A warm welcome back to “Women in Circularity,” where we shine a light on women moving us toward a circular economy. This month, I connected with a nonprofit leader who brings new energy to a statewide recycling organization working to strengthen the circular economy in Indiana: Allyson Mitchell. Allyson is the executive director of Circular Indiana and a sustainability professional with 20 years of experience.
What was a pivotal experience that helped shape your career?
The most valuable experience I have had in my career is the opportunity to work in many sectors and industries. I have experience in design and construction, commercial real estate development, municipal government, private consulting, academia, the legal field, nonprofit management and community economic development. All these experiences have allowed me to understand the value proposition for the different types of partner organizations I work with in my current role and how to engage their unique strengths and interests.
How did you come to the conclusion that your organization needed to rebrand and what was that process like?
When I joined the Indiana Recycling Coalition in early 2018, I asked the board if they had ever considered refreshing the organization’s name. They had not, but were intrigued. Over the next several months, as I watched the effects of China’s National Sword policy play out across the industry and the public’s perception of recycling shift, I sensed a need for a broader and more transparent conversation. My curiosity continued and by early 2021, after realizing the pandemic had reshaped so many aspects of the organization, it became clear that we needed to reemerge with a new identity that more accurately reflected who we had become and what we envisioned for Indiana. We successfully rebranded as Circular Indiana in November 2021 and received an outpouring of support for the move. It was well worth the effort.
Please describe one of your favorite member engagement strategies?
I’m really excited about our new Full Circle program. During these events, we bring together circular supply chain partners for a specific commodity, host a tour-focused gathering and facilitate a conversation for a curated audience. Because the event is immersive and engages all the senses, the outcome goes beyond identifying challenges. Attendees are able to appreciate the nuances of the current situation, understand the perspectives of all the players and become invested in finding solutions. Our first Full Circle event spurred critical conversations with Indiana legislators that led to an additional $4 million in infrastructure investment in 2022.
In your opinion, what is the next game-changing movement for the circular economy?
That would be a focus on soil health and organics recycling. In an agricultural state like Indiana, I think there is a tremendous opportunity to find a scalable solution to managing food and organic wastes to benefit the quality, and therefore, productivity, of our soil. My rural upbringing is definitely influencing my interest in this space, and it seems like an area ripe for innovation (pun intended!) where multiple problems can be simultaneously solved for a net positive economic impact. I would love to see Indiana innovate on this side of the circular economy.
Can you recommend a sustainability focused podcast that has recently piqued your interest?
Lately, I am more of an audiobook ‘reader’ than a podcaster. I recently enjoyed reading Kate Raworth’s “Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist.”
I was also really inspired by Ron Gonen’s new book “The Waste-Free World: How the Circular Economy Will Take Less, Make More, and Save the Planet.”
MaryEllen Etienne is the creator of “Women in Circularity.” Etienne works on the Market Transformation and Development team for the U.S. Green Building Council. She has over 20 years of experience in sustainability and is a champion of the circular economy.
More from the “Women in Circularity” series
- Women in Circularity: Valentina Rappa
- Women in Circularity: Olga Kachook
- Women in Circularity: Meghan Hunt