Member Interview – Jessica Connolly, 06/13

My title – the longest at my company, is Recycling & Environmental Awareness Program Coordinator or REAP Coordinator. Yes, I’m the REAPer, but the best kind around; I reap the people who don’t properly recycle and compost and transform them into recycling stewards. I now work at Community Housing Partnership­ of San Francisco. I have been working here since October, 2012. Previously I worked for Recology San Mateo County, Recology’s Golden Gate Disposal and Sunset Scavenger, and Planet Granite.

REAP is a training program for formerly-homeless people that live in supportive housing in San Francisco. The REAP 10-week internship that has two components: classroom time and outreach time. Each week we cover different material in class including Foundations of Environmental Literacy, Recycling & Composting, Reduce & Reuse, Toxics, Water & Energy Conservation, Green Living and Agriculture. The interns then use this material to conduct outreach and education at thei­r buildings, getting more people to participate in environmental initiatives

In a nutshell, I am responsible for developing and implementing the REAP, facilitating the classes, performing outreach and education to tenants and building staff – janitors, case managers, property managers, etc, establishing and enhancing recycling and composting programs in residential buildings, and strategizing diversion plans for new and/or renovated residential buildings.

I never thought I would be a teacher or a social worker, yet I managed to find myself in a position that is a fusion of both.

I graduated Magna Cum Laude from San Francisco State University in 2010 with a 3.9 GPA (which was a great accomplishment considering that I spent every summer from grade 7-11 in summer school because of POOR grades). Some of you know that I am an anti-plastic crusader, eliminating as much disposable plastic in my life as possible. I also enjoy talking about the efforts I’m trying to make with this process. One defining moment was when one of my interns said to me, “Jessica, I’ve gone glass.” It was validating to know that he was inspired to reduce his plastic consumption and minimize his environmental impacts as much as possible.

One of my favorite things to do is rock climb. I try to climb in the gym 2-3 days a week to keep in shape, and I try to get out onto ‘real’ rocks as much as I can when the season is right. I also love hiking—my boyfriend and I try to explore a new hiking spot once a month. I also love camping in Yosemite—namely Tuolumne—it is so beautiful in the Sierras, and I consider it my RESET button. I’m also involved in lots of art projects and learning functional skills to make myself more self-sufficient. For instance, I recently learned how to sew and have many DIY sewing projects lined up to try (and hopefully succeed).

Being in Nature inspires me the most. It helps to remind me that most things in life are bigger than myself, and that I (and we as humans) are part of a much larger system. It also motivates me to continue working on Zero Waste initiatives because as changes occur that help support the Zero Waste movement, a much larger system, in turn, is being affected.

Most people would be surprised to know that most of my work experience is not actually in the Zero Waste field. Prior to entering this industry in 2009, I was the person making your coffee. That’s right, I was a barista. I worked at an assortment of coffee shops from the largest coffee corporation in the world to independent shops. And I’ll tell you a little secret, I loved making coffee bar drinks.

If I could vacation anywhere in the world where would I go and for how long? I would rather just move to another country to be completely frank. But, for the sake of this exercise, I would love to visit India for at least three months. I like the idea of getting to know a place and immersing yourself into the local culture and traditions, so the more time I could spend on vacation, the closer I could get to that ideal.