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Saturday, November 2, 2019

The Legacy of the AMAZING Cindy Jackson

On October 31, 2019 Zero-Waste Icon Cindy Jackson retired from the Georgia Institute of Technology (Ga Tech) as the Director of Waste & Recycling. Under Cindy's 22-year leadership, Ga Tech never succumbed to single-stream systems and the award-wining recycling program operated as a profit center. 

In industry circles, Cindy is known as "The AMAZING Cindy Jackson." Elemental Impact (Ei) Founder Holly Elmore coined the term at Cindy's first Ei Partner Meeting. Accurate, the name became a common way to address Cindy with her industry colleagues.

Award-Winning Recycling
When Cindy arrived at Ga Tech in 1997, there was no formal recycling program in-place. By 2008, the Ga Tech recycling program was nationally recognized as an industry leader with two prominent awards: 
  • American Forest & Paper Association 2008 University Recycling Award.
  • National Recycling Coalition 2008 Best Overall Recycling, Outstanding College or University Program Award.
Cindy showcasing source-separated
material recycling bins on campus
In 2009 Ga Tech joined the Zero Waste Zones (ZWZ,) the nation's forerunner in the commercial collection of food waste for compost, and Cindy implemented back-of-the-house food-waste collection at campus-dining facilities. Along with then Ga Tech First Lady Val Peterson, Cindy attended the ZWZ Two-Year Anniversary Press Conference.

Expanding beyond dining services, Ga Tech embarked on Game-Day Recycling for tailgating and in the stadium, including organic-waste collection. In 2013 Ga Tech earned 1st place in the ACC for Waste Minimization in the Game Day Recycling Challenge; in 2014 Ga Tech earned 1st place in the ACC for Organics Reduction in the Challenge.

Preparing for the 2019 opening of the Kendeda Building, Ga Tech's Living Building, in October 2017 Cindy launched a composting pilot in the Engineered Biosystems Building (EBB). Though the successful pilot is complete, organics collection for compost continues in the EBB.

Although glass recycling is a challenge in single-stream systems, at Ga Tech source-separated, clean glass is hauled and sold to a local glass processor. When treated respectfully, glass is a valuable material.

Cindy operates within a philosophy of "Lighten-Up, Be Heard, Be Effective." Recycling centers in the Klaus Advance Computing Building are complete with themes, including the The Lorax by Dr. Seuss and Ecosystem ∞ Ecodangers rooms. 

Cindy & Stephanie on the
Ga Tech recycling tour
When the AWARE Program (Actively Working to Achieve Resource Efficiency) launched in 2009, then President Bud Peterson endorsed the program. In an AWARE building, each workstation is provided a clever three-bin system: Tom (large blue, for paper), Tim (medium blue, for cans & bottles), and Tiny (small black, for trash). Rather than custodial staff, employees empty their bins at building-recycling centers.

Nationally respected for operating a recycling program based on integrity, Cindy presented on Ga Tech's program at the 2014 National Zero Waste Business Conference (NZWBC) hosted in Atlanta and the 2016 NZWBC hosted in Austin, TX. In preparation for the 2014 NZWBC, Cindy welcomed U.S. Zero Waste Business Council Executive Director Stephanie Barger for a recycling-program tour. Stephanie was most impressed.

Earth Day
Upon joining the Ga Tech staff, Cindy launched the Earth Day Festival within her first year. Thanks to her ingenuity and perseverance, Georgia Tech is home to a nationally recognized Earth Day celebration. In 2009, Ga Tech received a Gold Tower Awards - Recognition of Excellence, Annual Events: Earth Day Celebration.

With over 70 exhibitors and eco-friendly giveaways, recycling opportunities, a clothing swap, an office-supply exchange, live music, organic popcorn, and more, the Ga Tech Earth Day Festival is one of the largest celebrations in the southeast. The annual Earth Day Festival is free and open to the public. 

A Team Player
Over the past decade, whenever  Ei requested a tour of Ga Tech's recycling program, Cindy always answered: YES, of course! In February 2012, Ei introduced Georgia World Congress Center Authority (GWCCA) Director of Sustainability Tim Trefzer to Cindy via a recycling-program tour. Subsequently, Cindy and Tim developed a close bond.

Ga Tech recycling tour for GWCCA
Along with EPA R4 and the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, Cindy and Tim founded the Collegiate Sports Sustainability Summit in 2012. Ga Tech hosted the second-annual summit.

