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Professional Development
Sustainability Skill-Building

Professional Development

The Earth Institute Professional Development Program helps students and alumni to achieve their sustainability-related career goals. The program offers skill-building seminars, networking opportunities, and tools that, together, better prepare students to pursue job opportunities in sustainability and related fields. The program complements existing services such as resume and cover letter review that are provided by Columbia University's career service offices.


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Sustainability Skill-Building

The Sustainability Skills Seminars offer students and alumni practical skills that are specific to sustainability and environmental careers. The half-day, non-credit seminars are free. Past seminar topics have included Life Cycle Analysis, Geographic Information Systems, and Green Building Design.


Sustainable Integrated Solid Waste Management: A Holistic Approach
Saturday, March 30, 2019, 10:00 AM – 2:00 PM
Instructor: Haralambos Vasiliadis
Location: 717 Hamilton

The students attending this seminar:

  • will acquire a broad understanding of the solid waste issue and perceive it as a critical sustainability issue,
  • will become more sophisticated in thinking about solid waste management,
  • will be exposed to real-life applications where each person can have a noticeable contribution in addressing the solid waste issue by considering/adopting primarily the “5R” approach/policy of reducing, reusing, recycling (reprocessing and recovering), rejecting solid waste and reacting to solid waste (as needed), and
  • will experience, based on real-world case studies, the means and methods to be used to optimize the management of solid waste, and more particularly of recyclable wasted.

Solid waste management (SWM) has been an integral part of every human society. Solid waste is any garbage, refuse, sludge, etc. and other discarded materials including solid, semi-solid, liquid, or contained gaseous material, resulting from municipal, commercial, industrial, mining and agricultural activities and operations. Other types of wastes are liquid wastes (from point and non-point sources), air emissions (from mobile sources or stationary sources, and other types of wastes, such as radioactive wastes.

Solid waste management is a challenge because waste generation increases with population expansion and economic development and is growing faster than any other environmental pollutant. In US, on average, we recover (through recycling and composting) 1.5 pounds (34%) of our individual waste generation of 4.40 pounds per person per day. Improperly managed solid waste poses a risk to human health and the environment, it may result in safety hazards from fires or explosions, and increases greenhouse gas (GHG, such as water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone) emissions which contribute to climate change. Planning for and implementing a comprehensive program for waste collection, transport, and disposal – along with all activities to prevent or recycle waste- can eliminate these problems.

Integrated Solid Waste Management (ISWM) is a comprehensive a) waste prevention, b) waste recovery (recycling and composting), and c) disposal (incineration and landfilling) program to protect human health and the environment. Waste prevention (also called “source reduction”) seeks to prevent waste from being generated. Recycling is a process that involves collecting, reprocessing, and/or recovering certain waste materials to make new materials or products. The conversion of waste materials into soil additives is called composting. Recycling and composting generate many environmental and economic benefits. Disposal activities are used to manage waste that cannot be prevented or recycled. One disposal way is the controlled incineration of waste. Another way is to place the waste in properly designed, constructed, and managed landfills, where it is safely contained. From a hierarchy point of view, the last options are the least attractive ones. Each of the activities in an ISWM plan requires careful planning, financing, collection, and transport.

Whereas, ISWM is based on the “cradle-to-grave” concept (considering the entire life-cycle analysis and assessment of a product from the stage of selecting the raw materials for the manufacturing of such product to the final disposal of it), sustainable ISWM should be viewed as a humanity’s target goal of establishing/maintaining a human-ecosystem equilibrium (homeostasis). Furthermore, holistic approaches should be considered as attempts to recognize the interconnectedness of various components and aspects that form the larger system, such technical and environmental, economic and social, and political and cultural.

To address the global and local impacts of waste generation and disposal, sustainable waste management systems must be planned, developed, and operated within the framework of local resource availability, social participatory approaches, economics, and environmental concerns. A sustainable solid waste system may support cities to deliver a holistic approach to waste management operations through improved disposal, collection and transportation, better recycling, organics utilization, landfill diversion and alternative disposal. By understanding the benefits and disadvantages of various management technologies, local decision makers can best allocate resources, select processes and vendors, and develop policies and procedures to meet the community’s needs while reducing emissions.

Most of the latest efforts focus on “Zero Waste” and/or “Zero Landfilling” which is certainly expensive for weaker economies, yet a challenge for stronger ones. The NYC Department of Sanitation (DSNY), which is the world’s largest sanitation department, collects more than 10,500 tons of residential and institutional garbage and 1,760 tons of the recyclables each day. While efficiently managing solid waste and clearing litter or snow from 6,300 miles of streets, DSNY is also a leader in environmentalism committing to sending zero waste to landfills by 2030.

About the instructor:

Haralambos (Bob) Vasiliadis has over 28 years of professional, academic and research experience and has served as Senior Technical Advisor, Senior Environmental Compliance Professional, Senior Project Manager, or as Senior Environmental Engineer and Hygienist on various GSA, NYNJPA, NYSDOT, MTA, NYCDOT, NYCDEP, etc., major infrastructure projects in NYC. He currently serves as Director of Environmental Compliance with Environmental Planning and Management, Inc. (EPM) and previously, as the Senior Vice President with M&J Engineering P.C., where he led the division of Water Resources and Environmental Engineering.​

Professor Vasiliadis is a diplomate of the Academies of Environmental Engineers, Water Resources Engineers, and Industrial Hygienists. He is also a Certified Industrial Hygienist by the American Board of Industrial Hygienists. His professional interests include performing design and analysis of sustainable and resilient water resources and environmental systems, risk analysis and management, environmental assessments and modeling, ambient and indoor air quality and noise monitoring and control, hazardous materials and waste management, and quality assurance and quality control. He enjoys teaching courses in water resources, environmental engineering, and statistics. In addition to his course in the Sustainability Management program at Columbia University, Dr. Vasiliadis is an Adjunct Professor at NYU Tandon School of Engineering and City College of the City University of New York.


Students and alums may register for these events through the Earth Institute Job List. For more information please email us.

Past Earth Institute Sustainability Skill Building Seminars:

  • Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG)
  • Sustainable Agriculture
  • Product Lifecycle Assessment and Carbon Footprinting
  • Green Building Design and LEED training
  • Consulting 101: How Consultants Win Work
  • Networking and Interviewing Skills Seminar
  • Sustainable Smart Technology and Controls Seminar
  • Climate Adaptation Planning Seminar
  • Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Seminar
  • Sustainability Metrics
  • Greenhouse Gas Protocol's Corporate GHG Accounting and Reporting Standard
  • Public Speaking — Communication Strategy and Delivery

For more information, please email us.