SUCCESS STORY: Clarke University

At Clarke University in Dubuque, Iowa, Director of Facilities Management Brian Schultes thinks strategically about non-organic waste reduction solutions that keep furnishings the University can no longer use out of the landfill while giving back to the community.

Reducing Waste through Repair and Recovery

Maintaining an effective learning environment inevitably results in the need to upgrade and remove old materials. But before the Sodexo team at Clarke University considers purchasing new fittings, they work hard to rebuild, modify or repair existing items.

  • Schultes is well aware of and adheres to Sodexo’s policy of reupholstering furnishings, sprucing up residence hall fittings, and refurbishing work stations in administrative offices prior to making any new purchases.
  • Then, when the time does come to replace older furnishings or equipment, instead of sending items to the landfill, he includes recycling, salvage of fixtures, furnishing, and equipment in all of Clarke’s campus project specifications materials.

Forming Strategic Partnerships with the Community to Find New Homes for Waste

“Most managers don’t think they have permission to do anything other than what’s in their job description and I think that’s one of the things that keeps people disengaged. When you let your passion sing, even if it’s not in your job description, it’s a great way to encourage strategic thinking and create solutions for your client.”

-Brian Schultes
Director, Facilities Management, Clarke University

Schultes wanted to create a program that allowed Clarke University to donate furnishings it could no longer use—but the first step was knowing who could put the items to good use.

  • First, he researched organizations in the local community and determined which groups he could help.
  • Then, he contacted the Iowa Waste Exchange, a group with broad statewide reach who could give him access to a number of diverse, smaller groups seeking reusable items such as mattresses, desks and old doors. This way he was able to quickly connect with a broader set of community members with a range of needs.
  • When unused items became available, Schultes’ team posted pictures on the Iowa Waste Exchange’s website, allowing smaller organizations to see what items were available.
  • As a result, Clarke has donated a diverse range of items to a broad base of organizations. Examples include:
    • Retail fixtures to Dress for Success, an organization that promotes the economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing professional attire for interviews. The fixtures were used to help display clothing and accessories.
    • Oak doors salvaged from old buildings for use in people’s homes.
    • Hundreds of tablet desks to the Dubuque Catholic school system.
    • Mattresses, desks, and chairs to Cross Ministries who use them to outfit homes of the most economically disadvantaged people in the community.

Going Beyond the Job Description to Create Awareness

According to Schultes, creating a strategic waste reduction program takes a willingness to harness personal passions and do things outside the traditional manager’s job description. Schultes encourages his team to create a culture of sustainability on Clarke’s campus in the following ways:

  • Creating relationships with stakeholder groups including art instructors, campus ministries, and other campus organizations to create awareness and participation around the waste reduction program.
  • Participating in faculty senate meetings, serving on the sustainability council, and talking to department chairs.
  • Holding "lunch and learn" sessions on sustainability, energy efficiency, and other sustainability topics.