Meet Maria Bonner, Rural Action’s newest Zero Waste program co-director! Maria was previously the Zero Waste Program Manager, and she is stepping into this new role alongside co-director Ed Newman. Due to the growth of the zero waste programming and unique experiences they bring to the team, a co-directorship was determined to be the best step forward for Rural Action’s Zero Waste Program.

Over time, Maria has become a major part of our Zero Waste program–planning and managing projects, expanding services to partners, and writing grants to fund the work–but she first came to Rural Action as a volunteer! Learn more about Maria’s journey from volunteer to co-director below, in her own words:

How did you come to Rural Action and end up at Zero Waste?

“In 2014 I was an AmeriCorps in Columbus and volunteered at an event that the Rural Action’s Zero Waste Program was servicing; collecting, sorting, and weighing all the event’s trash, compost, and recycling. I was assigned to the sorting belt and fell in love with the work! (I also happened to fall in love with my now husband who was an AmeriCorps in the program at the time.)

“Over the years I kept volunteering with Rural Action, became an operations manager for Zero Waste Event Productions, and moved to Athens. I’ve wanted to work for Rural Action’s Zero Waste Program since that first day volunteering!”

What are you looking forward to as co-director?

“Helping to grow a circular economy for southeast Ohio that supports our people, planet, profit, and purpose.”

What’s your favorite part of working in Zero Waste?

“I love talking to people in the community while working different types of events about their waste habits. I often see an ‘ah-ha’ moment when they realize that the cycle of waste doesn’t just end when they throw something in the bin- but that is really just the beginning of its journey.”

What’s your best Zero Waste advice for anyone/everyone?

“The idea of being ‘zero waste’ can be pretty intimidating to a lot of people. And I think it should be an accessible lifestyle for everyone.

“If you want to be more sustainable in your life, think of small steps you can take to do so and continue to grow and challenge yourself in doing more and more as you can; buy sustainable consumer packaging, recycle, start composting at home, turn off the lights, use refillable water bottles, support local farming systems, the list goes on and on!”

Congrats, Maria! Learn more about Zero Waste’s work here.