Celebrating Climate Week: Going Full Circle on Construction Projects with Emily Rupar

Celebrating Climate Week: Going Full Circle on Construction Projects with Emily Rupar

In October 2020, we set a number of sustainability goals, including our target to divert 100% of facilities-related waste from landfills by 2030. Thanks to efforts such as a circular economy pilot at our campus, we are on the way to achieving our goal.  

Our Facilities Project Manager Emily Rupar wears many hats – from helping design the buildings where we work on campus to directing construction traffic on new projects. But one of the hats she likes to wear most is waste diversion coordinator for our first circular economy pilot for contruction-related waste.  

Originally from North Carolina, Emily moved to San Diego by way of New York City in 2017 and joined our team as a contractor soon after arriving in Southern California and joined the company full-time a few years later. While she moved to sunny SoCal for the nice weather and people, she enjoys the variety in her work here at SDG&E and the opportunity to focus on sustainability.  

 “I’ve always had a passion for the built environment – both inside and out – and that’s what brought me to my career developing people-centric interior spaces, now at SDG&E,” shared Emily. “I have a master’s degree in historical and sustainable architecture, so I also love being able to focus on the environment through our waste management practices, material selection and even LEED® certification.” 

When our campus' construction kicked off late last year, Emily spotted an opportunity to go further in applying sustainability principles to our office space. Through a collaboration with Sustainability, Supply Chain, Community Relations, Facilities Move Management team and Tribal Relations, Emily developed our first circular economy facilities construction project.  

Matching Materials to Nonprofits 

A circular economy project looks at how what might be considered waste can be turned into or used as something new. Ideally, the process goes on and on (forever) so that items don’t end up in a landfill but are rather put to use in an old or new way. 

Emily started this pilot with a big goal: To find a home or use for as many materials as possible, giving “waste” a new life – and to do so in a way that also benefit our community. Working alongside her internal partners, Emily was able to find a new home for the furniture, plants, art and even safety signage with local Tribes. Items that the Tribes could not use were donated to Habitat for Humanity and will be sold to the public through the organization’s Re-Store program.  

Emily expressed her excitement on making the perfect product matches, “The most rewarding part of this project was being able to work with fellow colleagues to give back to our local community.” 

Recycling the Rest 

After donating all that she could, Emily worked with the Supply Chain team to identify vendors who may take materials for recycling. In her search, she found Mohawk Flooring, a long-time leader in product reuse and recycling. Even though the carpets used in our building were not originally from Mohawk, the company still took the materials back – all 2,111 square yards –  to recycle into new products.   

As Emily explained, “It may have taken a little extra time and energy to put the ‘circular economy’ into action with this project, but the effort was well worth it. Not only did we help our colleagues deliver on their commitment to the community and environment, but we were also able to establish a model for nonprofit product donations and vendor recycling programs that we can leverage for future construction projects.” 

SDG&E’s Circular Economy Project Numbers 

Through this project, we have helped divert waste from the landfill and help local nonprofits by donating:

  • 75 chairs 
  • 42 cabinets & shelves 
  • 18 pieces of framed art 
  • 10 plants 
  • 7 desks and tables 
  • And more than 40 miscellaneous items like safety signs, waste bins and whiteboards 

Thank you, Emily, for all that you do!