesy of Jeremy Webb, who will also be a tour guide for tomorrow’s field trip to SeaTac and Recology CleanScapes.
DAY TWO: The field trip
Where it all begins – SeaTac’s first step in separating and sorting trash from recycling begins with passengers in the terminal… If they can be trained to follow the rules! Vendors and concessionaires like Dish D’Lish and many others play a major role in SeaTac’s waste stream: choosing packaging and providing (hopefully) easy options for tossing trash and recycling.
Vendors at SeaTac donate nearly 35,000 pounds of food per year (or around 540 meals per week) to local food banks. Students visited the collection coolers where food is stored for pickup and learned about “Good Samaritan” laws governing food safety for donations.
Trevor Emtmann explains how SeaTac operates as a utility, including how utilities use rates, incentives and other strategies to influence customer behaviors with the goal of minimizing and recovering costs and run efficiently. This was some pretty dense information for students, but Trevor answered lots of questions and helped make a complex topic more accessible – now it’s up to students to include utility budgets and return-on-investment planning in their final proposals.
Leslie Stanton demonstrates the compactors used by vendors at SeaTac – separate machines for trash and recycling (remember, kids – vendors pay for trash but recycling is free!) One issue student proposals will need to address is the limited space available around the airport for waste processing equipment and transportation. Students also heard a lot today about the challenges of collecting accurate data on the airport’s waste stream, and the importance of that data for developing and implementing the most efficient and fair access and pricing policies for all the businesses that operate at the airport.
SeaTac also collects cooking oil, which is collected for free by a local biodiesel company – which not only generates profit for the biodiesel company, but also saves a lot of disposal costs for food vendors that use this kind of oil, which would otherwise be very expensive to transport and process properly. The idea that some of SeaTac’s waste stream might be turned to a profitable purpose by other businesses was a real eye-opener, and has already inspired some great thinking from student teams for their projects.
Megan McCain and Todd Johnson get us oriented to the “zero waste” operations at CleanScapes, including the range of community outreach and education programs they offer locally. Since community members – both passengers and Port employees – have a big role to play in controlling contamination in recycling, community outreach, education and support are all important parts of any master plan for managing a cleaner waste stream.
Whoa. The most complex piece of machinery we’ve ever seen! This giant, 3 story tall mega-machine uses weight, size magnetism and other factors to sort recyclables for sale to manufacturers locally and internationally. It’s not even up and running yet, but CleanScapes were great about letting us in for glimpse at their brand new, high-tech operation. Students even got coupons for the Recycled Store, which features all products made from 100% recycled materials like water bottles and plastic shopping bags.
Well that’s it for today’s field trip – we’ll be back soon with more guest speakers, workshops, activities and updates on the project as it moves along. Until then, sort your recycling!
Day 3: Speakers and spreadsheets and flipcharts, oh my!
Bring on the guest speakers – Nick Scott, airfield and airspace planner, walks us through the complexities of working within limited space when planning projects. Everything from a trash can to a runway has to work with the airport’s master plan and the needs of customers.
Nick’s best advice for the day: no matter what you do, keep it off the airfield.
Some key points on decision analysis:
1: This tool can be used to analyze ANY kind of decision
2: Every decision should include customer and other stakeholder impact
3: look out for your own bias when weighting scores
Marco Milanese and Perry Cooper run students through the wide world of stakeholders, and the ripple effects of SeaTac’s decisions throughout the larger community. Everyone from employees to contractors, vendors, neighbors and passengers have needs, concerns and varying degrees of influence over port projects.
Lisa Montoya from Alaska Airlines covers airplane waste streams, in-flight recycling and composting programs, and airport partner concerns around waste stream management. Cost, efficiency, flexibility and customer experience are all big factors to balance, plus the difficulty – – if not impossibility – of influencing human behavior.
