Greener BeeGreen ElectronicsNew Green Star director revels in recycling

FAIRBANKS — Becca Brado spends a significant part of her workday surrounded by discarded, obsolete electronics in a cramped warehouse. It’s been a good experience.

The executive director for Interior Alaska Green Star has tapped into her passion for recycling since July, when she took the top job — and only paid position — at the local nonprofit organization. She’s responsible for wrangling volunteers, fundraising and staging special recycling events around Fairbanks.

But Green Star is most recognized for organizing a monthly drop-off of unwanted electronic devices. They have components that include hazardous substances and valuable rare metals, and are shipped off to be disassembled and recycled.

“The reason I love this job so much is we’re keeping all of that out of the landfill,” Brado said, gesturing at stack of pallets filled with old computers, televisions and other electronic debris.

It’s a big task and one that Brado wasn’t quite expecting when she and her husband, T.J., moved from Tennessee to Fairbanks this summer. They wanted to be nearer T.J.’s hometown of North Pole, and Becca made the move without a new job. 

But when she did an Internet search for recycling opportunities in Fairbanks, she saw a vacancy at Green Star. Brado had experience as a consultant and grant-writer for nonprofit organizations, and after an initial meeting with Green Star officials, she was encouraged to apply.

“It just felt right,” she said. “I knew even if they didn’t hire me, I’d be active as a volunteer.”

It’s been a natural fit for the 32-year-old University of Tennessee graduate. Her interest in recycling began unexpectedly a decade ago, when she saw a coworker carrying a bag of cans and plastic bottles to her car. Her friend urged Brado to do the same, and she promptly cut her garbage output from two large trash bags a week to a single small one.

“I had no idea I could make such an impact,” she said. “I never went back.”

One of her goals since taking the job at Green Star has been streamlining Fairbanks’ notoriously disjointed recycling system. It takes a dedicated recycler to make sense of the various times and locations for dropping off recyclables, and Brado hopes to help simplify the process.

Michele Mouton, who runs the University of Alaska Fairbanks Office of Sustainability, said Brado is off to an impressive start. One of her tasks had been to organize various members of the recycling community into a task force, which hopes to develop a more cohesive system.

Brado’s experience in Tennessee, where recycling is more centralized, convinced her that people will participate when there are good opportunities.

Even after the first hour-long task force meeting, it was clear that the simple step was resulting in significant progress, Mouton said.

“She’s very broad-minded and futuristic,” she said. “She seems to have a grasp on who needs to come together and what needs to happen.”

Green Star’s next electronics drop-off event is this weekend, when the community will have a free opportunity to dispose of unwanted materials. 

The September event generated a record 15 tons of discarded electronics, and Brado will spend the weekend lugging old TVs, computers and typewriters while trying to scrounge up enough wooden pallets to put them on.

She couldn’t be happier.

“I didn’t realize this job was going to be so hands-on and labor intensive,” Brado said with a smile, “but it’s keeping me in shape.”

Contact staff writer Jeff Richardson at 459-7518. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMbusiness.

Who: Becca Brado Age: 32 Occupation: Executive director, Interior Alaska Green Star Family: Husband, T.J. Brado Quote: “I believe that when recycling is easy and convenient, more people will be on board with it.”

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