Kathleen “Kat” McCarthy grew up in upstate New York and developed an early sensibility to the notion of sustainability, before the word became part of the lexicon.
“Like a lot of families, we approached it from an economic standpoint—it just made sense to conserve fuel by turning the thermostat down a notch. So the idea of conservation as part of the triple bottom line—people, profit, planet—has always been in the background for me.”
Growing up, Kat was interested in taking small actions to improve the environment. She attended Ithaca College, earning a degree in environmental studies and working for Mark Darling, one of the first campus sustainability officers in the country.
“I worked with Mark on the recycling and composting program there and did an independent study my senior year, exploring ways to promote energy conservation on campus. This project drew from concepts of community based social marketing to create behavior change.”
It was all ideal preparation for her current job as waste reduction and recycling specialist for the Tompkins County Solid Waste Management Division.
Over the past decade she has helped the organization design and implement 4R programs (reduce, reuse, recycle, and rebuy). A recent focus is on food waste, spanning waste prevention, on-site compost education, a residential curbside collection pilot, food scraps recycling drop spots, and business composting.
Kat serves on the board of the New York State Association for Reduction, Reuse, and Recycling (NYSAR3) and chairs the organization’s Organics Council. She’s also a co-owner of EcoJarz, a company that strives to promote reuse through products like our drink top for mason jars.
“I’m a firm believer that most things taste better out of a mason jar,” she says.
While Kat knew she wanted an advanced degree to advance her career, she didn’t want to leave a great job to attend a traditional residential program. Then she found out about Green Mountain College’s MBA program.
“I was specifically looking for a program that connected my experience in sustainability with a stronger business mindset—our organization really focuses on the triple bottom line, although I hadn’t directly thought of it that way.”
Kat also valued the flexibility of the green MBA. It allowed her to continue her studies on her own time and gave her the background to teach or pursue a leadership position in any organization.
“The degree has given me a lot of tools, and a lot of possible directions for the future,” Kat says.