Have you heard the great news? We’re thrilled to announce that we recently welcomed Emily Barker as our new Executive Director! Emily started her new position on August 9, 2021, and the team could not be more excited.
Emily Barker (she/her) comes to ReUSE Minnesota from the City of St. Louis Park where she focused on multifamily, commercial, and event recycling, as well as reuse and waste prevention. During her five years with the city, she established a series of share and swap events, championed the deconstruction of city-owned properties including the former interpretive building at the nature center, and created a directory of all the reuse businesses in the city. Previously, Emily spent two and a half years at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency where she worked on commercial and state agency recycling and composting, and five years at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy where she focused on rural communities and local foods work.
Emily has a B.S. in biology from Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington. Outside of work, Emily enjoys spending time with her husband and their 6-year-old son, serving as a mentor at Cottageville Park Neighborhood Garden, and traveling to her home state of Montana. She is also a board member and volunteer cashier at Old School thrift shop in Minneapolis.
Short Q&A with Emily
Q: What drew you to this Executive Director position with ReUSE Minnesota?
A: Reuse and waste prevention are what I am most passionate about. While I know that recycling and composting are important aspects of how we manage solid waste, the need to make a significant shift toward prioritizing reuse is paramount. For me, the opportunity to work full-time championing reuse in Minnesota is incredibly exciting. This organization is one I am solidly committed to and I look forward to the opportunity to lead.
Q: How would you describe your leadership style?
A: I am an earnest and dedicated leader who is committed to my work. I seek out ways to highlight the skills and passions of others. A colleague and friend recently commented on my strengths with organizing projects and people. Over the years, I have fostered the important skill of delegation and building a strong team, having learned the hard way that a burned-out leader is not something I wish to be. Most people know me as a direct communicator who values honesty and trust. I lead with my heart, but not without a strong commitment to data and understanding of big picture implications of my work. I value relationships and seek to build partnerships whenever possible.
Q: What opportunities do you see for strengthening and growing ReUSE Minnesota’s network?
A: I see three different key opportunities.
- One of the greatest opportunities for growth I see is building relationships where they may not always be obvious. One of the best examples I have seen for this has been the collaboration between farmers and tech repair businesses in advocating for Right to Repair legislation in Minnesota. Reuse businesses are diverse in their scope, customers, and locations, and highlighting the common goals between them will maximize the benefits of reuse in our state.
- Having worked in both municipal and state government, I see many opportunities to strengthen support for ReUSE Minnesota through local, county, and state policy and partnerships. Having had the opportunity to testify to the legislature on behalf of St. Louis Park and the Association of Recycling Managers, I look forward to representing ReUSE Minnesota in that arena as well.
- Normalizing reuse within our communities is also an integral part of building the network. Part of the reason I started the swap events for the city was to create fun and inviting spaces for individuals to be involved with reuse alongside their friends and neighbors. While the swaps don’t directly contribute to the economic side of reuse, they help build social support for reuse as a whole by normalizing the behavior of seeking used items before buying new.
Q: How do you connect to ReUSE Minnesota’s mission?
A: Reuse has been part of my life for economic, social, and environmental reasons for as long as I can remember. When I got married, I wore my grandmother’s wedding dress, which she had fashioned out of repurposed parachute material in the 1940’s when other textiles were in short supply because of the war. Her sister, my great aunt, also wore the dress. I wore it partly for financial reasons, but mostly because the dress told such an important story of my family history. I cherished being able to connect with a woman who died long before that day. I valued her ingenuity and resourcefulness. And I simply could not justify the environmental impact of purchasing a dress I would wear for a single day. This simple story speaks volumes about why this work is important to me. Reuse is an integral part of my life, and I see it as an integral part of our state, and I look forward to helping lead the effort to increase the visibility of reuse in Minnesota.
Hiring Emily is the first step for our strategic plan over the next two years. Our organization was selected to receive funding from the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR). Under Emily’s leadership, we will use this funding to provide outreach and technical assistance to communities and businesses to increase reuse, rental, and repair of consumer goods as an alternative to using new materials.
Over two years, we plan to expand partnerships, create a funding pool for reuse business incubators, and host educational events including another national conference and professional development sessions across the state. Additional strategies include influencing government policies and practices that decrease use of natural resources by creating robust reuse alternatives for consumers and businesses; testing and implementing social marketing techniques to drive consumer behavior; and measuring the impact of reuse across the state through tested, pre-defined tools to prove the environmental, economic, and social benefits.
If you’re interested in diving into more of the details of our plan, check out the full proposal on the LCCMR site. Let us know if you’d like to be involved and join a committee supporting these efforts!