Thursday, December 1st, 2011...10:13 am

Article on IEP Alum Michael Seaman

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MIIS alum Michael Seaman receives recognition for all of his work for The Monterey Bay Aquarium:

Article Taken from The Monterey County Herald.

Link to Article

Aquarium’s Dumpster diver analyzes waste


Michael Seaman can tell who has been visiting Monterey Bay Aquarium just by looking at the garbage.

“If it’s a few coffee cups and some baby carrots, it’s adults leading children,” said Seaman, 28, the aquarium’s new environmental and purchasing manager.

By “auditing” the aquarium’s trash, Seaman can focus on the bigger picture — trying to reduce and recycle the waste coming from the 1.8 million people who visit the aquarium every year.

“He’s brought a whole extra level of attention to the waste stream,” said Ken Peterson of the aquarium’s public relations staff, who sits on the conservation committee with Seaman.

“We’ve got people volunteering to go Dumpster diving” with him, Peterson said. “He’s got people talking about the waste stream.” The term refers to the cycle of waste disposal for a given population.

The aquarium has always been environmentally conscious, Peterson said, and the addition of Seaman means “an opportunity to do better.”

In watching Seaman go through a pile of garbage, Peterson said he’s learning more about what can and can’t be recycled.

Making big reductions in the waste stream “is going to take time,” said Seaman, who has been on the job five months. “We don’t want to rush anything.”

As he sorted through a bag of garbage on Monday, Seaman found light cardboard and food that he tossed into a compost pile. He estimates 40 to 60 percent of the waste from the food area can be composted, and 20 to 30 percent is recyclable. He threw several paper coffee cups in the pile headed for the landfill — they weren’t compostable.

There’s no composting at the aquarium, but Seaman is working with nearby businesses, the city of Monterey and the Monterey Regional Waste Management District to determine if a collection system is feasible.

Seaman works for Philadelphia-based Aramark, which runs the food and catering operations at the aquarium. He deals with farmers, trying to determine if the boxes used to deliver food can be used again.

Aramark also runs Asilomar Conference Grounds in Pacific Grove, where Seaman was hired early this year as one of the parent company’s first class of 10 environmental interns across the country.

Seaman, who earned a master’s degree in international environmental policy at the Monterey Institute of International Studies in 2010, also analyzed the garbage at Asilomar.

“You want to make it as easy as possible” for people to put their refuse in the right place, Seaman said. Simply putting out bins marked bottles and cans isn’t enough — Seaman worked on the positioning of the receptacles.

Seaman went to the workers who pick up the trash and impressed upon them the importance of recycling. His undergraduate training was helpful — he has a degree in Spanish from the University of Richmond in Virginia. He also used a little Tagalog to speak to workers from the Philippines.

At Asilomar, Seaman got such a reputation that employees would come up to him and ask him questions about recycling and conservation, said Jane Beattie, director of interpretation and environmental programs.

Seaman is part of a small task force in Aramark’s parks and destinations division that is studying how to better educate the public about recycling, Beattie said.

Seaman’s internship “was mutually beneficial” for him and Asilomar, Beattie said. “He’s passionate about environmental involvement.”

Lane Wallace can be reached at 646-4478 or

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