My Experience as A Recycling Intern with the Tufts Office of Sustainability

Over the summer before my first semester as a Tufts graduate student, I knew I wanted to apply for a campus job or internship. This desire came both from financial reasons as well as wanting to be more integrated into the campus community, especially since most of my coursework was virtual due to COVID-19. At first, I did not know how to find job opportunities, but the e-blasts from the UEP department were very helpful in advertising posted campus positions, which were also listed on Handshake (a career site similar to LinkedIn). I applied for several, and ended up landing the position of Recycling Intern with the Tufts Office of Sustainability or, as we call it, the OOS.

A Specialty Recycling Station, where tougher-to-recycle items like electronics, ink cartridges, textiles, etc. can be properly recycled!

The Tufts OOS has been a really great place to work over the course of the academic year. My internship falls under the Recycling and Waste coordination branch of the OOS. Other positions include communications interns, research interns, Eco Reps and program interns (students who raise awareness of environmental issues/behaviors and plan related events), and in non-COVID years there are additional recycling interns. There are also more unique positions like the Green Fund (program that provides funding for sustainability initiatives on campus) role, Education & Outreach and Data interns, and even specialized positions like a Climate Resilience intern. Though we haven’t been able to all meet in person together, our staff meetings are always fun—we play games such as Kahoot Trivia or Hot Seat—and impactful with discussions on environmental and social justice topics.

The Tufts OOS has been a really great place to work over the course of the academic year … Our staff meetings are always fun—we play games such as Kahoot Trivia or Hot Seat—and impactful with discussions on environmental and social justice topics.

My responsibilities include tracking, analyzing, and creating visualizations of Tufts University waste data, monitoring specialty recycling streams on the Medford campus, and helping to implement new recycling efforts such as lab recycling and 3D printing filament recycling, among other tasks. I have learned a lot about the ins and outs of all forms of recycling, helping to create a circular economy, operations and logistics, and project management, not to mention all the networking in the waste reduction community I’ve gotten to do with various vendors and initiatives!

Items from the Back-To-School Sale program.

One of the most fulfilling activities I helped out with was the Move-out Donation/Back-to-School sale program, which I dubbed “Trash to Treasures.” Although I was not there for all of it, this program involved the collection of over 10 tons of donations during moveout last spring and organizing them over the course of the summer into a sale for FIRST students (low-income, first-generation and undocumented students) during the beginning weeks of the fall semester. I was able to help with the sale, during which almost all of the items were given or sold to FIRST students and other members of the Tufts community, while freecycling the remnants to the greater Medford and Somerville communities. This event is not only environmentally sustainable, but economically and socially as well—it saves students money and builds the community through sharing and giving. It was very rewarding to know that all of those items were saved from the landfill, and went to new owners who needed them and could give them new homes!


Images courtesy of Carly Thibodeau.

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