Mountains of trash destined for landfills could be the result of the United States’ most high-profile events without people like co-founder of Two Owls Sustainability Partners, David Mayer ’10.
Mayer, an Antioch New England master’s grad in Resource Management and Conservation, sees the potential environmental issues with concerts, tournaments, games, and even presidential inaugurations—and is determined to solve them.
Since graduating and launching a sustainability consulting business that was born from part of his Antioch master’s project, Mayer has dedicated his career to finding waste management solutions for events like the 2013 inauguration of President Barack Obama, PGA golf tournaments, and Super Bowl LII.
“Often, sustainability isn’t high on the list,” says Mayer. “So you have to make it as easy, and simple and as non-evasive as possible to get buy-in.”
The task of planning for an event that is attended by thousands begins months in advance.
For Super Bowl LII, in February 2018, Mayer says the orchestrating started months earlier to help host city Minneapolis achieve a zero-waste event. That process included attending a football game at U.S. Bank Stadium in October 2017 for a feasibility study—examining every type of trash, all 38 tons, to pinpoint products that might go to a landfill. Mayer’s team then found alternatives for items that could be recycled or composted, and solutions for donating or reusing items that could be left behind. One surprising discovery was a massive quantity of handbags because they are not allowed in the stadium. The feasibility study led to the stadium placing donation bins at the entrances to avoid waste on game day.
There were also unexpected problems to be solved when Mayer worked on President Obama’s 2013 inauguration parade.
“We didn’t have the freedom to do what we wanted because of the security,” Mayer says. “You can’t just have recycling bins where you want them to be.”
Along the parade route, one of the tasks for Mayer’s team was to ensure horse manure was composted—a multi-component plan that was definitely a challenge. Mayer explained that because of the parade’s visual presentation, workers needed to clean so they were following the formation of the parade’s movement toward Pennsylvania Avenue. That included having 85 employees cleared for Secret Service background checks and trained by the Infantry branch of the U.S. Army.
No matter the job, or how complicated it is, for Mayer, there’s a big payoff: