Recently, I sat down with Ryan Carney, the CEO of G Rock Certified, a sustainability group based in Sausalito, California that is currently implementing a waste diversion program for Costco warehouses in Northern California. His interview is packed with insider information. See it below:
So where are you from Ryan?
San Diego, California
Okay cool, and what is your educational background?
I studied environmental studies: sustainability and social justice at San Francisco State University.
Awesome. And can you tell the audience a little bit about G Rock Certified?
Absolutely. We’re a sustainability consulting group so we work to help research, design, and facilitate broad sustainability programs for businesses, cities, and organizations.
Awesome. And how did you become a part of it?
A Friend from high school was involved with G Rock when it was first starting as the events coordinator and he knew that I had experience at the time at a non profit–I was working in art to teach sustainability and environmentalism through art and music–so I had a lot of experience working in festivals so it matched up perfectly with what G Rock was doing at the time. And so I got involved and two years later we’ve been engaged in a lot of different work.
Wow that’s great. And what projects are you working on?
Right now we’re partnering with Costco Wholesale for a waste diversion program, so we’re implementing composting and recycling throughout every Costco warehouse in Northern California, which is effectively diverting about eighty percent of what used to be sent to the landfill.
Wow that’s very impressive.
It’s large scale. We also do research and remediation of fields so we work in sustainable agriculture as well so we’re hoping to do some research projects to prove the efficacy of compost and firming compost as alternatives to synthetic fertilizers.
What is the difference between compost and virmi compost?
…Firmy is Latin for worm, so it’s essentially the castings that the worms produce after digesting compost so it infuses it with another population of beneficial microbes that work symbiotically with plants’ root systems to help bring nutrients as far as the soil quality.
So working together with both of those composts helps the soil become as best as it can be?
Okay. Cool. And so I assume you’ve been there for two years?
And how have you seen the field changing?
Dramatically. Since I’ve begun my work in environmentalism ten years ago it’s night and day. [I’ve] seen a lot of support from large corporations, from cities, from people, ordinary people, where as when it was first coming out there was a lot of skeptism as to why should we change our ways as in our relationship to the earth. And I think a lot of people have realized the importance of that.
And where do you think that came from?
That’s a good question. A lot of sources. You can point towards talking heads like Al Gore who could be called leaders of the environmental community, but I think it comes from local media–I’ve seen a lot of news branches have reporters who are focusing just on green stories, so it helps bring a lot of attention on the local state and the state policy makers are also used in a lot of change in this scale, so it’s really hard to say how it all happened. It’s not necessarily a book that we have here in this time it’s just sort of evolved here so it’s really exciting. When I started studying environmentalism I thought I would spend the rest of my career banging my head against the wall trying to get any sort of change instigated and I’m pleasantly surprised to see how not necessarily easy it is to get these changes in effect now but how much support people are giving.
That’s fantastic. That’s fabulous. So I guess that brings me to sort of the opposite end—what is most challenging about being in the field?
It’s a good question. The way I look at it is that were instigating change. That’s what this is. And change can be frightening for a lot of people. We’re hard wired to find a routine, find something that’s comfortable with us so helping people to develop their own intrinsic motivation, to accept, to be inspired, to find change within themselves has been the most challenging but also the most rewarding. All the answers are here as to how we can solve our environmental crises, our personal health, the answers are there—it’s just about our motivation to find it. Just like success for Success strivers–all the information is there you just need to have the will to make those changes. So the biggest challenge is to work with people, find out what connects with them, and how they can be inspired.
And so what is your typical work day like?
I don’t know what a typical work day looks like. I spend about half of my time in the field, in meetings, right now we’re focusing on Costco, the majority of our time, so we spend a lot of time working with managers, and employees, and trainings, also coordinating, collaborating with city agencies, nonprofits, for profits… so I’d say about half of my time is in the office making calls and collaborating with people via email and the other half is in the field.
And when you’re out in the field are you monitoring projects?
That’s a good question. Out in the field in the Costco warehouses right now [I’m] working to implement this diversion programs. With our research projects for sustainable agriculture its sights, it’s site management, monitoring the virmi composting, application of compost, so I’m happy to say I don’t have a typical work day. I like the change.
I don’t know if you are able to answer this but what are your future plans?
To do more of what we’re doing now. To expand the impact. Double our work, To go international–that’s always something I’ve wanted to strive for. We’ll be implementing a program in Portugal at the University of Lufthansa. To help students facilitate projects like G Rock. So G rock started with the intention of giving opportunities to students in the field of sustainability to create jobs so we like to spread that opportunity to anybody who has the will to enter this kind of field.
So what advice do you have for strivers who want to go into sustainable fields or make a field more sustainable?
Connect with what you’re most passionate about, and then bridge the gap between how that can improve the field of sustainability. And any field that you’re interested in can be applied to improve the quality of life of anybody. So anything that you want to do–whether it’s in the advertising field, which also spreads the awareness, accounting–sustainability firms need accountants, find what your passionate about, do it really well, and also look at the bigger picture of how it connects with this larger field.