Five Questions with Tom Watson, Manager, King County EcoConsumer Program, Solid Waste Division

Tom Watson1. What was your first role with King County? I started as a 60-percent-time employee in 1992, working three days a week and caring for our baby while my wife also worked part-time. I started with the same section I’m still in, Recycling and Environmental Services in the Solid Waste Division, but at that time it was called Waste Reduction and Recycling. My first assignment was developing a plan for appliance recycling.

2. What does the EcoConsumer program do? The King County EcoConsumer program does public outreach on a wide range of environmental issues, from climate change to very specific aspects of “being green.” As part of my job managing the program, I have written the EcoConsumer column for the Seattle Times for nine years, do regular EcoConsumer segments on KOMO4 TV, do lots of other media stuff, and make presentations to organizations, businesses and students all across King County. Our program is also active on Twitter.

3. What do you like most about your job? Engaging with people and hearing their questions and comments. At an Earth Day event in Issaquah recently, where we were talking about waste and energy use, a girl about 13 asked, “If we don’t make any big changes in the way we do things, what do you think the world will look like in 50 years?” Our answers may not have been that memorable, but that question really stuck with me. I also love it when people need specific help, like finding a certain type of green product, and I am able to provide an answer that helps them take action.

4. What is the biggest challenge in your job? Being accessible, responsive and accurate. I don’t always succeed. Answering questions and meeting the information needs of the public and media are the priorities, and the EcoConsumer program needs to always do that in a way that serves the best interests of King County government and the County’s residents and businesses.

5. What is your main goal for 2014? My personal goal is the same as the goal for the EcoConsumer program, and it’s the same every year: Do honest, responsive environmental public outreach that reaches as many people as possible and results in positive actions.