Authored by Brad Marley
Traveling the world to spread the word for Brightmark.
Alyssa Schabel has a home in Buffalo, New York. But with the amount of travel she is doing around the United States and Europe to develop circular technology projects for Brightmark, it’s not uncommon for her to go weeks without ever stepping foot in her house. And she wouldn’t have it any other way.
Alyssa loves to travel, which pairs nicely with her desire to do something to help solve some of the earth’s most pressing environmental challenges. It was during a trip abroad that set her on the path toward a career in this space.
“I took a trip to Africa in middle school, and part of the experience was doing some water projects that really opened my eyes to the poor water quality in other parts of the world,” said Schabel. “It was this experience that really got me started thinking about how I could help solve environmental problems.”
After graduating from high school and taking the advice of her father, Alyssa began looking for colleges that offered engineering programs that also doubled as a way forward to work in the environmental space. Universities were starting to mix certain degree programs with a sustainability lens, meaning the options after graduation were plentiful as more and more companies are looking for green talent.
Alyssa landed at Clarkson University in Upstate New York and its Institute for a Sustainable Environment. It was a relatively new program at the time, but it was just the educational springboard she needed to dive headfirst into an environmental career.
“This program was exactly what I was looking for when I went off to school, and at the end of the program, I was able to focus on water and wastewater as a course of the degree, which really paved the way for my career.”
Once out of college, Alyssa began her career earnestly with consulting gigs with companies focused on water treatment. Her first role was designing water and wastewater mains, spending a lot of time behind a computer using AutoCADⓇ. Her next role was in water and wastewater treatment sales, which allowed her to interface directly with customers, work with her hands, and travel more for her job.
Still, it wasn’t the dream job she had hoped for.
As part of the Millennial generation, Alyssa retains much of the same viewpoints about work as her generational brethren. Whereas earlier generations were content to find a 9-5 job that paid them a decent wage and allowed them to raise a family, Alyssa’s generation puts more stock in work that fulfills a passion and has a greater impact on society.
Growing up in a large family—she has three siblings—Alyssa was privy to people doing good for others. Namely, her parents. When they weren’t working, they ran a charity called ATO Charities that contributed to local and national foundations. Her parents also raised chickens and cultivated a garden every year, stressing to Alyssa that it was essential to take what Mother Nature gave us and leave as little behind as possible.
“I was, and still am, heavily influenced by how my parents treated the people and the world around them,” said Schabel. “Watching them do good inspired all of my siblings to do the best we can for those we interact with.”
Indeed, Alyssa’s dad, Jay, who runs the Brightmark Circularity Center™ in Ashley, Indiana, has influenced Alyssa’s path in life through his hard work and remaining positive in the face of adversity.
“Just watching how he has created the environment in Ashley is a testament to the kind of person and leader he is,” said Schabel. “While he is the guy in charge at the facility, he is viewed by his peers as a part of a larger team, which, I think, lends itself to his success, both personally and professionally.”
As a project development manager for Brightmark, Alyssa spends most of her time on the road, traveling the world, working to determine the feasibility of whether or not a Brightmark Circularity Center™ would make sense in a given region. Alongside her team, Alyssa is responsible for spreading the Brightmark mission far and wide to help show cities and municipalities how they can Reimagine Waste.
It’s not uncommon for Alyssa to be in three cities in one week, but it’s part of the job and a part of the job she enjoys, so you’ll get no complaints from her.
“Seeing the world is a definite perk to the job, but our team also understands the work we do is extremely important, especially when you’re trying to literally change how the world views waste as ubiquitous as plastic,” she adds.
Brightmark’s overall pursuit is to do good for the planet, be it the company’s plastics renewal technology or anaerobic digestion pursuits. To spread the word and show that the technology is effective, it’s up to people like Alyssa to establish the right relationships that move the company forward and make sense for everyone involved.
Throughout her career, Alyssa has leaned into the idea that communication is the most crucial skill she can maintain to do her job effectively. When she’s meeting with people from all walks of life, there is, perhaps, nothing more crucial than ensuring everyone remains on the same page.
“When we go into a new city, we make it our goal to over-communicate so nobody is taken by surprise down the road,” said Schabel. “Our team makes a point of remaining honest and maintaining healthy communication because it’s the surest way to get the work done.”
As for what the future holds, Alyssa isn’t sure. She’s happy where she’s at right now. And she knows Brightmark is doing fantastic work to address the waste challenges we face as a society. It’s the perfect fit for someone comfortable with a life constantly moving to the next destination.
“I guess there’s a part of me that has always been okay with living out of a suitcase,” she says. “It just feels right that I get to do it for a job and make a difference. That’s really all we can ask for.”