April 1, 2020 by Sarah Beidleman
In honor of International Women’s Day on March 8 and Women’s History Month, SWANA is highlighting women in the industry who have shown their dedication and hard work. In this male-dominated industry, each woman has had her own unique experience and we would like to share some with you.
Karen Storry is a Senior Project Engineer for Metro Vancouver Solid Waste Services. She graduated from Civil Engineering at UBC in 2007. After graduating, she worked on the construction of the Canada Line rapid transit tunnel before transitioning to the solid waste planning at Metro Vancouver. Karen has been a member of the region’s Zero Waste Implementation Team for nearly 10 years. In that role, Karen has worked on a variety of waste reduction and prevention programs and policies. She was the technical lead for Metro Vancouver’s award winning textiles waste reduction campaign - ThinkThrice About Your Clothes. And more recently, she was the lead for the research and development of Metro Vancouver’s Single-Use Item Reduction Toolkit. In her spare time, Karen is completing her MBA in the Circular Economy. She also volunteers as her local chapter’s International Advisory Board Member for Solid Waste Association of North America.
We talked to Karen Storry to get her perspective on her time in the industry.
How long have you been in the industry?
Karen Storry (KS): 8 years.
How did you get into the industry?
KS: I am passionate about designing waste out of people’s lives. And that passion led me to become a waste and resource management professional
What is it like being a woman in this industry?
KS: Every female in a male dominated industry has had to overcome unfair assumptions based on their gender. I am no different in that regard.
What challenges did you have to overcome?
KS: A better question to ask is "how we can overcome the challenges together?". People that don’t fit the norm have to overcome challenges that stem from unconscious biases that people don’t even realize they have. Many people know this is a problem, but don’t know how to fix it. Good news is there is an easy way we can all make a difference. New research being done in Canada out of the University of British Columbia and the University of Waterloo that shows that simple interventions by allies in the workplace can help make everyone feel included. Here are a few things I am trying to do to be a good ally in my workplace:
Check it out the project here: http://successinstem.ca/projects/rise/
What progress have you seen being made in the industry?
KS: In Canada and some parts of the USA, I have seen an increase in source separated organics, recycling. That is great, but we want to do more. In 2015, Metro Vancouver implemented an organics disposal ban. Since then, our region has diverted 430,000 tonnes (that’s 473,000 tons for my American peers) of source separated organics from disposal to composting and AD facilities. We still have 230,000 tonnes that we need to find a way to divert. But we are well on our way. In the spirit of friendly competition, I challenge other jurisdictions to do better than our 65% source separated organics and then share how you did it so we can all improve.
What progress do you hope to see for the future?
KS: For the future, we need to think about what is the role of our industry in supporting the circular economy and how can we reduce total waste per capita to save landfill space and reduce our footprint? If your current business model does not provide an answer to these questions, it’s time for a big rethink.
Do you consider yourself a pioneer in the industry? If not, what do you think it takes to be a pioneer?
KS: Resource management is changing daily. So we all need to be pioneers. The ingredients are: perseverance, collaboration, and a great vision of the future.
What accomplishments are you most proud of?
KS: Currently I am most proud of supporting our Think Thrice campaign. I did a lot of research and hard work to provide my communications team with the right information for a fun, but informative campaign. It feels great to have my research translated in to tangible tips that people can apply in their daily lives to reduce their clothing waste. The response we are getting is wonderful.
Who is your role model?
KS: I would like to give a shout out to one of my first supervisors, Denis. When people ask me what kind of leader I want to be, I always think of his leadership style: thoughtful and supportive, and successful by encouraging the success of others. I think the world needs more of that.
What advice do you have for other women entering a male-dominated industry?
KS: When I see a female in a male dominated industry, I know they are incredible at their job because they overcame extra challenges to get there. So just do you. Because you are great at what you do and that your unique perspective adds value.