Making the best out of waste: a greener future

Avery Sudsbury standing in front of staircase smiling with two of her edited avatars on either sideAvery Sudsbury’s (she/her) passion and curiosity for the waste industry, demonstrated during her work term at the Engineering and Environmental Services, Region of Waterloo, has earned her the title of Co-op Student of the Year for the Faculty of Environment. Avery shares the importance of making people aware of the effect they have on the environment and the value of mentorship.

Avery Sudsbury smiling headshot

In the role of a waste collection and diversion student, Avery’s impactful work took place at the Region of Waterloo landfill and recycling facilities. She used various testing tools to determine the type of methane being emitted and mastered it using complex equipment.

As an advocate for waste management, Avery was passionate about educating people about the garbage disposal processes.

Avery also conducted studies on the region’s organic food waste program and completed gas monitoring projects to improve effectiveness. She consistently went beyond the expectations of the role.

What surprised you about this work term?

“It was surprising that the Region of Waterloo really wanted their co-op students to dive into every aspect of their business. We got to sit in on meetings with external contractors and our supervisors set us up to go to Guelph. We got to see what happens when our organic waste is sent to be turned into compost.”

“Taking full advantage of this opportunity, I was talking to people who know much more than I do and I got to ask lots of questions. I took that information and did a full report on what happens with our organic waste. The report answered questions like where are we seeing the highest contaminants, does that have to do with residents or management on our site and where can we improve? It was the first time that I got to lead a project and it was all my own work. I really felt that my results mattered and were going to be used for future contracts.”

What opportunities do you like to give to other students when you’re in a leadership role?

“As the co-president of the Environment and Business society, I like to make sure that the vice-presidents have full rein of whatever they want to do for projects. Instead of telling them what I want to see that week, I like to make sure that they have the big picture goals in mind and then encourage them to fully execute their creative power there.”

“I believe when you fully trust others, when you show them that their ideas are exactly what you want and need, they get the confidence to try things out and be creative. This style of leadership hopefully also makes them want to take on leadership roles in the future, because they’re being encouraged to try things out right now and to excel.”

How would you describe to an employer what you bring to their organization?

“I want to make sure an employer knows that while I'm there to learn, I'm also there to contribute as much to them as they're contributing to my learning experience. So, when I come into a new workplace, I'm going to be the first person to ask questions and I'm going to volunteer for new things that I haven't heard of before because I want to make a genuine difference within that company.”

“I really enjoy working with people that are genuine, have a work life balance and have the same kind of curiosity and fun energy that I have. So, when I'm seeking out roles, I know that I must be confident in my personality as well as my professionalism and my work ethic.”

Why did you choose the University of Waterloo?

“The Environment and Business program is a combination that wasn’t offered anywhere else. I considered going into both a business and an environmental degree. Ultimately, I wanted to be in a role which worked towards the betterment of the planet while applying my analytical and organizational mindset. This was the perfect combination of the two. The co-op program was also a major reason - five work terms throughout my undergraduate degree is unmatched.”

“I came to campus for You@Waterloo Day and I immediately liked it. I could see myself working here in the environment buildings and sitting with my friends in the cafes.”

How did you overcome a challenge you faced during your work term?

“It can be hard being a full-time student, being young and getting put into an eight-month co-op term. Working a nine to five for the first time can feel daunting and about halfway through my term, I felt as though I'd lost that initial spark. I wasn’t sure if I could see myself in that role and I was considering other options. As much as I liked the waste management industry, I was also very interested in teaching and so I didn’t know if I wanted to spend four more months in a position when I might go down a completely different path.”

“Instead of letting those thoughts get to me, I decided to talk to my supervisor about it. Interestingly, she had also considered a similar path and we worked out a way for me to explore both areas of my interest. I used it as an opportunity to improve my interpersonal skills that I could apply in multiple career paths. It ended up being a great work term and I now have a solid grasp on where I want to go with my future.”

Avery Sudsbury smiling in front of a green background

What’s next for you?

“I have applied to the University of Western Ontario for a master's in environment and sustainability. It's an interesting program because they also have co-op and as soon as I see co-op, I'm excited. I’m also very excited to start looking for jobs in the waste management industry.”

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