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Rethinking Waste: Alumna Spotlight

September 13, 2016

Before pre-K, Kelsey Gaude, knew how to sort out recycling, grow her own tomatoes and even feed goats. Now, this 2016 Masters in Sustainability alumna has found a career that blends both her interests and passions serving as the zero-waste sustainability analyst for Hanesbrands, Inc.

“Hanesbrands is a Fortune 500 company that has a highly credible place in the market and is a company that upholds strong values. Being able to engage in initiatives that speak to my values on a local and global scale through Hanesbrands has been a gratifying and incredible learning experience,” Gaude said.

Gaude began work for HanesBrands in November of 2015 when her graduate cohort joined a collaborative, cross-functional team consisting of Wake Forest Faculty and HanesBrands team members. The team was tasked with designing and implementing a program in which all waste is reused, utilized for the production of energy or recycled for cash.

Gaude’s work begins where the graduate team left off. Working full-time with HanesBrands, she is charged with developing a roadmap for the company to achieve a zero waste output. Gaude’s main focus has been making the business case for zero waste—that is “getting all the stakeholders aligned in the zero waste initiative” while also taking “extra precaution to ensure the baseline data is precise and organized.” On top of this, Gaude works to keep an ongoing record of the best practices for waste management within the company’s operations.

Since joining the Hanesbrands team, Gaude has become increasingly interested in redefining perceptions of waste management and what constitutes something to be waste. To Gaude, taking waste—something that is commonly viewed to have no monetary value and must be disposed of—and turning that waste into a commodity is sustainability at work. Ultimately, Gaude states proper waste management is the future of the circular economy and improving environmental impacts.

“I believe sustainability can be used to both sustain the environment as well as sustain an organization and its employees,” Gaude said in response to why it’s important for corporations to consider the importance of sustainability. “The longer I work here, the greater I appreciate the company for the great work it has done for the society and the environment and the work that the company continually pursues to improve on.”

For more information about the Masters in Sustainability Program, visit: http://graduate.cees.wfu.edu/programs/mas