Mikey Mulford (MBA 2007) wouldn't have envisioned that the passion he developed for green business during his time at Georgia Tech would translate into working on projects related to oil and natural gas drilling.
But as national business manager of energy services for Waste Management, Mulford is developing environmentally friendly strategies for a company that has worked hard to clean up its act. "You might not think of oil and gas providing opportunities to be green, but you can also look at it from the perspective of reducing environmental impact and reusing raw materials," explains Mulford.
Drilling into the Earth for oil and gas produces a lot of "cuttings," broken bits of solid material that is produced as rock is broken up by the machinery. Instead of leaving that waste on the ground, domestic oil companies can hire Waste Management to extract value from the cuttings (hydrocarbon, residual oil) and monitor lined landfills containing the remainder, Mulford explains.
"While 10 years ago, Waste Management was a primarily a landfill company, we now try to view everything we collect as resources and not trash," he says. "We can produce a lot of renewable energy from the methane in landfills. We're the largest recycler in America and ranked on the Dow Jones Sustainability Index. We're viewed as a leader in reducing environmental impact."
Based at the company's headquarters in Houston, Texas, Mulford says he enjoys the strategic analysis side of his job. For example, he looks at where oil rigs are relative to Waste Management's operations and figures out ways to enter promising markets, either through new site development or acquisition of businesses.
Mulford appreciates that his company is environmentally focused, but he recognizes that its business practices still have to be economically viable. "Sustainability is growing in importance, but the economic side still matters most," he says.
Mulford says his interest in the environment developed while working as an assistant construction foreman for Habitat for Humanity after graduating with a BS in mechanical engineering from Tech in 2004. During his year with the organization, he became fascinated with houses designed for zero net-energy consumption, even though he didn't have the opportunity to personally work on one.
"Then when I entered the MBA program and learned about resource efficiency in business, everything clicked for me," Mulford says. "Why not be as efficient as possible? It made logical sense to me to reduce the environmental impact of doing business."
During his second year in the MBA program, Mulford served as co-president of the Scheller College's Net Impact chapter. Net Impact is a nonprofit organization with more than 300 chapters worldwide, including more than 40,000 students and professional leaders who are focused on creating positive social and environmental change in the workplace and world.
After graduation, he went to work for in Waste Management's Sustainability Services area for a few years before taking a 1.5 year sabbatical to travel the world with his wife, Meredith Mulford (MBA 2007). Then he returned to the company in 2011. He was recently promoted from senior program manager to his current position.