College2Career Event #9–A Visit to the Solid Waste Division of King County

By inviting guest speakers with different career backgrounds and in different age groups, the LMC College2Career program aims to provide high schoolers an opportunity to gain insights into real-world college life and careers so that they could better select college majors, identify their true career passion that suits their own interests, and facilitate their future career development. From the stories of our guest speakers, we learn together how to achieve personal goals while serving our community at the same time.

Over the past two months, Bailing Hou and Sean Ge led the C2C team to visit the office of the Solid Waste Division of King County in its downtown Seattle office; invite senior volunteer fixers from the King County Repair Events program led by Mr. Tom Watson to offer household repair workshops for LMC families; and participate in a TV segment on FOX13 together with the King County Repair Events to advocate sustainable celebrations for the new year.

Visit to the Office

Mr. Tom Watson, the Project Manager of Recycling and Environmental Services at the Solid Waste Division, Department of Natural Resources and Parks of King County, greeted us in the lobby of the department’s downtown Seattle office building on a sunny holiday morning. Tom has been working in the government department for over 30 years. He is the program lead for the King County Repair Events which offered a number of free-of-charge repairing events for local residents among various cities in King County each year, while he himself sets a perfect role model to advocate and apply sustainable development and environmental conservation to young people.

King Street Center, where Tom’s office is located, was built in 1999. Over twenty years of history, the building has always been a star building for energy saving and environmental conservation.

Its preeminent records included (but were not limited to):

Water: An on-site water reclamation system that collects storm runoff for reuse in toilets, saving 1.4 million gallons of tap water each year;

Carpet: Largest installation in the U.S. of reused, renewed carpet tile (32,000 square yards, over six football fields);

Recycling: Several types of recycled-content floor coverings and paints are installed in elevator lobbies and used to test product performance. The beautiful mosaic in the following photo came from recycled glass bottles.

The Solid Waste Division not only manages garbage and recycling services in the region, but it also offers a number of innovative services to advocate waste prevention, resource recovery, and waste disposal. The division includes educational programs to build up green schools by working with schools and school districts, free repair events to reuse household items, and public advocacy of “Green Holidays” to prevent waste. To learn more about the Solid Waste Division, please visit their website at: https://kingcounty.gov/depts/dnrp/solid-waste

Among the programs, the most familiar one to LMC families is the King County Repair Events. Each year, King County offers a series of half-day repair events in different cities of its region. At these free community repair events, skilled fixers repair items such as lamps, vacuums, fans, chairs, tables, tools, computers, music players, TVs, blenders, toasters, toys, pants, dresses, bags, and more for local residents. High school volunteers and their parents from LMC families have been participating in this program since 2019 and have served in repair events taking place in Bellevue, Kirkland, Carnation, Issaquah, Sammamish, North Bend, Seattle, and Shoreline. Their services were highly recognized by the organizer and local residents.

The first four events of 2023 have already been released—please refer to the time and location listed below. You are more than welcome to bring your small household item there and get it fixed, while we also look forward to more LMC high schoolers and their parents joining the fixer team.

At the end of the conversation, Tom shared with us his career experience. The concept of environmental conservation has been raised since the 70s in the last century. Tom started his work as a journalist after graduation and joined the government’s environmental services department later on. He has been a devoted advocate for energy saving and waste prevention, and his earlier career as a journalist also greatly facilitated his advocacy on newspapers and social media to promote the good cause. Tom has been lucky to work on the things that he is really passionate about, and he has always reiterated that loving our environment is not something big and vague—we can all start by doing small things in our daily lives.

Lastly, Tom kindly shared with us his five tips for life: 1. change the worst first; 2. have fun; 3. keep moving; 4. help people; 5. don’t waste people’s time.

Our team members truly appreciated this informative visit and conversation with Tom:

Household Repair Workshops

Based on the need to learn basic household repair skills, especially from the new-immigrant families, we were honored to invite three senior fixers from the King County Repair Events led by Tom to offer three consecutive repair workshops for LMC families shortly after our visit.

Fixers Jimmy, Craig, and David worked together to demonstrate some very useful household repair skills to over thirty LMC members, including fixing a broken lamp and instant pot, repairing a wooden chair leg and unclogging the kitchen tank and toilets, all of which were warmly appreciated by the audience.

Our young audience—a middle schooler—took very detailed notes and kindly shared it with all LMC families.

Besides repair skills training and repair events, Tom’s team kindly worked out a list of businesses in King County that offer repair of small household and personal items, as well as a list of tool libraries where King County residents can borrow tools to use in order to reduce unnecessary purchases, save money, prevent waste and conserve resources. Please check the List of Repair Businesses and List of Tool Libraries for more information.

Sustainable Celebration of Holidays

Prior to the Spring Festival, our team member Meiling Hou was invited by the King County EcoConsumer team for a morning news TV segment at FOX 13 Seattle on January 20, 2023, presenting the traditional Chinese costume and advocating celebrating the new year in a sustainable way.

As with any holiday, there are ways to celebrate more sustainably and reduce the amount of waste that you and your household produce. For example, rather than buying new clothing every year but just wearing it once or twice during special occasions, it’s more sustainable to buy a fancy but adjustable traditional costume that can be worn for several years and is appropriate for other occasions as well. Red envelopes and house decorations can be reused for next year—just make sure not to buy the ones with the zodiac animal of the year or the year number!

Go Green, Let’s Take Action!

Team Members Present: Bailing Hou, Sean Ge, Aiden Yin, Judy Shi, Meiling Hou

Editor: Bailing Hou