Beginning with the Beginning

Bears & Bins

At the beginning of my internship ARAMARK brought all of the SCA Sustainability Interns to Philadelphia for an orientation to discuss the program and learn more about SCA and Aramark. We spent most of the time viewing presentations and in discussions with SCA and ARAMARK leaders, but we also got the opportunity to spend some time in the community surrounding the ARAMARK headquarters doing a service project at an urban farm (right up my alley).

I remember thinking it was pretty cool how two very different organizations were coming together, and after learning more about the goals and interests of both ARAMARK and the SCA, how they did overlap quite a bit. The SCA works to grow the next generation of conservation leaders and help students find their passion in conservation through service. ARAMARK has a goal of infusing responsibility and sustainability into all jobs and is helping students get experience in this by providing an internship with the opportunity to do so. ARAMARK has been making big steps towards sustainability and conservation at the corporate level as well; they have made major commitments to procuring cage-free eggs and seafood that is Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch approved.

At ARAMARK Parks and Destinations sites, there’s a special focus on the conservation side of things because our clients (those who own the land/facilities where we operate) are conservation-focused entities like the National Parks Service and National Forest Service. At NPS sites, my fellow interns worked on projects like ISO audits (a type of environmental certification) and other facilities management projects. At both NPS sites and Forest Service sites (where I am) there is a very heavy focus on environmental compliance. So as mentioned in my previous post, my first project in coming out here was tackling the bear issue, but then I got to move on to energy efficiency within our facility and environmental compliance.

It took me a little while to get a handle on the bear project and really figure out what the best options for us here would be. I started with doing a lot of outside research on black bear behaviors. I contacted local community wildlife groups, state organizations, and other ARAMARK Parks sites that had similar issues. Information on what bears were attracted to and how to keep them away was pretty similar from all those that I talked to. I also received some cool visitor education materials and ways to warn guests about improper actions from the Forest Service. A very important source for me was the Nevada Department of Wildlife, who taught me that in our state problem bears are usually handled with capture, tagging, and relocation. I was also informed of state laws regarding bears - it is illegal not to have bear-proof trash containers and it is illegal to feed bears. Interestingly enough, in our neighboring state of California (only 7 miles from our site), problem bears are sometimes shot and killed. I wonder how this guy was dealt with… seen down the road in Cali:

A big problem in resolving the issue here was that, well, some people just don’t care. We’re now doing all we can to instruct our guests to abide by bear safety rules: keep food inside, keep trash in closed and locked dumpsters, and don’t entice them to come to the property. However, we’ve still seen people leave their trash outside the dumpsters and leave food out. We tell people about the issue, install the most user-friendly dumpsters available, hand out information at check-in, and post signage on dumpsters, but there might be more we’re missing on how to change behavior. The issue has improved A LOT since I came here, but we’re going to have to wait until next summer when our campsite is at its busiest to really see how well we’ve really done.

No matter what kind of internship or job you’re doing, I’d say one rule of thumb that’d be helpful to almost everyone is to set strict deadlines for your project. I wish I could have gotten this project done earlier so we could have seen how well it worked during peak visitor season, but planning, getting things approved, and implementation took much longer than I anticipated. This issue presented itself in many of the other projects I worked on here as well. I guess you just never know what obstacles are going to come your way when working on a type of project that’s new to you.

There are some positives to this project taking as long as it did and being as involved as it was. It was a great opportunity for me to learn about the different parts of the site, what we offer for guests, what guests’ interests are, and what they expect from us. It helped me to learn about all of the different approaches there are for improving a given situation, in this case mainly employee training and tweaking our waste management system. Our site does a lot for sustainability, but many of those efforts needed to be better documented and organized. Look out for my next blog to hear about working towards these goals!

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