Under Cindy's leadership, Ga Tech hosted the first-annual Facilities Sustainability Forum in October 2017 to an enthusiastic audience from the university and beyond. The Forum was an opportunity to educate and share Ga Tech's impressive facilities-maintenance programs: award-winning landscape services, Green Seal-certified cleaning program, and the recycling program.

Within his welcoming remarks, Ga Tech Vice-President Facilities Management Chuck Rhodes educated on Ga Tech's strong sustainability commitment and impressive accomplishments. Most importantly, Chuck expressed his support for Ga Tech's continued sustainability leadership by building on existing programs and introducing new endeavors.

Via Cindy's invitation, Holly presented at the inaugural forum as the featured presenter. Within her opening remarks, Holly shared the long-term, powerful Ga Tech | Ei relationship dating back to the 2009 ZWZ launch. 

The RiA Blog article, Collaboration + Culture = Sustainability Success, is a forum overview featuring Holly’s presentation as well as the Building Services, Solid Waste & Recycling, and Landscape Service department sessions. The overall forum PPT presentation as well as Holly’s PPT presentation are available for download on the Ei Speaking Engagements page.

Cindy @ Ei Conscious Cleaning Demo
In 2018 Cindy orchestrated an Ei Regenerative Landscaping meeting with Director Landscape Services & Vehicle Management Hyacinth Ide and Ei Strategic Ally Finian Makepeace of Kiss the Ground. Finian was in Atlanta for the 2018 U.S. Composting Council Conference, which Cindy attended.

Working closely with Director of Building Services Tommy Little and his team, Cindy was integral to the Ei Conscious Cleaning Demo hosted at Ga Tech in March 2018. The RiA article, The Evolution of Standard Cleaning Practices, showcases Ga Tech's stellar conscious cleaning program as well as gives a demo overview.

Always Learning, Always Growing
Always eager to expand her professional horizons, Cindy attended Annual Ei Partner Meetings and participated in other Ei Atlanta-based activities, such as the 2015 Atlanta Ei Partner Tours. Quick to ask many questions, Cindy was most appreciated at the partner meetings and tours.

Cindy & Ei Partners ready for the
 Novelis aluminum recycling plant tour
In June 2015 Ei Partners converged on Atlanta from across the nation for an invigorating two days of tours, education and camaraderie. Cindy joined the partners for tours of the Pratt paper-recycling plant as well as the Novelis aluminum-recycling plant, which was quite an experience. The IMPACT Magazine article, Atlanta Ei Partner Tours, is an overview of the two-powerful days. For a pictorial recap visit the Ei FB Album, Atlanta Ei Partner Tours.

At Cindy's request, Ei orchestrated an introduction of the Ga Tech sustainability team to to Kennesaw State University (KSU) Hickory Grove Farm and KSU Dining Services in June 2019. Synergies abounded during the farm tour and dining-services meeting between Georgia Tech and KSU.

While Ga Tech excels in its waste & recycling program as well as commercial-cleaning and grounds-maintenance practices, KSU is an industry hero in sustainable dining. Within weeks, Cindy hosted the KSU facilities team for a Ga Tech recycling-program tour.

The RiA Magazine article, Success is not static: evolution is required to create and sustain regeneration, gives an overview of the empowering tour and meeting. An Ei FB album, Ei Connects, section is a pictorial recap of the meeting and tour from an Ei-Connects perspective.

A Celebration
On October 25, 2019 family, friends and industry colleagues attended Cindy Jackson's retirement celebration hosted at the Ga Tech Alumni House. In addition to Ga Tech VP Facilities Maintenance Chuck Rhode, Holly formally presented at the celebration.

Ga Tech Dynamic Facilities Trio:
Hyacinth, Cindy & Tommy
Holly's presentation showcased why Cindy is indeed "The AMAZING Cindy Jackson!" The presentation is available for download on the Ei Speaking Engagement page.

The love and respect for Cindy was evident via the planned and impromptu remarks. Tommy enjoyed telling a decades-old story about Cindy from their days at Auburn together. The Ga Tech waste & recycling staff made Cindy a Harry Potter-parody book for her to treasure.

Additionally, Cindy's sister and brother gave touching remarks on how proud they are of Cindy; the strong family bond was profound.

The Ei FB album, Cindy Jackson Retires, gives a pictorial recap of Cindy's Ei interactions as well as images from the retirement celebration.

Holly's closing PPT slide is perfect closure for her dear friend's retirement celebration: