Integrated waste management plans in tribal communities
Carl Sivels, a recent graduate of Wilmington University with an MBA in environmental sustainability, has always had an appreciation for the environment. Growing up on a farm in the Midwest, Sivels spent much of his time outside and cultivated a strong connection to the natural world.
“I learned from my parents to respect wildlife, and I always had general access to open acres virtually free from human made pollutants,” said Sivels. “As I got older, I knew I wanted to choose a career path that would align well with my passions.”
Currently, as part of a fellowship with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Research Participation Program, Sivels is gaining valuable experience conducting environmental research.
The EPA Research Participation Programs provide college students, recent graduates, and university faculty opportunities to participate in current environmental research in areas such as air and radiation, water quality, solid waste and emergency response.
For his appointment, Sivels was stationed within the Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery (ORCR) in the Office of Land and Emergency Management (OLEM) located in Washington, DC. Under the guidance of his mentor, Charles Reddoor, National Tribal Program Coordinator, Sivels is performing a comparative analysis and inventory of tribal integrated waste management plans (IWMPs).
An integrated waste management plan is a document that outlines how waste generated by a community will be managed and disposed of. A well-made plan identifies existing waste systems, assesses needs and establishes clear ways to design and implement a more effective and sustainable waste management program.
Currently, approximately less than half of the federally recognized tribes have an IWMP on record and the extent to which they are being used is relatively unknown. Sivels’ project involves researching and analyzing the IWMPs of American Indian and Alaskan native villages and developing an inventory according to specifications including population, geographical considerations and business and industry factors.
“Once these factors are identified, and an inventory or catalogue is built, this analysis will be used to develop possible recommendations, such as more applicable IWMP templates or alternative practices that can be shared with tribes and members in the agency as well,” explained Sivels.
The goal of Sivels’ research is to determine how useful current IWMP’s have been for tribes and to find a way for integrated waste management plans to be better implemented by tribal communities. When his analysis is complete, featured IWMPs will be posted to the updated tribal waste management website. The site will feature testimonials from tribe members and interviews of the tribes regarding how and why they developed their IWMP and ways in which it serves them well.
“This project has the capability to help all sizes of tribes across the country have better and more useful waste management programs, as well as improve quality of life and set up future generations living on the reservation with a cleaner, healthier home,” said Sivels.
In addition to his research on IWMPs, Sivels is also contributing to a project examining the role of environmental justice in rulemaking within EPA.
“The project involves speaking with rule writers within ORCR and learning about their experience when it comes to rulemaking, including where or if environmental justice has been fit into that process,” said Sivels. “It’s an exciting process because the possible recommendations developed will have a near or direct impact on the men and women who are helping write the rules in ORCR.”
According to Sivels, the ability to conduct meaningful research has been one of the most important aspects of his time with the EPA Research Participation Program. His various projects have given him new perspective on indigenous communities and the struggles they face incorporating environmental infrastructure on reservations, as well as areas related to environmental justice. Additionally, Sivels is also learning a variety of new skills that will help him as he grows in his career.
“This is an amazing opportunity to join a world-wide known entity and learn from high level professionals, and to learn skills and tools that are growing in terms of need,” Sivels said. “My overall experience has been a positive one.”
When his appointment concludes, Sivels plans to work in the private sector and hopes to create a consulting company implementing sport, another passion, with sustainability. He also plans to pursue his career as an environmentalist, and continue his efforts toward conserving habitats and land impacted the most by deforestation, climate change and urban sprawl.
The EPA Research Participation Program is administered by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE). ORISE is managed for the U.S Department of Energy by Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU).