The Zero-Waste Stop at the PGA Tour with Waste Management’s Janette Micelli

How is the PGA’s Waste Management Phoenix Open implementing zero-waste principles and water conservation?

John Shegerian: Welcome to another edition of Green Is Good. This is the Green Sports Alliance edition of Green Is Good from downtown Chicago, and we’re so excited to have with us today Janette Micelli from Waste Management. Thank you for joining us today, Janette. Janette Micelli: Thank you for having me. John Shegerian: You know, Janette, you are the Manager of External Communications. Before we get talking about all the great work you’re doing at Waste Management with your colleagues, can you share with our viewers and our listeners a little bit about your own personal journey before joining Waste Management? Janette Micelli: Sure. So I’ve been in the PR/Marketing/Communications industry for about 18 years with a number of different industries. So higher education. NASCAR racing – even – at one point. John Shegerian: Whoa. Janette Micelli: If you believe that one. John Shegerian: That’s great. Janette Micelli: Solar and now Waste Management. John Shegerian: Wonderful. And how many years ago did you join Waste Management? Janette Micelli: Four years ago. John Shegerian: Four years ago. And so when you joined – and you are working as the Manager of External Communications. What does that mean, actually? Janette Micelli: So I actually support a number of different areas across the business on the corporate level, plus we also support the field. We actually have 17 areas. So primarily my focus is on the southern tier – Hawaii to Florida, the southern half of the U.S. John Shegerian: Wow. Janette Micelli: We are a North American company, though, however. Again, I have a colleague that supports the northern tier but my focus – I live in Arizona. John Shegerian: OK. Janette Micelli: Home of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, so I’ve been very blessed to work on that tournament. John Shegerian: Which we’re going to talk about. Janette Micelli: Yep. But recycling is another thing that I focus on. CNG – compressed natural gas – things around our fleet. John Shegerian: Wow. Janette Micelli: So a little bit of everything. We’re an innovative environmental solutions company and just – I mean it’s phenomenal the things that we’re doing. John Shegerian: So you’re never bored. Janette Micelli: No. I am never bored. John Shegerian: OK. For our listeners and viewers out there that want to learn more about all the great things that Waste Management is doing in sustainability and green, please go to www.WM.com or www.ThinkGreen.com. www.ThinkGreen.com is another great website. So you’re in Arizona and the Waste Management PGA Tour event that you put on down there has gotten to become a very iconic brand internationally. Talk a little bit about the advent of that, the launch of that great tournament and the evolution of that. Janette Micelli: So we just completed our sixth year as title sponsor, and in fact, in December, we announced we’re coming back for another 10. John Shegerian: Wow. Janette Micelli: Very excited. John Shegerian: Congratulations. Janette Micelli: I’m very excited about that. Absolutely. We started out – we looked at this tournament thinking here is this beautiful golf course – TPC Scottsdale – and you’re out in the environment and you can really appreciate the environment and all the beautiful trees and the flowers and the lakes so we look at the PGA Tour as a great way to engage. It’s environmental appreciation. We want to preserve that that we have. A lot of our customers and fans and followers like the game of golf so we really found it to be a great fit. John Shegerian: Talk a little bit about making it also a very visual event in terms of sustainability and showing how green it is in terms of there are no trashcans on the course and the other great things that you’ve done in green and sustainability to really show the world how green Waste Management is and all your sustainability efforts are. Janette Micelli: Yeah. So we came in and had your standard waste and recycling receptacles – fine – but as an environmental solutions company and somebody who is engaged as a resource to help businesses, to help campuses, to help communities green themselves, we said, “What better way than for us to be the zero-waste event?” John Shegerian: It’s amazing. Janette Micelli: So that’s when we went to recycling, compost, 6,000 containers across the course. John Shegerian: Wow. Janette Micelli: No trashcans. Of course, there is a lot of work that goes into that behind the scenes. John Shegerian: Sure. And so it’s a zero waste event, and it’s been zero waste since you started it? Janette Micelli: Actually, no. John Shegerian: The evolution. Janette Micelli: In 2012, we issued the zero waste challenge, and that really was having the fans engage with us and help them, educate them a little bit about the process. Obviously, this is an event that we engage practically three-quarters of a million people throughout the course of a week. John Shegerian: Amazing. Janette Micelli: In February, we just had 564,000 fans. John Shegerian: Besides 564,000 fans present, I watched the event on television now so it has becomes a worldwide television event. I was actually in Korea last time that your event was happening. Janette Micelli: Oh wow. John Shegerian: And not only was I watching it but the Koreans who love golf were all very attuned and paying very close attention and associating the event – of course – with Waste Management. It was big news in Korea. So how has the event grown for you as the Manager of External Communications not only as a North American event and iconic brand but an international platform now to continue to show all the great sustainability projects that you’re working on? Janette Micelli: We really engage with the fans who are there on course, but we realize that’s only a minor audience, right? John Shegerian: Right. Janette Micelli: You talk about this being a global event in nature. John Shegerian: Yeah. Janette Micelli: So we’re very cognizant of that. We work with all of the media partners that are promoting or broadcasting the tournament. We make sure that they’re equipped with all the great things that we’re doing kind of to bring those sustainable aspects from the tournament to them. In recent years, we’ve done time lapse footage to show the construction – say – of our zero-waste stations, which is our version of – believe it or not – a reused dumpster. We’ve converted a dumpster – I know it sounds crazy – into an interactive station to where fans can bring their materials to our volunteers, we can help them understand whether a material is recyclable or compostable, we can answer their questions about “what is all this zero waste stuff about,” and so we really enjoy that. Another thing that we do that’s very visual – obviously, our brand is important – on the 18th hole, we have a WM water feature. It’s a large WM – Waste Management – logo complete with the registered trademark filled with 140,000 used golf balls. John Shegerian: Wow. Janette Micelli: A fun innovative way, captures those cameras, right? John Shegerian: Right. Janette Micelli: So then everybody sees it. It actually turns slowly, and the fans really enjoy engaging with it. We’ve got birds that fly in and use it as a resting place, and it’s neat. John Shegerian: That is really cool. For our listeners and viewers that have just joined us, we’ve got Janette Micelli. She’s is the Manager of External Communications at Waste Management and to learn more about all the green and sustainable projects that Waste Management is working on, please go to www.WM.com or www.ThinkGreen.com. Water is very big to the golf world. Talk about what you do in terms of water conservation at your great event in Arizona. Janette Micelli: We’re certainly aware that we are operating a beautiful golf course – golf tournament – in the middle of a desert. John Shegerian: Right. Janette Micelli: Arizona. Certainly, there is a large conversation in the Southwest region – especially California with the drought conditions that they’re under – how can we get the word out about water? So I think that is something that we’ve actually – in the recent last year or so – really tried to pivot. People understand that this is a zero waste event. They’ve come to expect that. They understand there are no trash cans, they get the recycling, they get the compost. But with water we find creative ways to talk about the messaging. For instance, all of the concession areas, all the kitchens – the mobile kitchens that are set up onsite, preparing food for everyone – we actually recycle that water. We put them into our portalets instead of using fresh water. John Shegerian: Wow. Janette Micelli: Also, any fresh water we do have to consume, we work with the Bonneville Environmental Foundation and get water credits so it’s in essence offsetting any water use that we do. And this year we brought the – I guess “water experience,” if you will – to the fans. We partner with Change The Course and their whole campaign is about water restoration. And the greatest thing that we really liked about it is, they had active projects on northern Arizona’s Verde River plus the Colorado River Basin where people could simply just pledge to conserve water in their daily lives. They simply text “WMPO” to 77177 and then right away that was restoring water – 1,000 gallons, in fact, per pledge to the Verde and the Colorado River Basin. John Shegerian: Wow. Obviously, not only are you the Manager of External Communications and have all those southern states, but since you live in Arizona, I’m sure so much of the responsibility falls on your shoulders for the pre-planning. How many months in advance are you planning for this event, and how much does that really take of your mindshare and time? Janette Micelli: Absolutely. It’s virtually year round but probably active about 10 months. John Shegerian: Wow. Janette Micelli: And this is a team effort. John Shegerian: Right. Janette Micelli: There is no one person at Waste Management who is doing this alone. We’ve got a