5 Questions for Alex Williams
Alex Williams is an entrepreneur, environmentalist, and tireless advocate for composting. He grew up near Hartford, CT and attended Fordham University in the Bronx where he majored in Environmental Studies with a minor in Economics and Urban Studies. Shortly Alex is passionate about a whole variety of issues, ranging from gardening and composting to fracking and wildlife preservation. Recently, Alex put some of his interests into practice when he took he came home to Connecticut and got involved with Blue Earth Compost. Going from volunteering to owning the company in under a year, Alex hopes that Blue Earth Compost will have a significant impact on the way that people in Connecticut deal with food waste. When he’s not working, you can find Alex watching sports, playing drums, and home brewing.
What work do you do and what lessons from Eco Practicum do you apply at your job?
I am the Owner & Director of Operations of Blue Earth Compost, Inc. – a residential and commercial food scrap collection and composting service in the Hartford, CT area. At Blue Earth Compost, we provide an efficient and sustainable way for individuals and businesses to divert their food scraps from the waste stream. I manage many different aspects of the company to make sure all of our operations are running smoothly. Eco Practicum taught me how to better communicate and collaborate with all sorts of people. Being raised in the public school system, I never experienced the inclusive dynamic of Eco Practicum in any educational environment. At Blue Earth, I interact with a multitude of different people, from customers to volunteers, on a daily basis and I have been able to use the lessons from Eco Practicum to effectively deal with and collaborate with this wide range of individuals.
What are the most fulfilling and most challenging parts of what you do?
The most fulfilling aspect of my work with Blue Earth Compost is the tangible impact my company has on the community. This may sound odd to some but, every week, when I dump hundreds of pounds of food scraps at a compost facility and not at an incinerator, I feel a true sense of accomplishment and joy. As a young environmental professional, one of my most important goals was to make a measureable impact on the community I lived and worked in, and I have been able to accomplish this through my business. On the flip side, the most challenging aspect of my work is the proper coordination of all the different pieces that make Blue Earth Compost go. I do not have a background or training in running a small business. As a result, I’ve had to learn most of these aspects on the fly and I continue to learn new ones on an ever increasing basis.
Describe a moment or situation that helped you realize your passion?
This moment occurred at Eco Practicum. Prior to Eco Practicum, I was interested in sustainable urban development. After the program, I knew that I was going to do something that related to the land. It is hard to describe and, most likely, everybody has a different reaction but I personally felt a strong and immediate connection with the Catskills landscape. As I moved on, I felt this same connection to other places where I worked including a small urban lot in the Bronx where I managed a community garden; the New York Botanical Garden where I interned for a summer; and a concrete parking lot underneath the Queensboro Bridge where I composted food scraps with Build It Green!Compost. After returning to Connecticut, this connection, once again, began to materialize and it helps me to complete my work every day. Without Eco Practicum, I don’t know if I would’ve ever realized this connection, so it will always hold a special place for me.
What advice do you have for people looking for meaningful work?
STICK WITH IT! I graduated from Fordham University in May of 2013 and I did not begin working full-time for Blue Earth Compost until April of 2014. Although I got discouraged along the way, I never completely gave up and through this perseverance, I was able to find the job that I do today. The advice I have for job seekers is the same advice I received during this time: don’t be afraid to reach out to people in your desired profession and ask them how you can follow in their footsteps. This kind of meeting is less nerve-racking than an interview and provided me with valuable information on how to break into the environmental field. For example, I met and volunteered with Blue Earth’s previous owner for three months before moving up and purchasing the company. Don’t get overly discouraged, keep plugging away and try to make as many connections as possible and something good will come.
What’s one thing you think everyone should know how to do?
Everyone should know how to take criticism and use it to their benefit. As part of my work at Blue Earth Compost, I manage all customer service and relations. In doing so, I deal with any issues and complaints from my customers. If I was not able to properly deal with these situations, I can confidently say that Blue Earth would be nowhere near where it is today. These situations have made me a better owner and have made my company stronger and more efficient. Know how to take and utilize criticism and you’ll be a step ahead of the pack.
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