Day in the Life of a Sustainability Consultant: John Silkey

At Strategic Sustainability Consulting, we're often asked what it's like to be a sustainability consultant on a day-to-day basis. Our general reply is that every day is different -- and that's what makes our jobs so amazing, challenging, and fun.

This summer, we've invited several of our colleagues to share a "day in the life of a sustainability consultant" snapshot. While not necessarily representative of their entire jobs as sustainability consultants, it's a window into what goes on in our crazy lives.

Click here in case you missed the sneak peek into SSC President Jennifer Woofter’s day. Today we get a glimpse from John Silkey, one of our colleagues in the SSC Consultant Network and a Senior Project Manager with Milepost Consulting:

It’s always a great start to the day in Seattle when there are clear skies and a warm sunrise over Lake Union. With our gray, wet winters it’s important to soak up every last drop of Vitamin D that you can.  

Normally I ride my bike the short 2.5 miles in to the office, but today I am relegated to the bus – my trusty steed sprang a flat tire yesterday and it’s tough to find the time to fix it during the work week. So I have to suffer watching others glide by the bus stop in the sunshine – a few months from now the riding conditions will be markedly different!

I try to eat breakfast at home and enjoy my view of the sunrise over the lake, but today I am eating at my desk – I need the extra 15 minutes to prepare for a facilitation I have today at the University of Washington.
The rest of my morning is filled with one of my favorite types of projects – facilitating a new, large team to create their strategy and team process. In this case, we are helping the University of Washington develop their waste diversion framework for their new football stadium.
It’s a ton of fun. We were able to pull together representatives from all across campus as well as a few of their key strategic partners. What resulted was a suite of prioritized strategies in a visual roadmap and an organized team structure that is guiding UW towards their waste diversion goals for the 2013 football season.

Immediately following this workshop I am back on the phone with my client at Tennessee Valley Authority for a standing weekly project check-in as I make my way to the gym. I don’t usually exercise during the day, but later today I have to grab a train south to Portland for project meetings tomorrow. One of my biggest challenges is carving out and protecting the time to stay active – it’s really important to do and very easy to let slip with such a varied schedule of client work and travel. I love how different the day-to-day job is, but the trade-off is any semblance of routine.

After a quick gym stop and an even quicker lunch it’s all aboard to Portland. I have several projects in that great city, but am working on only two tomorrow : The first is with a utility partner of ours, helping them create their first sustainability strategy for their supply chain, and the second is a planning session for a workshop we’re creating for the Green Sports Summit on “greening” stadiums and sports teams.

I could eat on the train but let’s be honest; the food selection on Amtrak leaves a lot to be desired. I can pretend to enjoy only so many microwaved teriyaki rice bowls. Otherwise, I’m a fan of the train. I can usually get a lot of work done in those 4 hours and the trip down the coast is beautiful.

Arriving in Portland I walk the half mile from the station to check in to my hotel – it’s a Courtyard Marriott tonight. Sometimes you really do feel like George Clooney in “Up in the Air” as you fumble through your various hotel rewards cards trying to find the right one for whatever chain you are calling home that night. But tonight I have enough time enjoy a bite to eat at one of my go to spots in Portland before spending another hour answering emails, planning for my sessions the next day, and enjoying rare access to television (I don’t have one at home). Somehow or another I always get sucked into a few episodes of shows like “Storage Wars.” With my brain sufficiently numbed by reality television it’s time for one last morning alarm check and lights out!