By Kera Abraham, Mark C. Anderson, Sara Rubin, Arvin Temkar and Walter Ryce
Monterey County Weekly
Kristin Cushman, Executive director of The Offset Project | Because she helps businesses, events, and organizations make sustainable choices.
Pacific Grove’s Kristin Cushman remembers the first time she ended up in a dumpster: “My kids’ friends, who were in early middle school, walked by and they said ‘Your mom is jumping in the dumpster.’”
“So that’s what that feels like,” she remembers thinking.
She found something more than that awareness. She found recyclables and compostables that could find new lives rather than their scheduled landfill fate.
When Gov. Jerry Brown signed AB 341 into law in 2011 – mandating 75 percent diversion of solid waste away from trash deposits by 2020 – she had already launched The Offset Project and was well on her way to working with every major event coming through the area, from First City Festival to Monterey Jazz Festival, Red Bull U.S. MotoGP to the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro Am. The latter led to a national contract with Professional Golfers Association. Her work with the Big Sur International Marathon helped earn the race the nation’s first green rating.
While cities like New York and San Francisco apply similar programs, her food waste – collection program is now standard procedure at events and a range of hotels in Monterey County, resulting in the diversion of tons of waste every couple of months. Scores of volunteers are deputized in sustainable waste management, like the 140 who helped the 2013 AT&T. She’s inked contracts with school districts, cities and the county – and anticipates getting a two-year project from the State of California – to coordinate recycling projects for Salinas and South County. She’s also launched the Monterey Bay Carbon Fund, a carbon trading network. Her partnership with Monterey Bay area schools celebrated its first solar energy system implementation just a few weeks back.
And she’s not beyond going after the last ball of aluminum foil in the wrong receptacle.
“I don’t think I knew what I was getting myself into, but you see a vision and a potential and you just get going on it,” she says.