Working for the world’s largest sanitation department—the NYC Department of Sanitation (DSNY)—is no small task. DSNY collects more than 10,500 tons of residential and institutional garbage and 1,760 tons of recyclables daily. Since June 2016, Marni Aaron Aarlev has worked as a senior business analyst with its operations management division. Previously, Aarlev had managed the DSNY public education campaigns promoting the city’s recycling and waste prevention programs and initiatives through an array of educational and promotional materials including direct mailers, curriculum guides, decals, T-shirts, outdoor ads, costumed characters, digital apps, digital newsletters, school contests, and more. The efforts won two 2016 Gold awards from the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA). For the Awareness Campaign category, DSNY launched three successful Facebook campaigns addressing bins, organics expansion, and zero waste rebranding. With a goal of boosting engagement, the “Where are the Binnies?” campaign entailed photographing small green (for paper products) and blue (for metal, glass, plastics, and cartons) recycling bin beanie toys placed in various locations around NYC and posting the pictures on social media channels with a clue about the location. Those who guessed the location correctly were entered into a raffle to win a set of Binnies and recycling literature. For the organics expansion campaign—organics such as food scraps and compostable paper comprises about 31% of waste generated in New York City—DSNY promoted a program helping the city reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills, deter pests by storing food waste in special rodent-resistant bins, and produce compost or renewable energy. Social media posts featured dressed-up brown organics bins and participant testimonials. In the rebranding effort, the former NYC Recycles was rebranded as “NYC zerowaste” toward the city’s 2030 zero waste goal, using a countdown to zero incorporating fun facts about NYC’s waste reduction programs. The second Gold award was for the city’s zero waste apartment recycling tools in the Communication, Education, and Marketing category. In NYC, 67% of residential buildings are apartments with 10 or more units, housing 3.4 million of the city’s 8.4 million residents. To assist that population in reaching the zero waste goals, DSNY initiated programs for recycling electronics, textiles, and organics by creating innovative, multi-lingual materials encouraging building managers to enroll and then to teach building residents how to participate.
What She Does Day to Day
Aarlev documents user needs, develops business requirements, and oversees quality control and testing of various internal applications. She also helps the agency comply with NYC’s open data requirements, working with the Mayor’s Office of Data Analytics to identify and prepare agency data sets to be posted on NYC’s open data portal and completing agency portions of the annual citywide open data compliance report.
What Led Her to This Line of Work
Aarlev’s vocation stems from a lifelong love of being outdoors hiking and backpacking. In college, she interned with the nonprofit Environmental Action through the Cornell in Washington program. “I worked on promoting bottle bill legislation and realized I could combine my love of the environment and urban living by promoting recycling and sustainability,” she notes. Aarlev earned a B.S. degree in natural resources from Cornell University and a Master of Urban Planning degree from the University of Washington. “I am very committed to sustainability, innovation, and addressing urban problems through municipal government, so working for the City of New York is a perfect fit for me,” notes Aarlev.
What She Likes Best About the Work
“I love working with smart and committed people who strive every day to improve life in New York City,” says Aarlev. “It’s very rewarding to collaborate with others across different disciplines to develop creative and innovative programs and materials. Having supportive managers who are committed to excellence and can provide the necessary resources and guidance is also key.”
Her Biggest Challenge
The biggest challenge is keeping abreast of best practices while getting projects done on time and within budget, says Aarlev. “The best way to meet this challenge is to collaborate with others inside and outside of your organization to make sure you are producing the best work possible,” she says. “Being super organized and having lots of energy also helps.”