Spring 2021 Sustainability Fellow: Connor Ford

Laurelin Haas
FDEP Intro Slide

Partner: Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP)

Project: Away from Home Recycling Analysis

Student: Connor Ford, third year undergraduate in Business Management

In Spring 2021, Connor evaluated recycling usage at Tom Brown Park and Lafayette Heritage Trail and provided recommendations for waste improvement for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP). Connor was excited to take part in Sustainability Fellows because he viewed it as a great way to improve his local community while gaining real-world experience in environmental planning.

Connor worked with planner Chris Perry and other members of the FDEP team throughout the semester. According to a 2019 FDEP solid waste management report, very few beverage containers consumed away from home are recycled. Connor was tasked with analyzing recycling container placement and usage in local parks to improve recycling rates.

“The government is definitely a tricky place to work,” said Karen Moore, a member of the FDEP team. “We can’t just snap our fingers and make things happen. There are processes and procedures we have to go through, and I think for Connor, that is a very good understanding to have as a young professional coming into his career.”

As a Fellow, Connor engaged in a multi-step research process that involved fieldwork, data analysis, and a final presentation to stakeholders including the Florida Beverage Association, the City of Tallahassee, and the Leon County Parks and Recreation Department.

Connor's GIS map showing overall proposed changes to Tom Brown Park waste container placement

Chris and the team incorporated many of the tools the FDEP uses professionally, such as dry runs of presentations, to help Connor improve his skills, and they also provided Connor with a laptop equipped with GIS software, which allowed him to learn independently and create maps for his project.

"It took breaking out of my comfort zone to go into a high activity area and look into trash cans, but eventually you ignore other people’s stares and think, ‘I’m doing something good,’” said Connor. “My goal throughout this project was that we’d be able to improve the community one trash can at a time, and I think I was able to do that!”

By the end of his field research, Connor had analyzed can placement and bin usage of 62 waste containers in Tom Brown Park and 11 containers at Lafayette Heritage Trail. Connor also created GIS maps that show current placement vs. recommended placement of the waste containers in both recreation areas. Finally, Connor provided potential improvements of dumpster upkeep, signage and labeling, educational opportunities.

“Connor took directions very well,” said Chris, “and when he had to adjust and adapt to a given certain situation, he did so immediately. Throughout this process, we were impressed by his dedication to what he was doing, and he really met a need for our department.”

To learn more about the FDEP's Division of Waste Management, visit floridadep.gov/waste.

To learn more about the Sustainability Fellows program, visit sustainablecampus.fsu.edu/sustainability-fellows

Connor's analysis of Lafayette Heritage Trail waste containers

Connor's data table showing his analysis of 45 trash cans and 17 recycling bins at Tom Brown Park