Katie Killen is the assistant city manager for the city of Shawnee, Kansas. Her work for the city involves solid waste, recycling and sustainability. In this interview, Katie answers questions about a city’s role in helping the public become better at recycling.
1. What are 4 things that anyone can do right now to be a better recycler?
Katie: Make it easy for yourself. If there is a way to fit it into your routine take advantage of it.
- Put a recycling can next to your trash can .
- Put a glass recycling container in a spot you will remember to take it with you, and make drop off part of the routine .
- Pin a reminder in an easy to find place to remember what can go curbside at your home.
- When in doubt on where take something, then check out recyclespot.org, a regional resource on recycling in the Kansas City area.
2. Name some things that happen inside of the City of Shawnee’s offices that impacts the environment.
Katie: We have a City-wide recycling policy in place that covers everything from common recyclables to motor oil, batteries and electronics. We recently completed some energy efficiency projects in City facilities that upgraded lighting and HVAC systems. The last major facilities that the City built (the Justice Center and Fire Station #72 off Renner and Johnson) are LEED certified.
3. What do you think the City of Shawnee does best for the environment?
Katie: Educating and leading by example. There are so many departments that touch on environmental stewardship through the work they do each day and in addition are out educating the public on topics that range from rain barrels to recycling, energy efficiency to water quality. Check out our latest Parks and Recreation Brochure. Page 18-19 have some great classes.
4. What do you feel is the most difficult part of promoting sustainability? Easiest?
Katie: Difficult: Some of the connotations that people try to wrap “sustainability” in is challenging because it shuts down good conversation and dialog.
Easiest: The network of support for it in the Kansas City area that you can draw from for advice, ideas, and inspiration.
5. What is something that bothers you that the public does not do a good job of recycling?
Katie: I think we could all recycle some of the easy stuff, like paper for example, more. Even if you don’t have curbside recycling, there are Paper Retriever locations all over and the host usually uses it as a fundraiser for their non-profit or school.
6. Can you tell us what you do, personally, to take care of our planet?
Katie: My husband and I talk about this quite frequently. We are in the process of redoing our house, so it’s discussed as we plan our projects. What type of materials to use, what can we reuse, what can we get and reuse, is there a useful life for someone else if we no longer need something. We also try to coordinate carpooling or walking to places. I am trying to get better at biking. My husband could live on a bike. We try to shop local and eat local (this Christmas we tried to get all our gifts from local businesses). We do the usual household things like use our air conditioner and heater sparingly, change out light bulbs for energy efficient ones, turning lights off and electronics (we are fortunate to have great natural light) and reduce, reuse and recycle.
7. What local companies do you feel do the best job for our environment and, why?
Katie: There are so many doing so many cool things, from the products they market to the way they run their operations from the way they promote it in their industry. One that I think pops into many minds is Boulevard Brewing with their work to zero waste and as founding company of Ripple Glass. In Shawnee, the Chamber has a program called Sustain Shawnee. There are several Shawnee companies listed as participants that have recycling set up at their locations.
8. In the field of sustainability, what is most interesting to you?
Katie: I really think it’s the people part. People come to understand sustainability in so many different ways. There are the eager young people, those who are veterans in the field, those who like the potential cost savings, those who just want things better for their children or grandchildren, those that see it from a wellness perspective and those that are community visionaries. It takes them all to move things forward. Interacting and hearing their stories and perspectives have always fascinated me.
9. What excites you about the future of sustainability? Can you give an answer from a City of Shawnee perspective and then from a personal perspective?
Katie: Both from the City’s perspective and personally, I am really excited about how principles of sustainability bring people together. One exciting project the City is working on is through a regional program called Planning Sustainable Places. The City applied for and received 80% matching funds to study and develop a future vision of Nieman road generally between Shawnee Mission Parkway and Johnson Drive. This has brought together residents, elected officials, planning commissioners, County staff, City staff, local business and property owners to help create the future vision of Nieman Road. The name of the study project, fittingly, is Nieman Road: Community Connections. We had a kick community workshop in June and will have more engagement opportunities this fall.
10. What is your favorite outdoor activity?
Katie: I am a big fan of hiking, walking and running.
11. When outside, what do you do to “leave no trace.”
Katie: I am known to pick trash up I see along the road as I am walking no matter where I am.
12. What is your favorite flavor of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream?
13. What is your favorite raw food?
14. Apple or Android?
15. Last suggestions on the environment:
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
–Dr. Seuss, The Lorax