After festivals, camps and other summer festivities, who cleans up the mess? Abby Rodgers, an LHHS class of 2014 grad, is all about sustainability and waste reduction, traveling the country to clean up where it’s needed.

This summer, Rodgers is traveling to the Northwest to work with Human Eco, a Seattle-based company that has a contract with the Forest Service to manage the waste from fire camps. Rodgers will mainly be at the camps in Washington, Oregon and Northern California.

This will be her first time at these fire camps. She and her team could be out there for over a few weeks to a couple of months starting in July. It all depends on how long the fires last.

“I’m excited to kind of see how it goes. I like learning new things, and it’s definitely something I’ve never done. I’m trying to find new ways to reduce the waste at the fire camps. Fires just continue to grow, and it’s just more resources they have to use.”

The work days at the camps last 10-12 hours and require backpacking, another thing Rodgers is doing for the first time. 

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Since graduating, Rodgers has worked as a freelance event coordinator and travels for work at fire camps, trails and festivals. After the pandemic hit, she started taking on internships for seasonal roles focused on conservation and sustainability, something she was more passionate about.

“Before the pandemic, I had been doing contract work with events and festivals for about 3 years. That’s how I found the internship with Siskiyou Mountain Club doing trail maintenance in Oregon and Northern California.” 

When it comes to trash, Rodgers says anything can be considered trash and can also be recycled. It involves sorting through bags filled with trash and cleaning up what’s leftover after catering events.

At the fire camps, not all of the trash comes from catering events. They also collect general waste produced from the camps. 

“I will be doing all the recycling after the recovery— they have seen a bunch of fire hoses— that started to surface and take some and recycle those. Last year, they were able to divert a lot of fire hoses to a business that reuses them for other materials, they also collect a lot of batteries, so it just varies,” she says. “We go through every bag of trash and sort it, but I kind of enjoy sorting things. Recycling can be pretty confusing with what is actually recyclable, and what goes where, and what your city takes.”

She’s had work in Austin, where she currently calls home, and states in the Northwest and enjoys exploring the more hidden parts of land while she works.

“Getting to work in such— especially since I love the landscapes in Texas and all through here— private land, it’s hard to get to explore that much land and go out somewhere where there’s no one else around. That was really cool.”

Rodgers has a full plate of volunteerism and sustainability when she’s not out working on trails and seasonal jobs, including:

  • President of Friends of McKinney Falls
  • Event coordinator at Autism Society of Texas
  • Volunteer at Austin Dish Lending Library  
  • Guest Services Manager, Ticketing Manager, and Signage Manager at various festivals, including Austin City Limits 
  • Outside operations and Lead at vaccination clinic

“I feel like the event stuff that I do will relate a lot more with the sustainability job I’ll do this summer with the fires, which is kind of what I was wanting to do before with the music festivals. It’s cool to see different industries. I’ve learned a lot about how state parks run. I’ve gotten to work with the rangers and all the projects.”