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Agency Update - Summer 2020

COVID-19 and Reusables

Reusable bags under COVID

Bags are back! Per an updated Alameda County Public Health Department Order, customers are now allowed to bring their own bags, mugs, or other reusable items from home if they do not require handling by employees. People can place them in carts or baskets, but they will need to bag their own groceries. StopWaste is planning to work with the California Grocers Association to help educate stores and customers about the new order. 

New Grants Support Upstream Innovations

New Grantees

What do Civicorps – a West Oakland based nonprofit whose mission is to re-engage young adults with new job skills opportunities like internships to learn computer refurbishing, and Loved Twice – a local org that provides clothing for newborns in need with quality reused baby clothing -– have in common? They are both committed to reducing waste and giving back to our communities. They are also two of 50 total organizations awarded grants as part of StopWaste's annual grants program to support and improve recovery, salvage, reuse, repair, and redistribution infrastructure. To help address the rise in food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic, we also created a special COVID Emergency Food Rescue grant, totaling $45,000, to support previously funded grantees working on food recovery and donation efforts during the crisis.

You can learn more about all of the current and past grantees and their work on our website. 

The Compost Climate Change Connection

Compost and climate change

In Western City Magazine's special climate change edition this month, our executive director Wendy Sommer writes about how cities can build resiliency and fight climate change with healthy soil and compost. The article features a special case study on the city of Dublin's vision and how they are pioneering these practices in their parks and public spaces. 

Employee Spotlight

Meghan Starkey

Meghan Starkey

Senior Management Analyst

Meghan Starkey joined StopWaste over 25 years ago. Prior to that, she worked on public health educational campaigns in San Francisco and Contra Costa County, and in affordable housing in Massachusetts. She holds an undergraduate degree from Harvard University.

What do you do at StopWaste?

I think of myself as a utility infielder, because my work varies based on what’s needed at the Agency at the time. Recently, I led the update to the Countywide Integrated Waste Management Plan, and am currently leading the effort to expand program evaluation and data-driven decision making at StopWaste. I lead the Technical Advisory Committee and play a significant role in the annual budget process. I am a member of a team that is working with internal and member agency staff on SB 1383 implementation. 

I started out in the home compost education program, including a single, never to be repeated, appearance as “Wiggle E Worm.” I have managed a wide variety of projects over the years, such as grants to nonprofits, information technology, disaster debris, project management, a CRM system for the mandatory recycling program, and waste characterization studies. I was a staff member for the last two strategic planning processes, including leading the franchise task force.

What links these seemingly different activities for me is finding or developing the right information to support good public policy, analyzing and communicating the information, and facilitating teams to make sound, well thought out decisions.

What is your favorite part of working here?

My favorite part of working here is when people and ideas and teams click, and become bigger than the sum of their parts. It’s an alchemical process, where creativity and personal passion merge in the service of the public interest and the environment. That’s when I know our Agency can really make a difference. 

How has the Agency changed over the years and what has stayed the same?

As the second-longest staff member, who’s worked for four different executive directors, I can say - a lot! We’ve tried out many new ideas both programmatically and organizationally, some of which have become a core part of our operations and others of which have evolved. What’s interesting is what has stayed the same: high standards, committed workforce, interesting and caring people, and willingness to try new things as individuals and as an organization. 

What shifts do you see happening as a result of COVID-19?

Wow, there’s a big question. It’s hard to know where things will lead, but having such a huge disruption in our world is giving us a creative interlude where we can think about things differently, on all levels: individually, programmatically, and agency wide. I hope we can use this time to question assumptions, and see what we can transform to serve our citizens better.

How has your time here changed you?

The biggest change has been to learning to bridge different perspectives, whether StopWaste and the member agencies; data/analysis and day-to-day program delivery issues; solid waste service providers and environmentalists. Any time it seems like there’s only one answer, I want to find other facets to explore to see if I have the whole picture, or as close as one can get. I am also grateful for the opportunity to continue to develop professionally from the start, even when my kids were young.

What do you do when not working?

I practice ashtanga yoga four or five times a week with a lovely community; I make art quilts using an improvisational process; and I support my husband’s passion for gardening by giving him really useful advice, making requests for specific plants, and occasionally weeding. I spent last weekend making plum sorbet from our very prolific Santa Rosa plum tree, and am looking forward to putting up our summer tomatoes, and making jelly from Kelly’s elderberry bush and marmalade from our tangerine tree.