Recycling in Omaha

Recycling 1Purpose

Not all Omaha residents have convenient access to free recycling services.  They are often unaware of how to recycle nontraditional materials.  Increasing access and awareness will make it effortless for more people to recycle and help create a greener, more sustainable community.


Our goal is to initiate conversation between municipal recycling programs, waste management, private recycling groups, and smaller local organizations/businesses who accept recycled materials.  Through conversation we hope they will find ways to begin collaborating and come up with more convenient resources and solutions for Omaha citizens who find it confusing or too time-consuming to recycle.


We both felt that overall the meeting went quite well, especially for our first attempt.  The attendees were responsive and engaged.  When the meeting ended, everyone seemed interested in continuing the conversation later which is a great thing.

The preparation for the meeting was definitely more time-intensive than we were expecting. Working at different branches with opposite schedules made even finding time to work on the project together difficult.  We spent a lot of time on the questions trying to figure out order and wording.  Of course, once we practiced them aloud with another team, we spent a lot of time re-ordering and re-wording the questions.  Between that practice and some discussion with our project advisor, Sam McBane Mulford, we felt fairly well prepared for the meeting.  It’s hard to plan for every contingency.  All the unknown factors definitely amped up our stress level a bit.

Recycling 2

We invited primarily recycling business owners and members of green organizations in Omaha to the meeting.  A couple of the invited organizations took that information and posted it on their websites so there was the possibility of having people we hadn’t invited show up.  The majority of attendees turned out to be ones we’d invited and who had sent a RSVP.  We did get one person who drove from an hour away because she saw a website posting for our meeting.

Our first goal of setting up ground rules was a little shaky.  Although we wanted the group to come up with the ground rules themselves, there was little contribution from them.  We ended up providing most of the rules ourselves and asking if they agreed with them – which they did. Initially we had discussed writing out our ground rules beforehand and then going through them for agreement and changes.  Maybe we should have gone with our instincts.  Another idea would have been to do ground rules after the icebreaker so they might be a bit more at ease with each other and more comfortable sharing ideas.

We had six questions prepared for the main discussion but started to run into time issues.  Our advisor suggested we outline how much time we wanted to spend on each question and then note the clock times on our agenda and notecards.  This turned out to be very helpful as we conducted the discussion to ensure we would stay on track to end on time.  We wanted to be very careful to respect the attendees’ time and not run late.  After the third question, we noticed we were running behind time.  We mentioned that we were going to skip a question based on the time we had left (the agenda was written on the whiteboard so they may have noticed that it was skipped).  No one had a problem with the omitted question.

We asked four questions which more than filled the meeting time with this group of seven. Although people went on tangents that didn’t relate directly to the question asked, we let that go a bit.  The tangents were still related to recycling and we were so excited that people were actually talking and moving discussion forward.  It was also a little tough to figure out when to try to focus back on the question as we didn’t want to make them feel like their opinions weren’t important.  Conversation seemed to flow especially well when we put them in groups of two or three.

The biggest challenge we found was determining what kinds of questions to ask and how to present them.  Since we didn’t know who would show up, some of the questions we thought were perfect didn’t quite fit the people who came.  After this experience, we were able to see what worked well and what could have been improved on.  Going through the steps of this first project really increased our knowledge and confidence in facilitating a discussion like this.  We did learn that even though there were stressful parts, the actual facilitation was really enjoyable and interesting.  Being able to guide the conversation and listen to everything the attendees had to say was fascinating.

Posted by Autumn Hill and Melanie Feyerherm Schultz, Facilitators-in-Training

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