Day 3: One final round of workshops
SeaTac city public works director Tom Gut spells out some of the complexities of the airport-city relationship, especially as it relates to our project topic of solid waste management. Tom’s presentation was particularly relevant as it connected to the legal analysis assignment and provided lots of helpful examples of local regulations that affect the city and the airport in their daily operations.
Hanh Nguyen, Mash Figlin and Ester Abenojar from the airport finance department crunching the numbers for us on everything from CPE (cost per enplanement) to utilities, concessions, commercial property and more. One big “a-ha” moment in the room was the idea that budgets are divided into piles for designated purposes – it’s not all just one giant account to spend however you want! Also important today is the idea that some spending is a one-way outflow, while other spending generates revenue as a return on investment. Smart students wrote down the link to the Port’s capital budget, and will use that info to keep their proposals realistic… Hint, hint!
Janelle Barrilleaux of the FAA walks us through the federal perspective on environmental programs and waste stream management at airports around the country. Federal regulators have a lot to say about how airports manage their environmental impacts, and provide detailed guidelines for employers on achieving high standards of cleanliness and efficiency. Airport mangers and employees have to stay current on federal rules and be ready to pass compliance audits, which takes careful planning and constant vigilance.
Well, that’s it for day 3, and that’s it for our series of guest speakers and workshops. Now it’s down to the daily grind of research, writing, planning and preparing for presentations on May 13 and 15. Students have a LOT of work to do, but plenty of resources and support available to get across the finish line. Good luck, kids!
FINAL PRESENTATIONS – Day One
Today is the first of two full days of presentations to our panels of expert judges. By the end of the week, students will have shared their best thinking and their best work with industry professionals from the Port of Seattle, Boeing, the FAA, Alaska Airlines, the King County Council, the City of SeaTac, Recology CleanScapes and the Washington State House of Representatives – it’s an impressive and intimidating audience, but the kids are ready!
Full house! Senay, Kevin, Griffin and Logan sell their ideas to Mrs.Dyer and judges Barbara Sando from Boeing, Jason Ritchie from the FAA, and Bob Duffner from the Port of Seattle. Even Principal Gilman stopped by to listen in. The questions got tough right from the start, pushing for details on budgets, land use and even impacts on wildlife. Kudos to the judges for keeping teams on their toes!
Nervous and it shows… But we wouldn’t have it any other way. Amber, Lucky, Hailey and Lona get their display table set up, including samples of the compostable food containers they proposed for Sea-Tac food vendors. Great idea to help judges really understand the impact of your plan.
Tim, Chris, Aaron and Nick crunch the numbers with their judge panel – Steve Rybolt, David Suomi and Mia Gregerson, from the Port of Seattle, FAA and State House of Representatives. The budget questions were detailed and tough, but the team kept their cool and defended their proposal well.
Mrs. Dyer joined Erika Melroy of Recology CleanScapes, Boeing engineer (and parent of an RAHS alum) Jerry Zayic, and Carter Timmerman from the WSDOT Aviation Division. Alfiya, Brendan, Elliott and Makoto brought a very persuasive presentation, focusing on the high-tech solution of converting waste to energy. Big props go to this team for thinking big and coming up with a very unique proposal.
Demie, Leon, Shailee and Jade did a great job outlining and addressing the needs of many different stakeholders, and made a convincing case that stakeholder needs and environmental goals can be compatible and mutually beneficial.
That’s it for our first day of presentations; more to come Thursday and we’ll be done for the year!
FINAL PRESENTATIONS – Day Two:
This is it, the final day – kids have worked a whole month for this, and tensions are high, but one way or another it will all be over soon.
Sophia, Zacc, Ally and Dillon compare a range of options from incinerators, hand sorting, bin upgrades and more. Ally had a great point about the environmentally conscious culture of the northwest, and the need to address community standards and concerns.
To quote Steve Rybolt: “Holy moly, these guys were awesome!” Michelle, Najib, Abbey and Peyton just killed it today, and the judges were blown away – not without some questions and concerns, but overall just an amazing job. Go team!