In the Coming Weeks and Months, the National Solid Wastes Management Association (NSWMA), on behalf of the thousands of men and women who work for the solid waste industry, will launch an important educational campaign to help the public, the media and public officials better understand the vital role we play in their lives. We've created this grassroots program to help us tell our story in the communities we serve. This educational initiative is called “ENVIRONMENTALISTS EVERY DAY — AMERICA'S SOLID WASTE INDUSTRY.”

Our industry is “green.” Protecting the environment and public health is the very reason for our existence. We also are innovative, responsive to change and an essential partner in the communities we serve.

Yet most people — including many who regulate and report on our industry — have little or no knowledge of or appreciation for the scope of our involvement in helping to make our environment cleaner, healthier and more sustainable. The lack of knowledge about our industry, coinciding with the new environmental ethic, presents a perfect opportunity to educate target audiences by providing positive industry information. Those with the power to support or oppose our business interests should understand that we are a part of the solution to these concerns, not their cause.

We refer to the employees of our industry as “Environmentalists Every Day.” That's what the more than 368,000 men and women, who work in the private and public solid waste sector, really are: people who, every day, efficiently and reliably remove and manage the nation's trash.

Environmentalism isn't just an idea or goal for us; it's the way that we do our work, 24/7, every day.

Campaign activities include letter-writing, media relations, speaking engagements at schools, businesses, and community organizations, testifying at hearings, holding facility open houses and more. The most important elements of the program involve working with employees — the backbone of our industry — to help you tell our stories and yours to opinion leaders, friends and neighbors.

NSWMA is developing a variety of tools to help industry employees reach out to public officials and local media representatives. Both electronic and print copies of these tools will be available to all NSWMA member companies. Our program will make it easy for every company, large and small, to get involved.

We also are creating a new Web site (www.environmentalistseveryday.org) to showcase what solid waste industry companies are doing to meet today's environmental challenges and contribute to our communities. We invite you to participate by sharing information about the achievements of your company and its employees. Site visitors also will be able to find information about what happens to waste after it is picked up from their homes. Additionally, the site will instruct visitors on how to reduce waste by recycling more, composting and buying products that use less packaging.

The program will involve coordinated government relations and media relations outreach to help us have a greater impact on public policy at the local and state levels and to help us communicate with local newspapers, radio and TV stations, and selective national media. Our goal is to create a bank of goodwill you can draw on when your company or other waste companies in your community or state are facing issues that can affect your company's bottom line.

Achieving these goals won't be easy or happen overnight. It will take several years or longer. But this is a good time to begin. With your support and help, we know it can be done.

In the coming weeks, I ask you to:

  • Visit (and tell others about) the new Web site when it launches in October.

  • Become familiar with campaign messages.

  • Include positive comments about industry in conversations with family and friends.

  • Write or call public officials.

  • Make positive comments about industry in online forums.

  • Talk to a community group.

  • Share info and feedback with us.

For more information about the program, contact Thom Metzger, NSWMA's director of communications and public affairs, at 202-364-3751.