As a woman who loves the outdoors and time with her horses, Kelah Krause knows what a clean environment looks and feels like. In fact, she has incorporated this passion for the environment into her role as logistics analyst for AT&T’s Lancaster distribution center in Texas.
In early 2010, Kelah saw an opportunity to responsibly rid the distribution center of cardboard waste. Working with a supply chain vendor, she discovered that the company could actually make money by bundling cardboard waste while avoiding the cost associated with waste disposal.
Through perseverance, strong analytical data, vendor guidance and workplace-wide momentum, Kelah gained support from her upper management to invest in a baler and officially begin a cardboard recycling program.
I always tell people, I’m a one-time Champion of DOT, but recycling is a continuous, ongoing process.
Today, Kelah and her co-workers collect cardboard boxes for a local contractor who preps the material for sale. The same vendor who supplies cardboard boxes to the AT&T distribution centers purchases baled cardboard back from the company. In Kelah’s words, “We buy cardboard from them, they buy cardboard back from us.… We’ve closed the loop.” The revenue is placed into a high-level account for the region. Now a profitable program, the cardboard recycling project’s proceeds help to fund future projects.
The cardboard recycling project at Kelah’s facility has produced substantial results. As of December 2013, the Lancaster facility had recycled 195 tons of cardboard. This is equivalent to saving 644 cubic yards of landfill, 1,365,000 gallons of water or 195 metric tons of CO2-e.1
Kelah’s initiative has also contributed to cost savings for the distribution center, including more than $138,000 in trash cost avoidance at the end of 2013. Moreover, the baler paid for itself in approximately 1.5 years, cutting the initial estimate of three years in half.
Kelah’s accomplishments don’t stop there. In 2012, Kelah was featured as a champion of AT&T’s Do One Thing (DOT) initiative for her recycling efforts. Kelah measured her progress with DOT, a voluntary company-wide effort that encourages employees to commit to regular, measurable actions that are good for themselves, their communities and/or the company. In recognition of her DOT championship, AT&T contributed $2,500 in Kelah’s name to Equest Therapeutic Horsemanship, a nonprofit that provides therapeutic riding for children, adults and veterans with all types of physical, cognitive and emotional disabilities.
Honored and proud of the impacts made by her cardboard recycling project, Kelah knows there is still work to be done. With 35 years of AT&T employment under her belt, Kelah looks forward to many more years to come as she implements and expands the cardboard recycling project. In fact, her work has helped to inspire a $4 million cardboard recycling initiative across the company over the next two years. She says, “I always tell people, I’m a one-time Champion of DOT, but recycling is a continuous, ongoing process.”
At AT&T, we know business operations may produce waste, which can be minimized on the back end through recycling, reuse and responsible disposal. We also know that it’s people like Kelah who can turn a small idea into a hugely impactful initiative – for employees, the company and the environment.