customer experience. We’ve got the operations team, who locally has to service that event, turn it around every night and make sure that golf course is just as beautiful as it was the day before. Sustainability services, they are huge in this and the reason is with a zero-waste event, you just can’t tell everybody to show up and we’re going to have a zero-waste event and expect it all to go well. There is tons of collaboration with all the vendors, making sure all the materials that they’re bringing in are recyclable, are compostable, or if we have a special waste stream that we need to deal with in the back-of-house, that we set up those bins for them. John Shegerian: That’s amazing. Janette Micelli: And, of course, they’re out there just following up as people arrive, as they activate. We engage with other sponsors, too, of the tournament. John Shegerian: Right. Janette Micelli: Teach them how they can have a more green sustainable event. John Shegerian: Janette, we’re here at the Green Sports Alliance. How many years has Waste Management been involved with GSA? Janette Micelli: We’ve been involved with GSA, actually, since the beginning as the Waste Management Phoenix Open and, certainly, as Waste Management here at the conference. We’re actually the zero-waste sponsor, so we are back-of-house. Our team is here. They’re back there, actually, sorting through the materials every night, making those weights, and all that will be reported through the conference. John Shegerian: That’s wonderful. So since the advent of the GSA, you’ve been involved with GSA? Janette Micelli: Absolutely. John Shegerian: Now you’re here also not only as the zero-waste sponsor, but you’re also a speaker. Talk a little bit about what you spoke about today at the conference. Janette Micelli: So I was on the “Engaging Millennials through Sustainability” panel, and there are several ways at the Waste Management Phoenix Open that we do, indeed, that – a big one is social media. We created a special hashtag for the tournament – #greenestshow – and not only was that “what do you think about the Waste Management Phoenix Open and your experience here or watching it from home?” but “How are you living a green life at home?” “What are you doing at your home, your workplace, your business to be greener and more sustainable in general?” Those zero waste stations, another example of engaging those millennials. We have volunteer managers from local nonprofits that actually come and help us manage those. Practically, half of those managers were millennials. John Shegerian: It’s so interesting. Janette Micelli: And then out of all the volunteers we engaged throughout Tournament Week at the zero-waste stations, 40 percent of them were millennials. So they’re very active, they’re very engaged, they’re passionate about sustainability, and so it was great to be able to share some of the ways that we work with them. John Shegerian: You are the Manager of External Communications for the largest waste brand – environmental services brand – in the United States so when you guys take action it really moves the needle so it’s so exciting to hear all these things you’re doing. As we sign off today, and have to say goodbye, what are two or three things you want to leave with our listeners and our viewers about waste management and about your “Think Green” initiatives? Janette Micelli: We’re really looking at waste as a resource. Where is the value that we can get out of it? How can we do more with it? Forward innovative thinking things. What’s going to be the next thing? Certainly, landfills are just a part of the world we exist in and we’re happy to operate safe compliant landfills. Those facilities are key, are drivers, are great ambassadors for the company. And on the diesel side of things, we understand we have a lot of trucks, but we are aggressively moving towards compressed natural gas trucks to lower our footprint. Ninety percent of our new truck purchases are indeed CNG. So there are things that we are doing as a fleet and as a company to move the needle as well. John Shegerian: That is so great. Well, we hope you get to come back on the show and share the journey of sustainability and being green at Waste Management. There is no finish line – as you and I both know – but you’re working on so many fascinating projects and the great event that you have in Arizona every year. We’d love to continue to cover that and give you a platform to share this with the greater world so thank you so much for taking the time today, Janette. We really appreciate it. Janette Micelli: And thank you for your leadership. John Shegerian: For our listeners and our viewers out there, to learn more about what Janette and her great colleagues at Waste Management are doing to make the world a better place and a greener place, please go to www.WM.com or www.ThinkGreen.com. Janette Micelli, we think “green” when we think of you, we think “green” when we think of Waste Management. Thank you for being with us today, and you are truly living proof that Green Is Good. Thanks again. Janette Micelli: Thank you.