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Spotlight Iowa City: Bringing a whole new meaning to ‘green thumb’


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Jennifer Jordan is raising an environmentally friendly family. Kids Olivia, 9, and Gabe, 7, frequently ask about what they can and can’t recycle. They help compost. And they even do a little work in the garden.

“Jen always has a huge garden,” said partner Renee Baird. “It is common to take the kids out to the garden with baskets and come in to make a salad for supper together.”

Jordan’s work clearly doesn’t stay at the office. A three-year veteran as recycling coordinator at the Iowa City Landfill, the 31-year-old is passionate about sustaining the Earth from her garden at home to the landfill, where she devises plans for a cleaner future. In her post, Jordan — who can hardly pin down a daily routine — might plan community events, talk to reporters, or traipse through the landfill.

“This is my dream job,” said the UI graduate, sitting at her office, a window away from large black receptacles separating different recyclables. “It is totally different every day, and that is what I love about it.”

April is especially busy for Jordan. She plans community activities, knowing they’re important for the environmental outlook of the city.

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Right now, she’s working with the Sierra Club and library staff to plan such events as “Ecopalooza,” scheduled for at 4 p.m. Thursday at the Iowa City Public Library, 123 S. Linn St. Jordan is also planning a family event at 10:30 a.m. Saturday that will include a “recycling relay” for kids.

Such events are evidence of why Dave Elias, the landfill superintendent, finds Jordan’s work to be creative and imaginative answers to the difficult questions regarding changes in environmental habits.

“She can see opportunities, and she is also willing to run the twisted path and make it an actual project that sees results,” said Elias.

He recalled “Rummage in the Ramp” as an example. The project seeks donations of reusable items near the beginning of August, when many are switching residences. Elias said Jordan was a key force in the project, helping ensure she and her coworkers carried it out.

Jordan’s work even extends to molding the mentality of locals when it comes to waste.

“We all have a comfort level where we want to buy something and then just make it go away when we are done with it,” said Jordan, who has a B.S. in geography and master’s degree in urban planning.

For Jordan, the word “garbage” has a positive connotation — she connects it to “resource.” She said that in the past five years, officials have been pushing the public to think of landfills as resource management, not waste management.

Her family will certainly get that message, and further their sustainability efforts by shopping at the Farmers’ Market and going to a family farm near Burlington for meat.

But it doesn’t stop at home.

“We need to look at changes in our daily lives, not just personal, but at work and school, too,” Jordan said.

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